Ceremonial mask may be oldest ever discovered in Japan
Japanese archaeologists believe they have uncovered a fragment of an ancient wooden ceremonial mask, the oldest to be discovered in the country. The object resembles a face, dates to the late second century and was found with wooden armor and bronze artifacts in the ruins of Daifuku Remains in Sakurai City. “We think the wooden object was used as a mask by an influential group of residents around the area to arrange a religious or solemn ceremony to show performed actions with the item,” said chief researcher Teruhiko Hashimoto of Sakurai City’s division of cultural assets. United Press International (May 31, 2013)
NHK World May 30, 2013: Japan’s oldest known wooden mask found
Japanese archaeologists have found the country’s oldest known wooden mask, believed to date back more than 1,800 years.
The team, from a municipal education board, unearthed the find at the Daifuku ruins in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture, in western Japan.
The mask is a little over 23 centimeters long and 7 centimeters wide. It appears to be split in half lengthwise. If complete, the object would be about 16 centimeters wide.
The visage is made from a conifer called Japanese umbrella pine. It has 2 holes, one for an eye and the other for the mouth, and another small hole measuring 2 millimeters in diameter near where the ear would be.
The archeologists speculate that the hole was used to put the mask on with a piece of string. Pottery unearthed alongside the mask suggests the face-shaped object dates from the latter half of the 2nd century.
Another wooden mask dating back to the early 3rd century was discovered in 2007 at the Makimuku ruins in the same city. The ruins are said to be one of the sites where the ancient Yamatai Kingdom was situated. The archeologists say the latest find is dozens of years older than the one from Makimuku.
Keiji Niwa, who is a member of the education board, says his team believes the masks were used at religious ceremonies.
May 30, 2013
NHK world news