In the news: Excavations at the Motodaka Yumi no Ki Iseki reveal Kofun period iron tools and engineering and irrigation-works


Recent Motodaka Yumi no Ki Iseki excavations have become a valuable resource in understanding the nature of Kofun-period public works projects.

The following text has been excerpted from Ancient Japan: Unexpurgated history’s “Motodaka Yumi no Ki Iseki – Around 200 logs uncovered at early Yayoi waterway (2010/12/25)” page:

“A 4th century (Early Kofun) ditch and pond, in addition to a dirt mound and wooden structure, were found accompanied by contemporaneous pottery in 2009. The mounded dirt and wooden structure (which was supported by pillars) are believed to have been implemented to control the flow of water. Of interest here is the method of piling dirt, which involved spreading down layers ofsugi (Cryptomeria japonica) bark and matting (perhaps of rush).

Stacked around the wooden structure are bags of earth (donō 土嚢) that have been remarkably preserved. The white band across the middle of the sandbag in the picture is a string, which has been preserved to such an extent that researchers are able to understand the type of knot used to tie the bag together.

It was announced in 2009 that an iron-bladed hand tool for plucking the heads of rice and other grains (鉄刃付き穂摘具) had been uncovered at the site in almost perfect condition – a domestic first. Dating to the Middle Kofun period, its condition is remarkable for a farming implement some 1,600 years old. The wooden base is made of Quercus acuta (コナラ属アカガシ亜属), and the iron blade is inserted into a groove made along the bottom. This being the first time an almost complete tool of this variety has been found, it is an indispensable clue to understanding the implement’s design. The photos provided below allow a glimpse into its practical use.

In addition to this remarkable specimen, another cutting tool of a slightly different shape was found dating from the Early Kofun period (circa 300 AD), but only a section of its iron blade remains, highlighting how truly amazing the intact, Middle-Kofun find is. Not only is this the first time an almost complete specimen has been unearthed with the iron blade still fully inserted into the implement’s groove, this is also the first time two such implements with full/partial iron blades still inserted have been uncovered from the same archaeological site.

…the footprints of humans and cows dating to the Middle to Late Kofun period (400-600 AD) have also been found, as well as the sharply cloven hoof prints characteristic of deer.”

For photos, more details and information, see this HP 本高弓ノ木遺跡 2011年3月3日

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s