21 Sep 2021

Surprise discovery of a 15m Japanese scroll

A 15m (49ft) Japanese scroll depicting a battle has recently taken staff at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery by surprise.

The scroll is one of 27,000 items being digitised and catalogued at the museum and staff were initially unaware of just how long the scroll would be until they began carefully unrolling it.

The colourful scrolls shows warriors in battle and at rest, in colourful armour, with birds flying overhead. In one scene a man can be seen leading his horse while nearby archers take aim and another scene shows a group of women in a house, surrounded by an ornamental pool. In one brutal battle scene, a soldier is seen taking an arrow to the eye.

Ayesha Hussain, collections digitisation assistant, said there was limited information on the 15m scroll in its collection, but that it was one of three volumes depicting the Latter Three Year war.

Museum photographer, David Rowan, said the scroll had to be checked and photographed in 28 sections because of its size.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is currently closed for essential maintenance and will partially reopen in Spring 2022 in time for the Commonwealth Games.