井の中の蛙

9/15/2010

The Lead Poisoning Thesis

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:17 pm

Some research is startling, and some research confirms what we already guessed or assumed, but there’s some research which falls between these categories: research which reveals things that should have been obvious, if we’d been thinking about it clearly, or asked the right questions earlier. Siniawer’s argument about the consistency of violence in Imperial Japanese politics falls into that category, as does the new transnational migration scholarship that sees migration as a multi-directional, multi-generational process. I’m sure you have other examples

In the same vein, there’s new archaelogical research from Kitakyushu, announced on LiveScience with the headline “Lead Poisoning in Samurai Kids Linked to Mom’s Makeup.” A study of 70 sets of samurai class remains included several of children:
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8/3/2009

Cultural and Physical History Mystery

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:02 am

Okinawa boats taken by T. Egami, 1898 Michelle Damian, who I met at ASPAC, has a new post up in her project journal with an intriguing mystery:

One type of vessel that has intrigued me is the massive yakatabune, boats used for pleasure gatherings on the river. They have a solid superstructure with heavy supporting posts and cross timbers, usually decorated with lanterns bearing the names of the restaurants that had dispatched them, and are often shown with smaller craft alongside used to ferry patrons or cook the food. … What is unusual, though, is the notch at the tip of the stempost. These vessels almost always have an extra protrusion at the end.

If the mystery ended there I could chalk it up to simply the convention for the yakatabune – perhaps just aesthetic, perhaps for whatever reason just an additional visual cue to the boat’s purpose. On a model of a similar ship in Tokyo’s maritime museum (Fune no Kagakukan), though, the stempost is apparently made of two separate pieces of wood scarfed together with a notch exactly like the tip of the stemposts in the prints. It is as though the boats shown in the prints had removed that extra piece of wood, leaving the uneven notch exposed. … If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions to help solve this mystery, I would be most grateful to hear them!

modern-yakatabune

Go to her project journal for the proper illustrations (the ones here are just some that I found on Flickr) and more detail.

My theory? I think the stem, because of its size, was removable. So when it might block the view of patrons, as in a fireworks-viewing trip, it was taken off the vessel, but when it was a pleasure cruise in which the patrons were more focused on the activity inside, it was left on for elegance.

6/1/2009

Tomb Near Artifacts that Date to Himiko’s Purported Reign Dates Identified

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 8:55 pm

Am I the only person who had a bad reaction to the Tomb of legendary Japanese Queen Himiko found headlines I’ve been seeing?

The article says

Archaeologists had previously claimed that the tomb, built in the traditional keyhole-shape design, was built in the fourth century and therefore too modern for Queen Himiko.

But a team led by Professor Hideki Harunari has discovered new clay artefacts close to the site, which radiocarbon dating indicates were made between 240AD and 260AD. According to records from the Chinese court, with which the Yamatai kingdom had links, Queen Himiko died around 250 AD.

The evidence seems quite circumstantial to me, from the oddly specific radio-carbon dating to the fact that they haven’t studied the tomb itself, to the treatment of Himiko and Yamatai as unequivocally Nara-centered.

I was just commenting on Jonathan Jarrett’s article about rehdroxylation rate dating that it would be nice to have better dating technology, as a safeguard against wishful thinking and distortions of the archaeological record.

11/28/2008

Noteworthy Archaeological Sites, Issue 2008

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 7:37 pm

Walter Edwards of Tenri University reported in a message to H-Japan that the newest issue of “Noteworthy Archaeological Sites” is online. The report consists of a selection of items from 『発掘された日本列島2008』, translated into English. The members of the Committee for International Relations of the Japanese Archaeological Association (JAA), who translate these and other materials on the JAA website, have carefully chosen at least one site from each major period in Japanese archaeological studies: paleolithic, Jomon, Yayoi, Kofun, antiquity, medieval, and “modern” (which seems to begin in the 16th century).

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8/10/2007

Update on Honnôji

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 5:03 pm

Professor Matthew Stavros of the University of Sydney (seen in the third photo below) wrote in response to my post on the discovery of roof tiles from Honnôji at an excavation site in Kyoto. Matthew, who is a specialist in medieval Kyoto and has participated in archaeological digs in the city, reports that archaeologists have been excavating this site, which they were almost certain was Honnôji, for some time, but lacked definitive proof. The significance of this recent find is that the roof tiles are marked with a symbol that was only used at Honnôji.

Matthew kindly provided some images from the excavation which illustrate something of the excavation process and results (after the break).

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8/7/2007

Nobunaga’s death spot, Honnôji, discovered

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 4:08 pm

Those of you who are, like me, interested in that brief era in the late 16th and early 17th centuries known as the Momoyama period (or the Azuchi-Momoyama period for sticklers) will be interested to know that archaeologists in Kyoto have discovered the first solid proof of the location of Honnôji Temple. Honnôji was of course the site of Akechi Mitsuhide’s treasonous assault on the warlord Oda Nobunaga on Tenshô 10/6/2 (or June 21st, 1582 to most of us). Mitsuhide took advantage of the relative lack of guards, henchmen, and major vassals in the vicinity to launch a major attack which resulted in the incineration of the temple and the death of Nobunaga, known to many today as the first of the three “Great Unifiers” of the late sixteenth century. According to the Asahi Shimbun, archaeologists working over the past month have discovered roof tiles and stone walls from the temple, some marked with distinctive designs used only by Honnôji.

I wish I was in Kyoto now so I could visit the site! This is one of the most famous events in Japanese history, so the discovery of material remnants of the conflict (often referred to in Japanese as the “Honnôji incident”) is significant.

3/26/2007

Asian History News Dump, March 2007

This is a “dump”: all the Asia related stuff I’ve saved over the last…. two months? Anyway, nobody else has blogged about it, so I thought I’d toss it out there. I hope to resume more … measured blogging soon.
[Crossposted at all three Frog Blogs; sorry about the irrelevant stuff.]
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1/6/2007

Imperial Tombs Finally Opened to Archaeologists…Sorta

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 10:10 pm

It was quietly announced this week that researchers would be allowed to examine 11 ancient Japanese tombs, said to be the final resting places of Japan’s earliest emperors. 

The Japanese islands are dotted with thousands of kofun – hill tombs that house the remains of some of Japan’s earliest bigwigs.  While a few of these tombs have been excavated, most of the largest ones have never been touched, because local tradition has assigned them to be the tomb of one or another of Japan’s quasi-mythical early emperors; in the Meiji period, ownership of kofun associated with emperors, no matter how tenuously, was turned over to the Imperial Household Agency, which has not allowed archaeologists to even so much as set foot on them in over a century.

This prohibition has been unfortunate because contents of these tombs promise answers about one of the least understood and most controversial era’s in Japanese history, if only they could be examined.  Circumstantial archaeological evidence has increasingly pointed to Japan’s imperial family having strong connections to Korea, but without examining the contents of the tombs it has been hard to definitively confirm or deny these theories.

Alas, the current relaxation of restrictions–the result of a 2005 petition to the Japanese government by a consortium of concerned scholars from Japan and abroad–only eases the prohibition against walking on the hill tombs, but excavations of any kind are still forbidden, so it is unclear what new information, if any, can be gleaned by just walking around on top of these huge man-made hills.

Still it’s a step forward of sorts, if only a baby step.  I am still hopeful that one day we will not only know the contents of these tombs, but also that they will get the attention they deserve as some of the most amazing constructions ever built by man.  After all, the supposed tomb of Emperor Nintoku, which is among the 11 opened to examination, is the largest tomb ever built in history, about two times as big as the Great Pyramid by total volume. But hardly anyone even knows about it because nobody is allowed to go near it.

9/1/2006

History Carnival #38

“For both nations and inviduals have sometimes made a virtue of neglecting history; and history has taken its revenge on them.” — H. R. Trevor-Roper “The Past and the Present: History and Sociology” (1969), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 197.

Welcome to the September 1, 2006 edition of history carnival. I’m finally hosting a carnival with a number as high as my age! In honor of the quotes meme making the rounds, I’m going to use my personal quotation file as, um, decoration around the rich collection of material in this carnival. As usual, I’m making up categories as I go along: anyone who treats them as strict or comprehensive cataloging gets what they deserve!

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5/9/2006

Tombs on Tuesday

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:13 am

Apparently, failure to follow sterile work protocols have resulted in damaging molds in the Takamatsuzaka tomb.

I don’t understand why, in situations like this, they don’t just go in with every piece of recording equipment and analytical tool known to humanity…. It’s already falling apart, but the knowledge it represents can be preserved, at least in large part.

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