Dig in Nara, not Kyushu, yields palatial ruins possibly of Himiko


Archaeologists have found the remains of a structure dating back to the early third century in Nara Prefecture that could be a palace of legendary ruler Queen Himiko, a local board of education said Tuesday.

The board said it estimates a stilt house with a total floor space of some 238 sq. meters was located in the so-called Makimuku ruins in the current city of Sakurai, and the remains are believed to be the largest at that time period.

Queen Himiko governed the Yamatai Kingdom from about the end of the second century and died around 248, according to accounts of Japan in Chinese ancient history books.

But the location of the ancient kingdom has been a matter of dispute in Japanese archaeology, where views are divided between Kyushu and the Kinki region in western Japan. The new finding would support a hypothesis that the kingdom was in the Kinki area.

The estimated floor space of the structure exceeds that of others unearthed in the Yoshinogari ruins in Saga Prefecture. They occupied about 156 sq. meters.

Researchers also found that the remains and sites of three other previously discovered buildings stood in a straight line in the Makimuku ruins.

Hironobu Ishino, director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology, said the newly found remains suggest Himiko lived in a palace in the Makimuku ruins. “A building cluster that is placed in such a well-planned manner is unprecedented in Japan at that time period,” he said.