Photo/IllutrationShards of earthenware from around 2,000 years ago have images of wooden structures scratched on the surface. (Provided by the Ibaraki city board of education)

  • Photo/Illustraion

IBARAKI, Osaka Prefecture--Shards of 2,000-year-old earthenware unearthed at an archaeological site here depict a group of wooden structures that are the first such clearly decipherable representations to be found in Japan.

The artifact, discovered at the Nakagawara site, offers precious clues about the way settlements were built and rituals carried out during the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 B.C.A.D. 300), researchers said.

The discovery was announced March 23 by the Ibaraki municipal education board.

Officials said nine shards of unglazed earthenware were found during a yearlong excavation project that started in November 2016.

When pieced together, the artifact measured 21.5 centimeters by 25.5 cm.

The five images, all of various size, showed wooden structures built on stilts with ridge roofs.

They also depicted ornamental cornices that are commonly found on Shinto shrine gables.

The structure at the center is rather small compared with the others. One has a ladder leading to a raised platform and another has "munamochi-bashira,” an outside post to hold the ridge.

“The structure with munamochi-bashira must be a key structure," said Tadashi Kurosaki, the director of the Osaka Prefecture’s Museum of Yayoi Culture. "The etchings were clearly meant to portray in detail a daily scene in the settlement.”

(This article was written by Hideki Muroya and Senior Staff Writer Kunihiko Imai.)