Oldest hiragana writing found on ancient pottery
|Ancient clay pottery with hiragana written in "sumi" ink on the back [Credit: Noboru Tomura]|
In those days, paper was extremely expensive, so someone apparently practiced writing on the dish, said researchers.
Researchers noticed the poem while the institute was re-examining artifacts it unearthed in 1983 from the site of Horikawain, a residence that belonged to the aristocratic Fujiwara family. The dish, measuring 9 centimeters in diameter and 1.5 cm deep, was found inside the ruin of a well.
The earthenware consists of eight fragments, with the hiragana inscribed on the back. Of the 47 characters written in “sumi” ink, 43 were legible. Four letters had missing portions.
Of the eight lines, written from right to left, the first line showed the last five characters of Iroha uta. The poem starts from the second line. With the space running out for the last five letters, the writer apparently had returned to the beginning, the researchers said.
Shin Yoshizaki, a senior research official at the institute said, “Judging from the unskilled writing, the script may have been a child’s practice piece.”
Tsutomu Yada, an associate professor of Japanese linguistic history at Osaka University, said it is a significant discovery.
“The script indicates a situation of hiragana learning in the capital during the Heian Period (794-1185) and the Kamakura Period (1192-1333),” he said. “It is quite valuable.”
Source: The Asahi Shimbun [July 15, 2013]