For the first time, other than the Shōsōin documents. A mokkan (wooden document) telling the actual state of kanjaku (an inquiry into personal identity) is recovered.

Wooden document recording ōnie (a tax in kind)
Notches for tying a cord are cut into both ends of a rectangular board. This item may be regarded as a shipping label attached to goods sent as ōnie, a category of tax consisting mainly of marine products, to be presented to the emperor. Written with remarkably thin brush strokes, a presentation of sea urchins made from the ancient province of Awa can be discerned. Length: 12.1 cm.

Wooden document bearing a dated inscription
Four mokkan inscribed with dates were recovered at the Kannonji site. The year indicated here, ȉN (J. tsuchinoto ushi, one of a sixty-item cycle of calendrical designations developed in China), corresponds to 689, and is thus a year in Japan’s Asuka period. Portions have been cut out of the bottom end. Length: 18.5 cm.

Wooden document from the Shikiji site
A mokkan of the Nara period recovered at the Shikiji site from the well of the provincial supervisor’s residence, on which the names of the county districts Katsuura, Itano, Oe, and Naka are written. Length: 25.5 cm.

A kanjaku wooden document
An ink inscription of 148 characters covers both sides of a board of Japanese cypress, with the term kanjaku (an inquiry into personal identity) written on the back. As the front side bears multiple traces of characters having been shaved off, plus revisions made in the wording, it is thought to have been the draft for a document. This is the first example of an inquiry into personal identity having been made at a provincial headquarters. Length: 57.9 cm.

Human effigy made of wood
Thin boards are shaped into a human outline, and faces drawn in ink. They are thought to have been used in harae, a rite of purification. The item at right is split down the center, and was also broken into upper and lower halves. The thick eyebrows, and the beard and moustache are realistically executed. Length: 12.3 cm. The item at left retains its legs and one hand. The execution of the face is slightly simplified. Length 17.6 cm.

Boat effigies made of wood Both ends of a log are cut diagonally as the bow and stern, and a portion on the top may be left and trimmed as a box-shaped cabin. These items are thought to have been used together with human effigies in the harae purification rite. The one on the right is 25.8 cm in length.

A bronze seal
This is a bronze seal of the Heian period. The lettered surface was engraved with the lone character . This is thought to be one character from a surname. A small amount of pigment remained near the character, but it was almost entirely unworn. Width: 2.3 cm.

Photos courtesy of the Tokushima Archaeological Research Center.

Map of the positional relations of the sites

Adapted from Hakkutsu sareta Nihon rettō 2007 [Excavations in the Japanese Archipelago, 2007] (Bunkachō [Agency for Cultural Affairs], ed., Asahi Shimbunsha, 2007).

Kannonji and Shikiji Sites, Tokushima City, Tokushima Prefecture

These sites, located at an elevation of 7 – 8 m atop an alluvial fan made by the Akui river, a branch of the Yoshino river flowing into the Kii straits at the eastern end of Shikoku, are related to the government headquarters for the ancient province of Awa. This area was previously known as the presumed location of the provincial government headquarters, but the actual location of buildings such as the provincial government office, central to the headquarters, had been unknown.

At the Kannonji site, where investigation began in 1996 in conjunction with road construction, the traces of two old rivers from the Nara period were discovered, flowing across the western and northern sides of the presumed area of the government headquarters district. Large numbers of artifacts, including pottery and wooden implements, were discovered in these old riverbeds. Of particular note are the approximately 200 mokkan (wooden documents) that were recovered, dating from the mid-seventh to the tenth centuries, beginning with a kanjaku document used for a Nara period inquiry into someone’s family registry.

What was learned from the recovered wooden documents

Kanjaku refers to the confirmation of the age and address of a person, who has been appointed as a bureaucrat at the capital, through an inquiry to his place of origin. This type of inquiry into personal identity has been seen in the records surviving at the Shōsōin, but this is the first example of one written on a mokkan. Other wooden documents recovered include items bearing the dates of 689 (recorded in the Chinese sexagenary cycle) and 750 (recorded as the second year of the Tenpyō Shōhō era), and many giving place names within the ancient province of Awa as well as personal names, plus articles that were paid as tax, and hence are thought to have been used within government offices. From this it now appears certain that the provincial government office of Awa was located somewhere adjacent to the Kannonji site.

In addition to mokkan, wooden items for use in ritual and other wooden implements were recovered in large numbers, providing valuable materials for learning about the nature of the provincial headquarters at the time.

The Shikiji site indicates the extent of the provincial headquarters district

At the Shikiji site, adjacent to Kannonji on its north, buildings thought to have been part of the provincial supervisor’s residence from the first half of the eighth to the ninth centuries have been identified. Three embedded-pillar buildings were seen to have been placed in a U-shaped arrangement, and then rebuilt in almost precisely the same positions. A well was also dug on the premises, from within which numerous wooden documents and ritual implements were recovered. Ritual items and mokkan were also uncovered in large numbers from an old riverbed near the buildings.

The extent of the provincial headquarters was previously thought to have been concentrated on the vicinity of the slight elevation in the area around the Kannonji site, but it has now become clear that it spread further to the north. (Ōhashi Yasunobu)