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William Gowland (1842 – 9 June 1922) was a Englishmarker mining engineer most famous for his archaeological work at Stonehengemarker and in Japanmarker. He is known in Japan as the "Father of Japanese Archaeology".


Gowland was born in Sunderlandmarker, in County Durham in northern England. He attended the Royal College of Chemistrymarker and Royal School of Mines at South Kensingtonmarker specializing in metallurgy, and worked as a chemist and metallurgist at the Broughton Copper Company from 1870-1872. However, in 1872, at the age of 30, he was recruited by the Meiji government of the Empire of Japanmarker as a foreign engineering advisor at the Osaka Zōheikyoku, the forerunner of the Japan Mint.

In Japan (1872-88)

Gowland began work in Osaka on 8 October 1872 on the three year contract typical of many of the foreigners employed to aid the modernization of Japan. His contract was extended repeatedly, and he stayed for a total of 16 years, during which time he introduced techniques for the scientific analysis of metals, the production of bronze and copper alloys for coinage, and modern technologies such as the reverberatory furnace for improving the efficiency of refining copper ores. His expertise extended to areas outside of the Japan Mint, and he also served as a consultant to the Imperial Japanese Army, helping establish the Osaka Arsenal for production of artillery. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (4th class) by the Japanese government in 1883.

During his spare time in Japan, Gowland enjoyed mountaineering, making the first recorded ascent on several peaks of the Japanese Alpsmarker, a name which Gowland coined and which was published in 1888 by Basil Hall Chamberlain in his Japan Guide. The name was later popularized by English missionary Walter Weston. Gowland also claimed to have been the first foreigner known to have climbed Mount Yarimarker in 1874.

However, Gowland is best known in Japan as an amateur archaeologist, conducting the first truly accurate scientific surveys of a number of Kofun period (3rd-7th centuries AD) burial mounds ( kofun ), including a number of imperial mausolea. He excavated burial mounds in Saga prefecturemarker and Miyazaki prefecturemarker on Kyūshūmarker as well as in Fukushima Prefecturemarker north of Tokyomarker, in addition to numerous sites in the Kinki regionmarker.

On Gowlands departure from Japan, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, 3rd class and a 3000 yen bonus from then-Finance Ministermarker Matsukata Masayoshi. Once back in his native England, he published numerous works on his researches in Japan, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Many of the artifacts he brought back to England are now at the British Museummarker. Gowland was also an avid collector of Nihonga style Japanese paintings.

In England

On New Year's Eve 1900, Stone 22 of the Sarsen Circle fell over, taking with it a lintel. Following public pressure and a letter to The Times by William Flinders Petrie, The owner, Edmund Antrobus, agreed to remedial engineering work under archaeological supervision so that records could be made of the below ground archaeology.

Antrobus appointed Gowland to manage the job, who despite having no formal archaeological training, produced some of the finest, most detailed excavation records ever made at the monument. The only area he opened was that around the then precariously leaning Stone 56 (the western stone of the Great Trilithon), an area measuring around 17 ft by 13 ft, and the difficulty was compounded in that only small areas were dug at each time to allow concrete to be poured and set.

Despite these difficulties, he established that antler picks had been used to dig the stone holes and that the stones themselves had been worked to shape on site. His work identified the 'Stonehenge layer', a thin strata of bluestone chips that sealed many of the non-megalithic features at the site and proved that they predated the standing stones.

Gowland died in Londonmarker on 9 June 1922 at the age of 80, and was buried at Marylebon Cemetery.

Selected works

  • The Dolmens and other Antiquities of Korea, 1895
  • The Art of Casting Bronze in Japan, 1896
  • The Dolmens and Burial Mounds in Japan, 1897
  • The Dolmens of Japan and their Builders, 1900
  • The Burial Mounds and Dolmens of the Early Emperors of Japan, 1907
  • The Art of Working Metals in Japan, 1910
  • Metals in Antiquity, 1912
  • The Metallurgy of Non-ferrous Metals, 1914
  • Metal and Metal-Working in Old Japan, 1915
  • Silver in Roman and Earlier Times, 1920


  1. [1] Japan Times April 21 2002

See also


  • Chippendale, C "Stonehenge Complete" (Thames and Hudson, London, 2004)
  • William Gowland: The Father of Japanese Archaeology, edited by Victor Harris and Kazuo Goto, British Museum Press 2004, ISBN 0-7141-2420-6

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