Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Ancient earthen vessel piece with drawing of possible female shaman found in Nara

A piece of an earthen vessel with a drawing of a possible female shaman is seen. (Photo courtesy of the Tawaramoto municipal board of education)
A tracing of the earthen vessel piece with a drawing of a possible female shaman.

TAWARAMOTO, Nara -- An earthenware piece with a drawing of a possible female shaman has been unearthed during excavation work at the Shimizukaze ancient remains in Nara Prefecture, western Japan, where burial districts of the Yayoi period have been confirmed.

The Tawaramoto municipal board of education announced the finding on Oct. 9. While 19 earthen vessels with drawings of shaman extending both their arms had previously been discovered across Japan, it is the first time that a shaman is clearly thought to be a woman as breasts are depicted by circles, according to the board.

The drawing is on a pottery fragment measuring 12 centimeters by 16.3 centimeters, which apparently dates back to the middle of the Yayoi period in 100 B.C. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth and five fingers are visible. The person appears to be dressed in a bird costume.

It is believed that an ancient shaman in a bird costume played a role to conjure the spirits of grain, which were thought to be carried by birds, at religious services while extending their arms. Kazuhiro Tatsumi, former professor of Doshisha University specializing in ancient studies, commented, "They could have prayed for a rich harvest while flapping around."

The Shimizukaze site is located about 600 meters north of the Karako Kagi site, which is known as a large-scale Yayoi period settlement surrounded by a moat. A total of over 450 earthen vessels with drawings have been found at the two sites.

The newly discovered piece with the drawing of a shaman is on display at the Karako Kagi archaeology museum in Tawaramoto until Dec. 1.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Fujiwara, Kashihara Resident Bureau)

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media