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1,300-year-old imperial kitchen likely found in Nara

The remains of a huge kitchen dating to the latter half of the Nara Period (710-784) have apparently been unearthed here.

1,300-year-old imperial kitchen likely found in Nara
The remains of a well, foreground, unearthed at the former site of the Toin district of the Heijo Imperial Palace,
and ruins, background, which were likely part of a large cooking facility, are shown Dec. 21 in Nara
[Credit: Gen Hashimoto]
The ruins of a massive well and other structures were discovered on the grounds where the Heijo Imperial Palace, a designated special historic site, formerly stood, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties said on Dec. 21.

As the discovery site is part of the Toin district that was home to the crown prince’s residence and other important buildings, historians said the newly discovered facility was likely used to cook for the upper crust at imperial banquets.

The well was surrounded by a 4-meter-square building frame placed at the center of a square-shaped area measuring 9.5 meters east to west and 9 meters north to south.

The size of the structure is comparable to one found at the former site of the emperor’s residence at the Heijo Imperial Palace.

While remains of a building equipped with an eave measuring more than 18 meters east to west and 9 meters north to south were also unearthed just west of the well, a 1-meter-wide, 60-centimeter-deep groove connecting the building and the well was also discovered.

The groove branches off and extends to the inside of the building. A lot of tableware, cooking utensils, containers and other types of earthenware were unearthed in the forked groove.

Assuming the well, building and groove were arranged in an integrated manner to use water from the well in a well-planned fashion, the research institute argues they were likely part of a cooking facility to prepare meals for imperial family members in the central Toin district.

“The forked groove indicates many people worked there,” said Kazumi Tateno, a specially appointed professor of ancient Japanese history at Nara Women's University. “The remains were likely part of a cooking facility to provide meals for huge banquets.”

Author: Ryo Miyazaki | Source: The Asahi Shimbun [January 23, 2018]


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