Sunday, July 05, 2009

8th century Islamic vase found in Japan

Pieces of an Islamic ceramic vase dating back to the late eighth century have been discovered in Nara Prefecture, making it possibly the oldest Islamic porcelain found in Japan, Nara city government researchers said Friday.

Nineteen pieces with a blue-green exterior and dark green interior surface were unearthed at Saidaiji Temple in the ancient Japanese capital, they said without giving the specific date of the discovery.

The excavation team also unearthed a piece of wood bearing Chinese characters indicating the year of the reigning Japanese emperor, corresponding to 768 AD, which led the researchers to determine the era in which the Islamic vase was made.

Keisuke Morishita, the head of the western city's research center for buried cultural property, described the discovery as providing "first-class historical data that indicates there was a 'Silk Road of the Sea' linking eastern and western Asia."

The Nara researchers believe the vase was more than 50 centimeters high and had a diameter of 11 to 12 cm at its base, adding it was likely that the vase was used to carry spices or dates.

What were previously thought to be the oldest Islamic ceramics in Japan were found in Fukuoka Prefecture, but the latest find from the Abbasid Caliphate appears roughly a century older, they said.

The pieces will be on display at the Nara research center from Monday until the end of the month and then at Nara city hall from Aug. 10 to 31, according to the center.