A distinctive repetitive spiral form motif appears on the painted mural walls of tombs in Western Japan of the Kofun Period. Depicted in the photo of the tomb mural above, the “ram’s horn” symbol appears as a herald banner on a funerary “Boat of the Underworld” scene (a fairly universal motif and belief in ancient times).
Thought locally to represent warabi fernfronds, they are actually recognizable tamgas and cultural motifs from specific Turkic clans of ( Karakalpak, Kazakh, Qipchak) Central Asia, known as rams’ horns, though they have become common rug motifs along the migration trail blazed by the Turkic tribes through nations in antiquity times.
The marked appearance of the ram’s horns pattern raises the intriguing and strong suggestion of the arrival of certain ancestral Turkic lineages related to the Qipchaks in Japan. This is especially distinctive in the light of the total absence of sheep and rams as an animal species in the Japanese archipelago.
On ram’s horn symbolism in Central Asia, the Azerbaijan Rug Project reported:
“THE ORIGIN OF THE DESIGN
The motifs of this type of rugs have pre-Islamic Turkic totemic sources. Many geometric devices used in Oysuzlu type of rugs can be found commonly in rugs of Turkic speaking people of Central Asia: Turkmen, Kyrghyz, Kazak* and Karakalpak.
Although the design is attributed to Oysuzlu by L. Kerimov, it is almost certainly known that the rugs with this specific design were produced in the villages of Lowland Bordjalou Region, not in Oysuzlu village of Tovuz District (Kazak Region).
The main feature of this design is having two interlocked grounds in the central field: the green and red areas in this example (background vs. foreground). The composition of the central field consists of the three hooked medallions and half hook-rimmed lozenges on the sides of the central field aligned on the vertical axis.
The cruciform device inside the ketebe of the central medallion is often found in Kazak, Ganja, Bordjalou and even in some Kuba rugs in different forms. The device basically consists of a cross with the four ends of which terminate in a pair of horns.
Here are the same type of hooked devices in various shapes used in so called “Sewan” rugs.
What does this motif represent for? It could well be representing a tamga – a mark used mainly by Turkic people representing an emblem of a particular tribe or a clan. They used tamgas to identify property or cattle belonging to a specific Turkic clan, usually as a stamp. Some tribes, like the Ak Koyunlu (White Sheep), put their tamga on their flags and stamped their coinage with it.
The Karakalpak Kochot Pattern
A considerable number of Kyrgyz and Kazak rugs contain a motif frequently described as Karakalpak kochot. The similarity of the Karakalpak kochot and Borchaly/Oysuzlu device is clear. Karakalpak kochot also consists of a cross, the four ends of which terminate in a pair of horns. A very similar motif occurs in the embroidery of the Karakalpaks of the Aral delta (especially on the top of skull caps). In fact, this motif can be found in the applied art works of all Turkic People, from Central Asia to Iran, from Caucasia to Anatolia:
Koch or Kosh (qošqar) means a ram in all Turkic languages. As the name of this motif in Kyrgyz and Karakalpak is related to a ram, this suggests us the motif could be representing ram’s horn.
The hooked gül /inner medallion which is containing the ketebe and the cruciform device can be related to the early Central Asian forms and a number of Turkish rugs from Anatolia.”
*Kazakh or Qazakh: They are considered as a subtribe of Kypchak. The subgroups of Kazakh are Salahli, Kesemen, Poylu, Demirchiler etc.
Although these motifs are most associated with Kazakh-Turkic-Qipchak peoples today, they were also seen as tamgas belonging to the Sarmatians of the 1st c.-mid 2nd c. AD. (See The Tamgas Were Marks of Identification of the Hungarian Tribes and of their Religion (Michelangelo.cn). The immigrants buried in the Fukuoka tombs may have have a mixed Iranic(Sarmatian)-Turkic tribe (see Dybo on early Turkic contacts). Cockerel standards, terracotta and metallurgy motifs also proliferate from the 3rd c. tumulus mounds onwards, the cock is a well-known known Sarmatian standard and tamgas symbol. The ram’s horn has been adopted as a symbol on the flag of the Crimean Tartars, an ethnic native Turkic group who arrived in the Crimea in thr 15th c. (The earliest known appearance ram’s horn symbols may be the ones at Metsamor’s Karahunj astronomical observatories (around 3000 BC) indicating their possible early origins/presence in the Anatolian region). Deborah Houlding’s The origins of the constellations Taurus and Aries traces the origins of the Taurus-Aries connection with the horn symbolism to the Egyptian-Mesopotamian veneration of sun worship.
The Metal Age nomadic tomb and warrior armour technology point to Eurasia as a source of the Mezurashii tomb “Solar Boat of the Underworld”, however, the close resemblance of the Austronesian motif of their ubiquitous “Spirit Boats” on the Mannungul jar and on the Austronesian boat-houses leaves a perplexing question as to how and where the two cultures may have intermingled and adopted the same cosmology of the Underworld. See the Mananggul jar from the Philippines in the photo below, which carries both the spiral motif and “Spirit Boat” motif in the same combination as that of the Fukuoka tombs, minus the (West Asian-Egyptian) solar imagery.
Genetics research suggests that the roots of the Austronesians lie in the zone of South China, Southeast China and (Kampuansai et al.,; Min-Sheng Peng et al. etc., scroll down to the bottom of this page for links to articles on Austronesian origins). The spirit boat cosmology appears to be shared by the haplogroup O tree from the earliest subclades. More research needs to be conducted on the early interactions between the Eurasians and the Austronesians/Austric peoples and on the diffusion of the shared ideas and technologies.
Color Appearance Recognition of Mural in the Ozuka Tumulus in Sunlight and Taper Light (Masuda et al.) a joint report of the University of Tokyo, Kyushu National Museum, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
The Mannungul Jar as History Genetic history of Southeast Asian populations as revealed by ancient and modern human mitochondrial DNA analysis. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008 Dec;137(4):425-40. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20884
Kampuansai, Jatupol et al., Mitochondrial DNA variation of Thai-speaking populations in northern Thailand
Houlding, Deborah The origins of the constellations Taurus and Aries