Recently unearthed remains of wall may be those of fabled Nara Imperial palace

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The remains of a large wall believed to have surrounded a palace in the ancient capital of Nagaoka-kyo were recently unearthed here, a local archaeological organization has announced

Pillar holes that are believed to be the remains of a wall of the Nagaoka Palace's West Palace are pictured in Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, on Dec. 16. (Mainichi) The Muko City Center for Archaeological Operations said on Dec. 17 that it has discovered the remains of a wall constructed with pillars directly driven into the ground, which is thought to have enclosed an inner palace on the west side of the Imperial Palace’s Council Hall, a central facility of the Nagaoka-kyo (784-794).

The center believes that the wall is most likely to have been part of the yet-unconfirmed “West Palace,” which is mentioned in the Shoku Nihongi, a historical record compiled in the early Heian period. The text of the record notes that Emperor Kanmu moved from the West Palace to the “East Palace” in 789.

Ahead of the reconstruction of a nearby elementary school, the center researched 780 square meters of land about 350 meters west of the Council Hall, and discovered 21 pillar holes — located apparently at the northwest corner of the hall — and four stone-lined drainage ditches surrounding the pillar holes.

The pillars holes dug every 2.4 to 3 meters also reportedly matched those used for a wall with corridors on either in the Nagaoka Palace in the Latter Naniwa Palace, to which the hall and other buildings were relocated.

Furthermore, the wall is estimated to have been 145 meters from north to south based on the position of the remains of the gates unearthed in research in the 1970s. The center says the newly discovered wall could be considered that of the West Palace as it is comparable to the previously found 159-meter-long wall of the East Palace.

“I assume that the East and West palaces were built as the inner palace for the most recently retired emperor and the residence of the new emperor,” says Yoshinori Hashimoto, a Japanese ancient history professor at Yamaguchi University.

However, Akira Yamanaka, a historical archaeology professor at Mie University, proposes a different theory, saying, “Since the Nagaoka Palace was relocated from the Naniwa Palace, there is a high possibility that the initial inner palace was located on the uninvestigated north side of the Council Hall, as in the Naniwa Palace. The newly-discovered wall was probably just part of the ‘Shimano-in’ (a garden facility), which appears in the Shoku Nihongi.”


Source: Mainichi Daily News [December 18, 2010]


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