William Gowland

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  • Born: 1842
  • Died: 1922

William Gowland was a metallurgist, known for a number of significant Kofun period finds in the early decades of Japanese archaeology, and for his collection of Korean and Japanese ceramics.

Gowland worked for the Osaka mint for a time, from 1872 to 1888. After arriving in Japan in 1872 in order to take up a post as chemist and metallurgist for the Osaka Mint, he was named Chief Metallurgist in 1878, and later (or at the same time) became an advisor on metallurgy to the Imperial War Department.

During this time, he also led excavations of some four hundred kofun (mound tombs) and other archaeological sites, and traveled to Korea in 1884, where he obtained a number of Korean ceramics. Gowland is said to have been particularly interested in the early history of mutual cultural influences between Korea and Japan. He also traveled significantly within Japan; he contributed to travel guides such as a Handbook for Travellers in Central and Northern Japan edited by Ernest Satow and A.G.S. Hawes, and is credited with possibly coining the term "Japan Alps."

Gowland later donated a considerable number of objects from his collection, both archaeological finds and ceramics works, to the British Museum. He is also known for his many photographs, including some of the earliest archaeological photographs taken in Japan. He collaborated for a time with photographer Romyn Hitchcock, who had been dispatched to Japan by the Smithsonian Institution to collect materials for the Philadelphia Exposition of 1886.


  • "Photo of William Gowland," gallery label, British Museum.[1]
  • "William Gowland, amateur archaeologist," gallery label, British Museum.[2]
  • Simon Kaner, "What the Foreign Specialist William Gowland Saw in the Burial Mounds," Ishibashi Foundation lectures, Tokyo National Museum, 25 Oct 2014.[3]