SAKURAI CITY, Japan, May 31 (UPI) — A team of Japanese archaeologists says it has found a piece of a ceremonial wooden mask believed to be the oldest find of its kind in the country’s history.
The wooden artifact, dating to the late second century, was excavated from ancient ruins known as the Daifuku Remains in Sakurai City in the western Japanese prefecture of Nara, the team announced.
The wooden piece in the shape of z human face, 9 inches long by about 3 inches wide, was discovered along with wooden armors and bronze products during the excavation work, researchers said.
“Since we can recognize an ‘eye’, a part of a ‘mouth’ and two small holes which are gouged out part of the wooden board, 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,” Teruhiko Hashimoto, chief researcher at Sakurai City’s cultural assets division, told China’s official Xinhua news agency.
The mask was made decades earlier than other wooden masks that have been found in the city, he said.
“We will continue further investigations into which kind of people wore the mask in the ancient times,” he said.
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