archaeology
subscribe
Special Introductory Offer!

Study Suggests New Dates for the Spread of Writing in Japan

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

SAKURAI, JAPAN—The Asahi Shimbun reports that archaeologist Yasuo Yanagida of Kokugakuin University examined 150 stone artifacts unearthed in western Japan and dated to the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (ca. 1000 B.C.–A.D. 250) and the Kofun Period, which spanned the third to seventh century A.D. The items had previously been identified as whetstones, but Yanagida suggests they may have been used to mix ink for writing. Such ink slabs usually have hollows where the ink was rubbed and traces of blackish residue. Yanagida noted that pottery from Lelang, a Han Dynasty administrative center established by China on the Korean Peninsula in 108 B.C., has also been found at the Japanese site of Mikumo-Iwara, an ancient capital mentioned in a Chinese record of encounters with Japan. An ink slab dated to the first or second century A.D. was discovered at Mikumo-Iwara in 2016. Yanagida suggests writing may have been introduced to Japan from China along with Lelang pottery, and spread throughout Japan hundreds of years earlier than previously thought. To read about the oldest known sake brewery that was recently discovered in Kyoto, go to "At Press Time."

Advertisement

Advertisement


Advertisement