Photo/IllutrationA set of three pots--golden, silver and copper--found at Taimadera temple in Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture (Taku Hosokawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KATSURAGI, Nara Prefecture--A set of ancient pots made of gold, silver and copper and arranged like Russian nesting dolls was discovered at Taimadera temple here, only the fourth such finding in Japan.

The temple, the Nara prefectural board of education and the Nara National Museum jointly announced the discovery on Nov. 14.

The pots are believed to have been made in the latter half of the seventh century for the purpose of holding relics worshipped as “shari” (Buddha’s ashes).

They were contained in a copper cylinder measuring about 12 centimeters in diameter and about 14 cm in height.

The largest pot, about 10 cm in diameter and about 9 cm in height, consisted of gold and copper. It housed the middle one made of silver. The smallest one, about 1.4 cm in diameter and about 1.2 cm in height, was gold and fit inside the middle one.

The cylinder was found at the top of the core pillar of a 25-meter-tall, three-storied wooden pagoda in the western part of the temple in July 2017.

The tower is a government-designated national treasure and has been undergoing reparations since June 2016. The discovery was made during an inspection of “sorin” metals that decorate the top of the pagoda.

Previously, only three sets of shari pots made of gold, silver and copper had been found in Japan, according to an official of the Nara National Museum.

The three sets are all believed to date back to the latter half of the seventh century.

One set, a government-designated national treasure, was found in a relic of Sufukuji temple in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture.

Another set discovered in a relic of Mishima-Haiji temple in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, was designated a national important cultural property.

The other one was found in the five-storied pagoda at Horyuji temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture.