The Japan Times
May 14, 2001

ANCIENT JOMON ROOF BEAM

Timber find may be oldest yet

OITA (Kyodo) A piece of building timber that may be the oldest ever found in Japan has been unearthed in an archaeological layer dating from the Jomon Period, which began about 10,000 years ago, officials in the city of Oita said Sunday.

The 3.8-meter-long piece of timber was found in the Yokoo site, about a meter beneath another layer in which a 4,000-year-old acorn storage pit was previously found. The Jomon Period lasted from about 8000 B.C. to 200 B.C.

The piece of wood has about six circular joint holes in it about 3 cm in diameter, but what kind of timber it is remains unknown, the officials said.

The wooden beam may predate a 4,500-year-old piece of construction timber discovered in Oyabe, Toyama Prefecture, that is currently considered the oldest of its kind.

The layer where the beam was found was very moist and prevented the material from coming into contact with air, preserving it, they said.

Nagajiro Miyamoto, a Tohoku University professor of Art & Design and an expert in architectural history, said the timber was probably a roof beam from a house built on stilts.

"The discovery will be invaluable in restoring a construction from the Jomon Period," Miyamoto said. "Construction material from the Jomon Period is rare, although material from the Yayoi Period (which followed Jomon) has been unearthed many times."

Junichi Shiochi, a member of the education board who found the timber, said he initially thought it was a piece of driftwood but later found it was processed timber.