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Large rice paddies existed 2,500 years ago in central Nara

Remnants of hundreds of rice paddies dating back 2,300 to 2,500 years were found, the first indication that mass cultivation of Japan’s staple existed in Nara long before the ancient capital of Heijokyo was established.

Large rice paddies existed 2,500 years ago in central Nara
Traces of rice paddies dating back to more than 2,000 years ago in central Nara 
[Credit: Sayuri Ide]
The findings showed that 5,500 square meters of rice paddies had been planted in the early Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 B.C.-A.D. 300) in what is now central Nara, researchers at the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara of Nara Prefecture said June 23.

The area is near the site where the Heijokyu palace, residence for the emperor and the center of power, stood when Nara was home to the Heijokyo capital between 710 and 784.

“The recent discovery further corroborates the theory that people had a basis of livelihood here as far as back in the Yayoi period, before Heijokyo was set up,” said Keisuke Morishita, head of the Nara municipal government’s buried cultural property excavation center. “It is a significant find in terms of researching how rice cultivation began in this area in the early Yayoi period.”

Vestiges of small rice fields as well as clay pots have previously been discovered in the area, suggesting the possibility of rice production during the Yayoi period.

The larger rice paddies were found during a study of tracts of prefectural government-owned land spanning about 8,000 square meters.

Archaeologists discovered a broad expanse of rice paddies broken up with many ridges, as well as remnants of a river and irrigation channels.

One rice paddy measured 3 to 50 square meters. The recent excavation discovered 500 rice fields.

A foreign-affiliated hotel is planned at the site.

But an official in charge of preserving cultural properties at the Nara prefectural board of education said officials will keep a detailed record of the remnants of the rice paddies

Authors: Yuya Tanaka and Yumi Kurita | Source: The Asahi Shimbun [June 24, 2016]

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