Photo/IllutrationAn unearthed fragment of a “suiteki” glass vessel (Provided by the Gangoji Institute for Research of Cultural Property)

  • Photo/Illustraion

An area south of JR Kyoto Station once likely served as a logistics base to distribute luxury gifts to aristocrats in the ancient capital, experts said after a fragment of a glass vessel from the 12th century was unearthed there.

The piece from the late Heian Period (794-1185) is the first of its kind to be found on the site of Heiankyo, Japan’s ancient capital, and believed to be part of a “suiteki” glass container used to supply water to inkstones.

Officials at the Gangoji Institute for Research of Cultural Property in Nara, which announced the finding, said it meant the site was probably used as a base to send suiteki and other high-end offerings from local regions to aristocrats in Kyoto.

The area around Kyoto Station was an upscale residential district lined with nobles’ homes at that time.

Measuring 2 centimeters by 1.5 cm, the lead glass piece was part of the spout of a suiteki. The color of the fragment is bluish green because lead was used as an ingredient, the officials said.

Lead glass vessels were produced only in China during the Heian Period, and the fragment is believed to have been part of a suiteki imported from China.

Also discovered from the survey venue dating back to between the latter half of the 12th century and the 13th century was earthenware not only from across the Kinai region around Kyoto but also Hyogo and Okayama prefectures and the Tokai region.

A glass vessel of the same kind was previously unearthed in another location and is currently owned by the Nara National Museum.