Oldest basil pollen in Japan found in ditch of 3rd c. Makimuku ruins, Nara, is of Southeast Asian origin

A microscopic image of basil pollen, found at a third-century ruin in Nara prefecture, central Japan. Research Center for Makimukugaku Sakurai City

A microscopic image of basil pollen, found at a third-century ruin in Nara prefecture, central Japan. Research Center for Makimukugaku, Sakurai City

The Makimuku ruins

The Makimuku ruins in Nara prefecture where the basil pollen was found. Research Center for Makimukugaku, Sakurai City

Source: WSJ, March 2015
Researchers in Japan’s Nara prefecture said they have confirmed that the oldest basil pollen in the country originally came from China or the Korean peninsula, indicating that a trading society existed in the area then.

The pollen was found in 1991 in a ditch at the third-century Makimuku ruins, a national historic site thought to be one of the possible locations of the Yamataikoku kingdom, which was led by Queen Himiko. The kingdom’s exact location is still being debated.

Academics at the Research Center for Makimukugaku had compared the basil pollen in question to other types in Japan today, and traced its roots to those that grow in Southeast Asia.

The Makimuku ruins in Nara prefecture where the basil pollen was found. Research Center for Makimukugaku, Sakurai City
“The findings show that there was exchange between those in the area and other countries back then,” Teruhiko Hashimoto, a researcher at the center, told Japan Real Time Friday.

The pollen was found in a ditch which was a part of a drainage system that connected the central part of the town and its outskirts. Pollen from safflower has also been found there.

“Safflower was likely used for dyeing. Basil was probably used for medical purposes, but it isn’t clear. It was possibly used for a powerful figure,” Mr. Hashimoto said.

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