Photo/IllutrationA recently unearthed iron “yariganna” cutting pike plane with a haft is shown at the Ishikawa prefectural government office in Kanazawa on July 27. (Hideki Inoue)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KANAZAWA, Ishikawa Prefecture--A well-preserved ancient carpenter's tool that was at the cutting edge of Japanese manufacturing thousands of years ago has been discovered at the Yokaichijikata ruins in Komatsu in the prefecture.

The iron “yariganna” cutting pike plane, which is attached to a haft, is believed to be from about 2,300 years ago, the first half of the middle of the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 B.C.-A.D. 300).

The Ishikawa prefectural center of buried cultural property announced the discovery on July 27.

“(The yariganna is) extremely wrought,” said archaeologist Kaoru Terasawa, who heads the Research Center for Makimukugaku in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture. “We can imagine that the works created through the yariganna were also sophisticated. It is safe to say that this is the origin point of Japanese manufacturing.”

The tool, used to smooth surfaces of wooden items, is the oldest of all yariganna planes with a haft that have been found in a pristine condition in Japan, according to the center.

“This is a valuable item in studying how iron was dispersed to the Japanese archipelago,” said a center official.

The entire length of the yariganna is 16.3 centimeters. Part of the 5.1-cm iron bar was tucked into the haft, taped and fixed with threads and tape-shaped Japanese cherry tree bark.

The haft has an art carving, an aslant lattice pattern, and is formed like a baseball bat grip on its handle. The pike is about 2 millimeters thick.

The pike is likely to have been transported from overseas because it is said that iron started being produced in Japan in the latter half of the mid Yayoi Pottery Culture period.

Only pike parts have been discovered at such ruins in the northern Kyushu, Sanin and Setouchi regions.

It is believed that temples and shrines of the Asuka Period (592-710), including Horyuji temple, were constructed with yariganna that had been major tools for carpenters specializing in Shinto and Buddhism architectural structures.

Yariganna were replaced with “daiganna” iron planes, which are still in use, in the Muromachi Period (1338-1573).

Generally, yariganna have a haft that scales dozens of centimeters and are used with both hands. However, the newly discovered yariganna was apparently used with one hand.

At the Yokaichijikata ruins, a number of weapons and wooden items, including dishes, have also been unearthed previously.

(This article was written by Hideki Inoue and Yoshito Watari.)