The oldest fragments of clay figures 'haniwa' dating back to the fifth-century have been discovered at a burial mound in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture.
Archaeologists unearthed six figures from the Ishiya burial mound in the Shimane Prefecture capital of Matsue.
Two of the human-shaped sculptures depict sumo wrestlers, two are in the form of warriors, one represents the chair portion of a seated human and one looks like an aristocrat, archeologists said.
The Haniwa or Japanese sculptures are terracotta clay figures, which were made for ritual use and buried with the dead as funerary objects in ancient Japan.
Japanese officials say the sculptures are the first of their kind ever found in the form of wrestlers, warriors and a seated person.
Archeologists believe that the use of human-shaped haniwas was popular around the fifth century.
"This is a major discovery, because it shows that the Yamato rulers at the time had close ties to powerful clans in the Izumo region (modern day Shimane Prefecture)," said archeology professor Katsuhisa Takahashi of Hanazono University in Kyoto Prefecture.
Archeologists also found two horse figures along with the haniwas, which are also presumed to be among the oldest of their kind in Japan.
The newly found figures will be displayed at Shimane Prefecture's Yakumotatsu-Fudokinooka Museum from March 10 to 20, 2012, and at the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo from March 22 to May 21, 2012.