Remains of large buildings found at Nara ruins thought to be 4th century ritual site

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The remains of four large buildings have been discovered at the Akitsu ruins here, part of what is believed to have been a ritual site built in the first half of the 4th century and used by powerful figures at the time, the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara announced on Nov. 24.

The discovered large building remains are pictured at the Akitsu ruins in Gose, Nara Prefecture, on Nov. 24. (Mainichi) Excavation of the 18,500 square meter site began in May of last year, and in January the institute announced it had discovered part of a square shaped division of land.

As excavation has continued, a total of six land divisions have been uncovered. Each one appears to have originally been enclosed by an unusually constructed barrier — a fence built by driving stakes into a line inside of a groove, with logs driven into the ground along both sides of the fence at intervals of two to three meters to give support.

The largest discovered land division, which held the four buildings, is 50 meters north to south, and over 48 meters east to west, making it one of the largest land divisions discovered at a historical site in the country. The four buildings were all the same size — 13.5 meters north to south, and 7 meters east to west — and were neatly lined up so that they faced the same direction. The remains of 52 other buildings constructed with pillars directly driven into the ground or by digging shallow pits to make the floors have also been discovered.

Almost no earthenware that would have been used for daily living has been uncovered within the site, but at the former site of a river to the north, pedestals for making offerings and other items used in rituals have been found in great numbers, where they are thought to have been tossed away. Based on this evidence, the researchers believe “the site may have been a site for performing rituals, with the inside of the facility kept clean.”

Although there exist ancient Chinese historical documents describing third century Japan, such as the account of the great queen Himiko, and fifth century Japan, such as the account of five great kings in Japan at that time, there are no documents describing Japan in the fourth century, leading to that century being called “kuhaku no yonseiki” (the blank 4th century). Any discovery dating to the fourth century is therefore considered valuable.

As for who may have conducted rituals at the site, researchers believe it was the Yamato royalty or the Kazuraki clan, which flourished in the 5th century, partly because of their connections to the rulers of the country.

A briefing will be held at the site on Nov. 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., even in the event of rain. The location is about 1.4 kilometers southwest of Tamade Station, and parking is available.


Source: The Mainichi Daily News [November 25, 2010]


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