Photo/IllutrationRemains of a tile kiln unearthed from the grounds of Toshodaiji temple in Nara (Kazushige Kobayashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NARA--A kiln apparently used to bake tiles for the roof of Toshodaiji temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site here, offers new hints into the craftsmanship that went into creating the magnificent structures more than 1,000 years ago.

The Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, said the kiln was likely used for the roof tiles of the “kondo” main hall and other structures in the temple complex between the late Nara Period (710-784) and early Heian Period (794-1185).

Remains of the kiln, measuring 4.2 meters by up to 2.2 meters, were excavated from under the “mieido” building north of the center of the temple.

“The tile kiln was likely set up on the temple grounds during the final stage of construction of the kondo, east pagoda and other buildings,” said Michio Maezono, an archaeology professor at Nara College of Arts.

“Toshodaiji is not a large publicly commissioned temple, so those facilities could have been erected gradually over dozens of years.”

Toshodaiji was founded in 759 by Ganjin (688-763), a high-ranking monk from China's Tang Dynasty, as a place to impart Buddhist disciplines and teachings.

Building work at the temple site apparently continued after Ganjin died. While the record remains murky, it is said that the east pagoda built in 810 is the most recent addition to Toshodaiji.