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Fallen warrior

last look

In 1871, the year Emperor Meiji abolished feudalism in Japan, the samurai lost their status as a privileged caste. “A whole warrior class went out of business,” says Robert Wheeler '55PhD, a physics professor emeritus who serves as faculty affiliate in anthro-pology at the Peabody Museum. Many samurai sold their swords and armor. It’s not known how this early eighteenth-century example of the armorer’s art made its way to Denver, but there, in 1889, O. C. Marsh '60 (the paleontologist who discovered stegosaurus and triceratops) bought it for the Peabody.

The armor, boxed up for decades, was rediscovered only a few years ago. It is shown here in the storage room that holds much of the Asian collection. The breastplate is made of layers of iron bound with silk. The sea urchins on the helmet are unique in samurai armor, to the best of Wheeler’s knowledge; he speculates the owner may have lived near Japan’s Inland Sea. The whole assemblage, he says, was “designed to be frightening.”


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