The Japan Times
November 3, 2001

Joint research team finds world's oldest bricks

KYOTO (Kyodo) A joint team of Japanese and Chinese researchers has discovered what they believe to be the world's oldest baked bricks, dating back some 6,400 years, team members said Friday.

The team, including members of the Kyoto-based International Research Center for Japanese Studies, made the find at the Jotozan ruins in the Yangtze River area in China's Hunan Province. It also discovered ruins of a complex estimated to be some 5,000 years old.

But the age assigned to the bricks may prove controversial as they are hard to distinguish from baked mud used in walls, the team members said.

The world's oldest bricks are currently believed to be adobe mainly associated with the Indus Valley civilization, with baked bricks believed to have emerged only about 4,500 years ago, they said.

With this latest discovery, it is possible that an entirely different and independent culture may have prospered in the Yangtze River Valley, according to the team members.

Last year, the team found a red clump at a site said to be the ruins of an altar in the early period of the Daikei civilization, which dates back 6,200 to 6,400 years.

They also found a layer of earth dating back 5,000 to 5,300 years. In it they discovered the ruins of a square building measuring about 13 meters on one side and the ruins of three ridges on a burial site. The baked bricks were lined up underneath it.

The building was likely used for special ceremonies, while the ridges were probably part of a temple, according to the team members.

Other finds by the team, which began its joint research in 1997, include the ruins of a circular castle wall dating back more than 6,000 years.