Kyoto (Japon): Glass found at Kamigamojinja shrine likely came from ancient Persia

Kazuto Tsukamoto


Glass shardA glass fragment found in Kamigamojinja shrine in Kyoto that is believed to have come from ancient Persia (Provided by Yoshinari Abe)

The chemical composition of a glass fragment unearthed 50 years ago at Kamigamojinja shrine in Kyoto, a World Heritage site, is a near match for glass found in the ruins of a royal palace from Persia’s Sasanian Dynasty (226-651).

Glass bowls from the sasanian empireA cut glass bowl manufactured by Persia’s Sasanian Dynasty that is believed to be of the same type as a glass fragment discovered at Kamigamojinja shrine (Provided by Miho Museum)

Testing conducted by a group of researchers that included Yoshinari Abe, an assistant professor of analytical chemistry at the Tokyo University of Science, confirmed the match.

The glass fragment is believed to have been manufactured between the sixth and seventh centuries. It also has characteristics that are similar to those found in the “Hakururinowan” bowl, one of the treasures kept in Nara’s Shosoin Repository at Todaiji temple. Researchers hope the fragment will help them determine where the treasures in Shosoin came from.

The fragment, which is believed to have come from a thick glass bowl with double circular patterns, is six centimeters long, 4.2 cm wide and one cm thick. It was discovered in 1964 by a local historian at a site north of the main hall of the shrine, located in Kita Ward.

It is being kept at the Kyoto City Archaeological Museum. Kamigamojinja enshrines Kamowakeikazuchi no Okami, the ancestral god of the ancient Kamo clan, and is believed to have been a site of rituals in ancient times.

Abe and his fellow researchers analyzed the glass fragment at the SPring-8, the world’s largest synchrotron radiation facility, in Sayo, Hyogo Prefecture. They found that its chemical composition was almost identical to glass found in Veh-Ardashir, a royal palace in the dynasty’s capital Ctesiphon (in central Iraq).

In a previous discovery, the same researchers found similarities in the chemical composition of a glass bowl with circular patterns and a glass dish with items belonging to the Sasanian Dynasty and the Roman Empire (27 B.C.-395 A.D.), respectively. The glass bowl and dish were unearthed in the No. 126 tomb of the Niizawasenzuka group of ancient tombs in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture.