SAKURAI, Nara Prefecture--Thousands of peach pits found near building ruins in the Makimuku archeological site in western Japan were likely harvested between 135 and 230 A.D., adding to the possibility that the ancient kingdom called Yamataikoku was located here.

The results of carbon-14 dating of the ancient seeds were published in the latest issue of the bulletin of the Research Center of the Makimukugaku, Sakurai City.

According to the research center of the Makimukugaku, about 2,800 peach seeds were found from a pit about 5 meters south of the site of the building in 2010 along with other items, including parts of baskets and potteries, and many plants and animal bones. The objects found in the pit were believed to have been buried after being used in some kind of rituals.

The archeological site, stretching over a large area around JR’s Makimuku Station, is a government-designated historic site dating from the early third to early fourth century. It is one of the few sites around Japan that is believed to be the location of the elusive kingdom of Yamataikoku.

The kingdom appears in “Gishiwajinden,” a history book of ancient China, and is said to have existed from the end of the second century through the first half of the third century until the death of queen Himiko, who co-reigned over a greater nation called Wa, which covers much of today’s Japan.

Where Yamataikoku was located has divided Japanese historians and scholars into two camps--either in Kyushu island or in the Kinki region, where Nara Prefecture is located.

“The dates derived by scientific analysis fell into the range we expected," said Kaoru Terasawa, the director of the Research Center of the Makimukugaku. "Along with the archeological analysis based on the age of potteries, the age of the large building was verified to be from the first half of the third century.”

However, Chuhei Takashima, archeologist and former dean of Saga Women’s Junior College, who believes Yamataikoku was located in Kyushu island, disagreed.

“It is still not definitely certain whether the carbon dating data actually indicates the age of the building itself,” he pointed out.

It is the first time that a natural scientific method was used to date the building's ruins, which measures 19.2 meters north to south and 12.4 meters east to west, in the Makimuku site. The carbon dating makes it more likely than ever that it originated from around the era that Himiko ruled over Wa.

To date the pits, Yoshio Nakamura, professor emeritus of Nagoya University, and Ryo Kondo, director of social education of the education board of the Tokushima prefectural government, both conducted radiocarbon dating tests separately using accelerator mass spectrometry.

Nakano studied 15 pits, and apart from three that could not be analyzed, he concluded that 12 originated from between 135 and 230 A.D.

Kondo studied two others and obtained similar results. He also analyzed charred matter on pottery pieces and melon seeds found in the pit, and concluded they are highly like to be from between 100 and 250 A.D.

(This article was written by Yoshito Watari and Yuya Tanaka.)