Ancient tool sheds light on Japan’s earliest writing

Researches discovered traces of ink on an ancient stone artefact that was found split in two, in 2003 in Yakushinoue ruins in Chikuzen, Fukuoka Prefecture, West Japan.

The inkstone (by Shunsuke Nakamura)

The sandy shale inkstone measures about 15 centimetres in length, is about 5-6 centimetres wide, and less than 1 centimetres thick. Analysis revealed small amounts of carbide, thought to have been used as ink for writing in the times known as the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 BC-300 AD). Experts believe the artefact is a “suzuri” inkstone, making it the first discovery of an inkstone bearing ink and retaining its shape. The moment when writing was introduced and how widely it was used in ancient Japan is a subject of a hotly debate among archaeologists. The recently found inkstone is one of three such artefacts  dating to the Yayoi Pottery Culture period found across Japan. An earlier found was made in 2016 in the Mikumo Iwara ruins in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture. The site was the ancient domain of Ito Koku depicted in China’s “Gishiwajinden” (Record of Wa in the history of Wei). The coastal area is considered to be where Japanese people first came into contact with overseas culture. Another inkstone was unearthed in the Tawayama ruins in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, which was confirmed an inkstone in 2001

(after Asahi Shimbun & Shansuke Nakamura)

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