The Japan Times
December 8, 2001

Ruins of structures shed new light on second-century culture

OTSU, Shiga Pref. (Kyodo) Traces of two large buildings dating from the middle of the second century found at Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture, may have been part of an area used for sacred rites, according to local education officials.

The remains were unearthed at the Ise site in what is considered one of the key subordinate regions within the ancient Yamatai Kingdom, Moriyama city education board officials said Thursday.

Along with six similar buildings discovered previously, the two new structures form a circle about 100 meters in diameter.

One of the two buildings has a terrace that is believed to have been used as a shrine.

Also found were the remains of two pit dwellings believed to be have been built earlier than the two structures, the officials said.

One of the dwellings is among the largest of its kind ever discovered in Japan, measuring about 14-sq.-meters at the bottom and paved with clay. It is decorated with square clay tiles called "sen."

The discovery of such tiles at the site pushes back the earliest known date of their use by more than 500 years, the officials said.

They said the find is significant as there are no other examples in Japan of this kind of building formation or style of dwelling pit dated around the mid-second century.

Professor Ryuhei Maruyama, of Nagoya Women's University, said he believes the encircled space and the surrounding buildings were a facility for a political organization in a multitribal society.

Hironobu Ishino, a professor at Tokushima Bunri University, suggested that representatives of other Japanese regions may have gathered at the site.

The Ise remains are oval in shape, about 750 meters long and 400 meters wide, and are considered to be the ruins of the capital of the local region in the days of the Yamatai Kingdom, which is believed to have covered many parts of Japan in the second and third centuries.

Historians have long debated whether the location of the ancient kingdom was in northern Kyushu or in the middle of the Kinki region.

A LARGE SHRINE (left), restored from newly found remains at the Ise dig in Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture, along with two earlier discovered structures form part of a circle about 100 meters in diameter. COURTESY OF NAOKI OUE