In the news: Researchers unearth old canal used to build ancient capital in Kyoto

 

The remains of a ditch, believed to have served as a canal to convey materials when building the Heiankyo, are uncovered in Kyoto's Kamigyo Ward. (Noboru Tomura)

The remains of a ditch, believed to have served as a canal to convey materials when building the Heiankyo, are uncovered in Kyoto’s Kamigyo Ward. (Noboru Tomura)

October 18, 2013 The Asahi Shimbun

By TSUYOSHI SATO

KYOTO–A private excavation group based in Kobe has found the remains of a canal-like ditch likely used in the construction of the Heiankyo, which served as the capital of Japan a millennium ago, here in Kyoto’s Kamigyo Ward.

The “Kodai Bunka Chosakai” group (ancient culture investigation group) said Oct. 17 that the discovery will make it possible to see the advanced civil engineering methods of the Heian Period (794-1185).

It is believed that houses of officers at Naizenshi (imperial table office), a department that prepared and served food to the emperor, were located in this area during the period.

According to group members, the remains of the ditch are about 5 meters wide and about 50 to 80 centimeters deep, which obliquely extended for about 20 meters from a northeast direction to a southwest direction.

It is thought that materials, which were used for the building of the Heiankyo, had been arranged in the southwest direction from this site.

Due to the flat and artificial bottom of the remains, researchers determined that the ditch was a canal used to convey the materials from the Kamogawa river to build the Heiankyo. The canal was filled in after construction work was completed, they said.

A clay pot from the first half of the ninth century was also unearthed from the soil used to fill in the canal.

In addition, the group also confirmed the discovery of remnants from the Tsuchimikado-oji path, one of the main thoroughfares in the Heiankyo.

According to the group members, the remains show the Tsuchimikadooji path was constructed some time after the Heiankyo’s “daidairi,” the location of the government offices and the house of the emperor, was built, using the canal.

“They are precious vestiges, allowing us to see the process how the Heiankyo was developed,” said Koji Iesaki, leader of the investigation.

An apartment building is scheduled to be built on the site of the archaeological dig once the research has been concluded.

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