An­cient Ja­pan ‘more cos­mopoli­tan’ than thought

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

An­cient Ja­pan may have been far more cos­mopoli­tan than pre­vi­ously thought, ar­chae­ol­o­gists said yes­ter­day, point­ing to fresh ev­i­dence of a Persian of­fi­cial work­ing in the for­mer cap­i­tal Nara more than 1,000 years ago. Present-day Iran and Ja­pan were known to have had di­rect trade links since at least the 7th cen­tury, but new test­ing on a piece of wood-first dis­cov­ered in the six­ties-sug­gest broader ties, the re­searchers said.

In­frared imag­ing re­vealed pre­vi­ously un­read­able char­ac­ters on the wood-a stan­dard writ­ing sur­face in Ja­pan be­fore pa­per-that named a Persian of­fi­cial liv­ing in the coun­try. The of­fi­cial worked at an academy where govern­ment of­fi­cials were trained, said Ak­i­hiro Watan­abe, a re­searcher at the Nara Na­tional Re­search In­sti­tute for Cul­tural Prop­er­ties. The of­fi­cial may have been teach­ing math­e­mat­ics, Watan­abe added, point­ing to an­cient Iran’s ex­per­tise in the sub­ject.

“Although ear­lier stud­ies have sug­gested there were ex­changes with Per­sia as early as the 7th cen­tury, this is the first time a per­son as far away as Per­sia was known to have worked in Ja­pan (dur­ing the pe­riod),” he said. “And this sug­gests Nara was a cos­mopoli­tan city where for­eign­ers were treated equally.” Nara was the cap­i­tal of Ja­pan from around 710 AD to around 784 AD be­fore it was moved to Ky­oto and later present-day Tokyo. The dis­cov­ery comes af­ter an­other team of re­searchers last month un­earthed an­cient Ro­man coins at the ruins of an old cas­tle in Ok­i­nawa in south­ern Ja­pan. It was the first time coins from the once mighty em­pire have been dis­cov­ered in Ja­pan, thou­sands of kilo­me­ters from where they were likely minted.

— AFP

This un­dated hand­out pic­ture re­leased by the Nara Na­tional Re­search In­sti­tute for Cul­tural Prop­er­ties yes­ter­day shows a wood strip - dis­cov­ered in the 1960s and dated to be over 1,00 years old - that was ex­ca­vated from Hei­jokyo trace, in the for­mer cap­i­tal Nara.

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