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3rd century ironware workshop found in Shiga

The Inabe ruins where the remains of an ironware workshop were found are pictured in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, on Oct. 16, 2016. (Mainichi)

HIKONE, Shiga -- The remains of an ironware workshop dating back to around the third century have been unearthed at the Inabe ruins here, the Hikone Municipal Board of Education has announced.

    The workshop is believed to have existed from around the end of the Yayoi Period to the early Tumulus Period in the early third century, and is much larger than most other examples of the time.

    Pieces of iron found at the site are pictured in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, on Oct. 16, 2016. (Mainichi)

    It is thought to have consisted of over 30 structures with pits, with the sides of the structures housing them measuring between 3.5 and 5.3 meters. Iron fragments and clumps were found in the ruins of 23 of the structures. Some of the pieces contained dirt and other substances, but they still had a total weight of over 6 kilograms, officials said. A stone bench though to have been used for forging and working iron, as well as two iron arrowheads, were also found at the site.

    It is believed that iron manufacturing technology did not exist in Japan at the time the workshop was in operation, and that iron plates were obtained from the Korean Peninsula and then used to make weapons, farming tools and other implements. It is thought that Inabe is one of the 30 domains said to have engaged in commerce with the continent as stated in "Gishiwajinden," (an account of the Wa) in the "History of the Wei Dynasty," a Chinese historical work that mentions the ancient Japanese Yamataikoku kingdom.

    Soon after the manufacture of ironware began, large buildings started to be built, and in the latter half of the third century, when production ended, two large buildings whose sides measured a dozen meters or so appeared in the area. It is possible that they were used as a residence for the local chief and as a large storehouse, and that the area was a hub for trading with other regions.

    At the Makimuku ruins in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture -- held as the leading candidate for the location of the Yamataikoku kingdom under the Kinai theory -- the remains of a larger building from the same period have been found.

    In "Gishiwajinden," Japanese people were held to live in an area of the ocean southeast of the Daifang Commandery, which was located near Seoul in present-day South Korea. There were originally "over 100 domains" but in the third century when the work was written, there were said to be "30 domains open to messengers and communication."

    Shinya Fukunaga, a Japanese archeology professor at Osaka University, commented, "The Inabe ruins are located at the focal point between eastern and western Japan, and ... the find is important in considering the origins of the country of Japan."

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