Mysterious clay jar found at lake’s bottom

An ancient jar, dated to between the Asuka Period (592-710 AD) and Nara Period (710-784 AD) has been found at significant depth at an underwater site at Lake Biwako, Japan’s biggest freshwater lake in Shiga Prefecture, Honsiu.

The jar found at Lake Biwako (by Ritsumeikan University)

An ancient jar was spotted 71,5 metres below the surface about 400 meters off Cape Tsuzuraozaki at an underwater archaeological site called the Tsuzuraozaki Kotei Iseki. The object was located by an underwater robot used by researchers of Ritsumeikan University led by Kenichi Yano. The intact jar measures 30-40 centimetres in height and has a  20-cm-diameter opening. Surrounding the urn were several other pieces of pottery, including six grayish-black Sue pottery shallow bowls. It is believed that the vessels have not been covered by sediment due to strong current present in this area of the lake bed.

Archaeologists have discovered many pieces of ancient vessels at the lake since 1924. They date mainly from between the Jomon Pottery Culture Period (c. 8000 BC-300 BC) and Heian Period (794-1185 AD). The artefacts have been found at the site at a depth between 10 and 70 meters, and were often caught in fishing nets. So far it remains a mystery why so much pottery from such a wide time span have been found at this site, but the researchers speculate that either a settlement was submerged by a rise in the water level, either the pots were sunk there in obscure rituals, either the place was a dumping ground for used ceramics.

(after Ritsumeikan University & Asahi Shimbun)

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