Thursday, November 12, 2009

Has the Lost Kingdom of Yamataikoku Been Found?

Fascinating article on an aspect of the ancient history of Japan. A kingdom ruled by a Queen - lost in the mists of time. 3rd-century building fuels debate over lost country BY YOSHITO WATARI AND KAZUAKI OWAKI THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009 11/12 SAKURAI, Nara Prefecture--The site of a third-century building found in the Makimuku ruins here has reignited debate over the location of Yamataikoku, a mysterious and powerful country once ruled by Queen Himiko. The discovery, announced by the Sakurai city board of education Tuesday, has strengthened the theory that the Kinai area was home to Yamataikoku, a country described in "Gishi Wajin-den," part of the Chinese book "Sanguo zhi" (History of the Three Kingdoms) written by Chen Shou in the late third century. Proponents of the theory say the building, estimated at 19.2 meters by 12.4 meters with a floor space of 238 square meters, could have been a central facility in Yamataikoku. However, those who back the theory that Yamataikoku was in Kyushu argue that a big building alone does not prove the Makimuku ruins were the center of the ancient country. The lack of major buildings in the Makimuku ruins, which date back from the late second century to the early fourth century, had been considered a "weak point" in the Kinai theory. That is because "Gishi Wajin-den" described Yamataikoku as having a palace, a watch tower and castle fences. The recently found building is not only the largest found at the site; it is also the biggest discovered in Japan from the early third century, which was during Himiko's reign. According to the Sakurai board of education, the building was aligned with three smaller buildings from the early third century, whose sites had been earlier discovered to the west in the Makimuku ruins. The central axis of each building forms a straight line. Each building is believed to have faced the same direction. Such careful planning for buildings was common for palaces and temples during the Asuka Period from the late sixth century to the early eighth century. But it had not been found at sites from the early third century. "The orderly alignment of the buildings from east to west is sure proof that they were part of the Yamataikoku royal palace," said Taichiro Shiraishi, director of the Chikatsu Asuka Museum in Osaka Prefecture. "They likely hit the jackpot this time." Part of the site of the large building was destroyed by an L-shaped ditch believed to have been a gravesite. Archaeologists determined that the large building was from the early third century because pottery found in the ditch was dated from the mid-third century. Only 5 percent of the Makimuku ruins has been excavated. But work is now under way in a 390-square-meter area to shed light on the central part of the ruins and, archaeologists hope, to uncover sites of more buildings. Despite the finding, Biten Yasumoto, editor in chief of the Yamataikoku periodical and a former professor at the Sanno Institute of Management, remains skeptical of the Kinai theory. "Researchers backing the Kinai theory tend to date pottery about a century too early," he said. "And the sites of large buildings have been found in Kyushu, too. They alone cannot be associated with Yamataikoku." Yasutami Suzuki, a professor of ancient history at Kokugakuin University, said the Kyushu theory used to be popular, but the Kinai theory has gained momentum in recent years thanks to archaeological research. However, he noted that specific artifacts symbolizing royal power need to be unearthed to prove the site was indeed the center of Yamataikoku. (IHT/Asahi: November 12,2009) Resources: Wikipedia entry on Himiko also known as Pimiko - there appears to be good documentary evidence in early Chinese sources supporting the historical existence of this Queen. What I found most striking in the brief histories given is the long line of female shamans associated with the royal family of Japan. Permission from authorities to conduct further excavations on a burial mound that archaeologists believe may be that of the legendary Queen Himiko has been denied thus far.

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