Isshiki Aokai:
One of the largest settlements on the Nōbi plain for the latter part of the Middle Yayoi. Pottery with deer drawn in red pigment is found.

Vessel with drawings of deer
This was recovered from a large-scale pit dug in the final stage of the settlement. On the outer surface of this cylindrical vessel, in the shape of an artillery shell, six deer are drawn lined up vertically with their heads to the right. After making an initial sketch with a thin spatula-shaped tool, then painting more broadly with red iron oxide, the vessel was fired. While the instrument used for painting with red pigment is unknown, as its width was about 2 mm it is possible that a brush-like item was used. Surviving height: 9.0 cm.

Scale drawing of the vessel with drawings of deer

Detection of a large-scale embedded-pillar building
This was erected in the central portion of the settlement where numerous pit structures overlapped. While the pillars had all been removed, the holes for setting them in place were large, being 1.5 m long by 1 m wide and 1 m or more in depth. Logs used as foundations, to keep the pillar from sinking, were found in several of the holes.

Reconstruction drawing of a large-scale embedded-pillar building
With 89.8 m2 of floor space, having six pillar spans north-south (17.6 m) by a single span east-west (5.1 m), it was in the largest class for eastern Japan at the time. There is no external ridge pillar, and it is thought to have had a hipped roof.

Detection of largest pit structure at the site
It is 11 m on its long side and 7 m on the short one, with a hearth detected in the center.

Small jar painted with red iron oxide
This was discovered in a large ditch. It is a small jar of about 8 cm in height. Subsequently, a red painted ware referred to as palace style pottery became widespread on the N?bi plain in the Late Yayoi period, but for pottery with red painting to be found at sites of the latter part of the Middle Yayoi is extremely rare.

principal artifacts, Isshiki Aokai Site

Red painted bow
Latter part of the Middle Yayoi, first century BCE.
Surviving length: 28.0 cm; diameter: 2.1 cm.
This is part of a bow. After first being painted with a black substance, a red hue was applied with iron oxide. It is thought to have been for ritual, rather than a practical item.

Clay pendant with deer drawing
Latter part of the Middle Yayoi, first century BCE.
Overall length: 3.1 cm; diameter: 1.0 cm.
This is a clay pendant with a hole made in its upper portion. A deer is drawn firmly, with the head to the left, using a thin spatula-shaped tool. Items drawn as X marks to the left and right of the deer possibly indicate birds.

Red painted basket
Latter part of the Middle Yayoi, first century BCE.
Length: 44.0 cm; width: 25.5 cm.
This was woven with relatively thick material. It is painted over its entire surface with iron oxide. Apart from this item 4 other baskets, and 2 balls of rolled-up vine for basket making were found.

Jar with a round window
Latter part of the Middle Yayoi, first century BCE.
Rim diameter: 12.0 cm; vessel height: 24.7 cm.
A jar with a round window opening on its body, particular to the Nōbi plain in the latter portion of the Middle Yayoi, and especially found in great numbers at the Asahi site in the city of Kiyosu, Aichi prefecture. The use is unclear, but from the lack of practical function it is thought to have been pottery used for ritual.

Isshiki Aokai Site, Inazawa City, Aichi Prefecture

A population of 200 at its peak

The Isshiki Aokai site is a large settlement that was situated in the southwest portion of the Nōbi plain in the latter portion of the Middle Yayoi (around the first century BCE). A residential area stood atop a rise, the result of soil brought by a winding river which flowed through a low wetland, just 1 m in elevation.

Investigations have been conducted since 1991, and within the sitefs area, extending 25,000 m2, approximately 260 pit structures, 30 embedded-pillar buildings, and 30 square moated-precinct burials have been ascertained. At the center of the residential area, an embedded-pillar building boasting a floor area of 90 m2, in the largest class for eastern Japan, and several large-scale pit structures with floor areas exceeding 50 m2, have been found.

The settlement existed over a span of about 100 years, within which pit structures were rebuilt five or six times. At its peak some 40 pit structures stood one after another, and it is estimated to have supported a population of perhaps 200, ranking among the largest of settlements on the Nōbi plain.

Pottery with drawings of deer is found

In the 2009 investigation, from the site of the river that flowed on the north side of the settlement, a jar with a round window, a bow and baskets painted red with iron oxide, and wooden implements such as an unfinished hoe were recovered.

On the west side of a large-scale embedded-pillar building in the central portion of the residential area, a cylindrical vessel with deer drawn in iron oxide was found. While nearly 300 examples of pottery with drawings of deer have been recovered in Japan thus far, nearly all of them are incised, and this is just the second item nationwide that was drawn in pigment, and the first one painted in red. (Higami Noboru)

Photos courtesy of Aichi Prefectural Archaeological Research Center
Adapted from Hakkutsu sareta Nihon rettō 2011 [Excavations in the Japanese Archipelago, 2011] (Bunkachō [Agency for Cultural Affairs], ed., Asahi Shimbun Publications, 2011).