Palace grounds: An archaeologist surveys a site at the Makimuku ruins in the city of Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, on Tuesday. KYODO PHOTO
Major excavation planned for Nara site
OSAKA–Extensive excavations are set get under way next fiscal year at the Makimuku ancient ruins in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture, sources said.
The research would be the first full excavation of the central parts of the ruins, which date to the third and fourth centuries and are the most probable site of the ancient Yamataikoku kingdom.
The excavation will be conducted by the Sakurai Municipal Board of Education and is expected to provide new information on what is believed to have been the nation’s first true city. The discovery of artifacts that indicate direct exchanges with China could determine the location of the Yamataikoku kingdom, settling a long-standing debate on the issue.
The foot of Mt. Miwa, where the Makimuku ruins are located, also is thought to be the former site of an ancient palace. The ruins stretch about two kilometers east to west and about 1.5 kilometers north to south. The area includes the Hashihaka tomb, dating back to the late third century, which is said to be the location of the tomb of Himiko, a Yamataikoku queen.
The Nara prefectural and Sakurai municipal governments have excavated the ruins 153 times starting in 1971, including 130 emergency excavations to record information prior to housing developments and other projects. Only 5 percent of the ruins have been studied.
The area’s urban centers are believed to have shifted over different periods. In the first half of the third century, the center is believed to have been in the Ota district, where remnants of what appears to have been a sanctuary were discovered.
The center is thought to have been moved in the second half of that century to the Makinouchi district, where earthenware influenced by cultures on the Korean Peninsula and silk bags were found.
The municipal board of education will conduct intensive research in the two districts under a long-term plan.
Earthenware items produced in such regions as Tokai and Setouchi account for more than 20 percent of the total artifacts excavated at the ruins, indicating contact with other parts of Japan. The excavation of a five-meter-wide ditch with a plated embankment also revealed that major civil engineering work had been carried out.
In a recent excavation, large quantities of safflower pollen used for dyeing were found. Experts pointed out that the discovery may be connected to the fabric that Himiko donated to the Wei dynasty in present-day China, as written in the Chinese documents “Gishi Wajin-Den” (The Record of Japan in the History of Wei).
(Jan. 10, 2008)
Japan Times, Nov 12, 2009
KASHIHARA, Nara Pref. (Kyodo) Archaeologists have found the remains of a structure dating back to the early third century in Nara Prefecture that could be a palace of legendary ruler Queen Himiko, a local board of education said Tuesday.
The board said it estimates a stilt house with a total floor space of some 238 sq. meters was located in the so-called Makimuku ruins in the current city of Sakurai, and the remains are believed to be the largest at that time period.
Queen Himiko governed the Yamatai Kingdom from about the end of the second century and died around 248, according to accounts of Japan in Chinese ancient history books.
But the location of the ancient kingdom has been a matter of dispute in Japanese archaeology, where views are divided between Kyushu and the Kinki region in western Japan. The new finding would support a hypothesis that the kingdom was in the Kinki area.
The estimated floor space of the structure exceeds that of others unearthed in the Yoshinogari ruins in Saga Prefecture. They occupied about 156 sq. meters.
Researchers also found that the remains and sites of three other previously discovered buildings stood in a straight line in the Makimuku ruins.
Hironobu Ishino, director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology, said the newly found remains suggest Himiko lived in a palace in the Makimuku ruins. “A building cluster that is placed in such a well-planned manner is unprecedented in Japan at that time period,” he said.