A piece of ancient clay pottery recovered from the site of the former residence of an aristocrat in Kyoto is found to have the oldest and clearest example of hiragana script. Officials from the Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute said an iroha uta poem was inscribed on the back of the earthenware dish that dates back to the year 1200.
The iroha uta is an ancient Japanese poem that uses the 47 Japanese characters only once each and was used to practice writing hiragana, which is the basic phonic script of Japan. The poem was created between the late 10th century and 11th century. Paper was very expensive during those times and so someone might have practiced writing on the dish which is 9 centimeters in diameter and 1.5 cm deep. The researchers noticed the inscribed poem when they were taking a second look at artifacts they unearthed from the site in Horikawain way back in 1983, believed to be the residence of the aristocratic Fujiwara family. The dish was discovered inside the ruins of a well and was composed of eight fragments. Of the 47 characters, 43 were legibly written in sumi ink, while four of the characters had missing portions.
Shin Yoshizaki, a senior research official at the institute said that they surmise that the poem was written by a child because of the unskilled writing. Tsutomu Yada, an associate professor of Japanese linguistic history at Osaka University said that this discovery showed what kind of hiragana learning they had during the Heian Period (794-1185) and the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), and considers this discovery “quite valuable.”
[ via Asahi Shimbun ]
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