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Ancient dog figurines, mini tea utensils displayed in Nara, could be child's toys

Unearthed dog figurines that may have been toys belonging to a buried child are seen at the Archaeological Research Center, Nara City, on Feb. 15, 2021. (Mainichi/Akira Inoh)

NARA -- Dog figurines and miniature tea utensils excavated in this ancient Japanese capital are among the items on display at a free archaeological exhibition being held in the city until the end of March.

    The exhibition, which began on Feb. 15 at the Archaeological Research Center in the city of Nara, features artifacts that the center's researchers unearthed this fiscal year. The dog figurines and miniature tea utensils were found near an ancient grave site where a child is believed to have been buried.

    The Akishino-amidadani ruins in the city's Akishino district are thought to have been a grave site since the tumulus period, and unearthed articles include human bones cremated in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), among other items. A miniature "hagama," or broad-brimmed cooking pot, was unearthed near a stone monument on which a posthumous Buddhist name and the date "October 10, Tensho 17 (1589)" are engraved. It contained a small pot and dog figurines whose tails and other parts showed features of a Japanese breed.

    Satoko Nagano, a 41-year-old researcher at the center, commented, "A child's grave with burial goods in that period is rare nationally, and we can imagine with a sense of reality that they were the toys the kid loved. I hope these spark people's interest."

    (Japanese original by Akira Inoh, Yamato Takada Resident Bureau)

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