YAMAGATA--A well-known clay figure believed to date back more than 3,000 years will finally have a leg to stand on.

The upper half of the body of the figure, named “keppatsu dogu” (A clay figure of a woman with her hair in a topknot), was reunited with one of its missing legs for the first time in about 90 years. The two pieces are now on display at the Yamagata University Museum here.

The reunion was a rare case of parts from the same ancient figure being brought together after a long separation.

The museum plans to join the left leg to the the figure and show the nearly full body this autumn.

Long a fixture exhibit, the upper body, which measures 15 centimeters in height and 16 cm wide at the shoulders, is also the model for the museum’s promotional character Keppatsu-chan.

The left leg, which had been in the possession of the Sagae city government in Yamagata Prefecture, was added to the exhibit in January after an archaeologist discovered that the cross-section surface of the leg portion matched that of the upper body of the figure.

The upper body and leg were unearthed at the Ishida archaeological site in Sagae around 1921 during railway work.

They were among pieces from the periods of Jomon Pottery Culture (c. 14,500 B.C.-1,000 B.C.) and Yayoi Pottery Culture (1,000 B.C.-A.D. 250).

Matasaburo Adachi, a landowner in the area, initially owned the two pieces.

He donated the upper body to a local board of education, and it was eventually transferred to the museum.

The left leg, along with many other Jomon Pottery Culture items excavated at the site, was presented to the Sabae city government in 2015.

“Officials concluded that the upper body should be put on display because it was easy to tell that it is a clay figure,” said Miyuki Oshino, a researcher at the museum. “But they missed the left leg apparently because it was buried with many others.”

Yoshihiro Aita, a professor of archaeology at Koriyama Women’s College in Fukushima Prefecture, pointed out that the leg might belong to keppatsu dogu when he visited Sagae in June.

The following month, Aita, a graduate of Yamagata University, proved his theory when he put the left leg and the upper body together.

He said the leg may have been severed during the excavation, noting the relatively new cross-section surfaces.

The Sagae municipal government presented the leg portion to the Yamagata University Museum in November.

Oshino said the museum has no clues on the whereabouts of the other leg because documents submitted to the Sagae city government when the left leg was donated did not list the right leg.

Similar reunions have occurred, but they often involve a bit of luck.

The upper and lower parts of a clay figurine dug up at the Kamaishi Kanjo Resseki archaeological site in Hachimantai, Iwate Prefecture, were rejoined in 2012 after 3,000 years of separation.

Based on the aged cross-section surfaces of the two parts, researchers concluded the figure was sheared into two during the Jomon Pottery Culture period.

The lower half, which was discovered in 1953, was in the possession of Keio University in Tokyo, while the upper half was kept by an individual.

It is not known when the upper half was excavated.

Katsue Yagi, an expert at the public-interest Buried Cultural Property Investigation Center in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, deduced that the two pieces belonged together from her memory.

When she studied the lower half at Keio University, she recalled photos of the upper part that showed similar features.

“When historical parts are preserved separately, there are fewer chances to confirm that they are actually from one piece,” Yagi said. “Researchers should determine whether the pieces belong to one figure by using the knowledge stored in their brains about the time the parts were made as well as their characteristics.”

In 2000, an elementary school boy accidentally came across an upper half of a clay doll from the Jomon Pottery Culture period at the Sunazawa archaeological site in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture.

Nine years later, a researcher discovered a lower part, which was later confirmed to be from the same figure.

The doll, called the “figure of miracle,” is shown at the Hirosaki city museum.