Remains of 7th-century banquet hall unearthed

Excavations at the Asukadera Seiho site, the first Buddhist temple founded in Japan, located in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, Japan, revealed architectural remains of what is believed to be part of a banquet hall complex for the nobility, dating back to the 7th century AD.

Overview of the structure’s remains (by Yoshinori Mizuno)

The existence of such building is described in an eighth century official history of Japan. The remains date to the period when Asuka served as the nation’s capital. The book describes banquets held in the square in the latter half of the seventh century for people invited from the outskirts of the kingdom, including the Emishi from today’s Tohoku region and the Hayato from the southern Kyushu region. The area west of the Asukadera temple is considered to be the site of “Tsukinoki no Hiroba”, or famed square of zelkova trees mentioned in 8th-century “Nihon Shoki”  – “The Chronicles of Japan“.

At the site researchers uncovered pits in the ground for 16 wooden pillars. The pits were uncovered in the Northwest part of the archaeological site and are believed to date from the seventh century. The pits measure between 90 centimetres and 135 cm across. The placement of the pillars suggests the banquet hall measured at least 19.2 meters west to east and 4.8 meters South to North.

(after Yoshinori Mizuno & Asahi Shimbun)

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