Photo/IllutrationA researcher points to a section that is believed to have been a kitchen of a ninth-century mansion in Kyoto on Aug. 3. Many green-glazed pottery pieces have been excavated. (Yoshiko Sato)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--The remnants of a large ninth-century mansion likely belonging to a high-ranking nobleman were discovered here.

The mansion, measuring 21 meters east to west and 9 meters north to south, makes it one of the largest structures ever excavated within the site of Heiankyo, the ancient capital founded in 794, the Kyoto City Archeological Research Institute announced on Aug. 3.

The remnants of the mansion and three other buildings were newly discovered in a 120-meter-square site, which has been confirmed as one large piece of residential land, in the city's Nakagyo Ward.

The mansion, which was built with wooden columns directly installed into holes in the ground, is believed to have been constructed in the early ninth century, or the first half of the Heian Period (794-1185).

Based on the sheer size of the premises, the researchers assume it was the private residence of a nobleman who had a rank of “sanmi” or above, today’s equivalent of a Cabinet minister. His identity has not been determined.

Heiankyo was laid out in a street grid spanning about 4.5 kilometers east to west and 5.3 km north to south.

In 1985, the remains of buildings and fencing from the first half of Heian Period were found on the east side of the current dig site, and in 1988, the remnants of two large buildings from the same period were excavated on the south side.

Among the artifacts excavated at the site were a large number of pieces of green-glazed and ash-glazed pottery, which were expensive commodities at the time.

Ryohei Nishiyama, professor emeritus of ancient history at Kyoto University, said there is a possibility that the housing site found this time may be of a person related to Emperor Saga (786-842).

According to Nishiyama, high-quality green-glazed pottery pieces have been found most noticeably at sites related to the emperor.

He cited as examples Reizei-in, which Emperor Saga used as a detached palace; Junna-in, where his younger brother, Emperor Junna, lived; and Daikakuji temple, which was initially built as his detached palace.