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New Dates Obtained for Ink Stones Unearthed in Japan

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

ITOSHIMA, JAPAN—The Mainichi reports that Yasuo Yanagida of Kokugakuin University suggests ink stones may have been manufactured in southwestern Japan as early as the second century B.C. This is based upon his study of stone artifacts from the site of the Uruujitokyu ruins in Itoshima, the Nakabaru ruins in Karatsu, and the Higashi Oda Mine ruins in Chikuzen. It had been previously thought that writing emerged in Japan around the third century A.D., based upon the discovery of pottery decorated with written characters. Ink stones, which are generally thin, flat, fan-shaped, and polished on one side, are thought to have originated in China in the third century B.C. Ink stones dating to the first century have been previously unearthed in southwestern Japan, but they were believed to have been imported. Some of the possible ink stones recently identified by Yanagida had been broken before they were completed. Artifacts from the sites also include unfinished stone files for making ink from the ink stones, and stone saws. “There was a demand for the written word,” Yanagida explained, “and that’s why [the ink stones] were being made. I suspect [Japanese producers] copied Chinese stones and began making them domestically.” For more, go to “Japan’s Early Anglers.”

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