Nansong coins, carved stone tools uncovered at Shuri Castle Ruins deemed valuable artifacts
February 4, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo
Two discoveries excavated from the Kyonouchi remains at Shuri Castle in 1996 had their origin determined this week. At the time of excavation, details regarding these artifacts were unclear, but it has been determined that the first discovery was Shokogenpo, the official currency from 12-13th century Chinese Nansong dynasty. The second was carved stoneware made sometime from the 15-17th century, which have images that were carved into the stone with small knives. The announcement was made on February 3 by the Okinawa Maizo Culture Center. The coins are the first of their kind to be excavated in Okinawa, and are specifically of the “Sekouzuki” variety, signified by the crescent moon pattern carved into the back side of the coin. The discovery of Sekouzuki coins are rare, and the culture center believes this to be the first instance anywhere in Japan.
Shoujin Heshiki, head of the Okinawa Board of Education, commented, “These two discoveries are a rare and valuable thing.”
Shokogenpo coins were first minted in 1131 CE, and are generally an alloy forged with copper, and have a diameter of 3 cm.
The front surface of the roughly 15 cm square carved stoneware was used as whetstones to sharpen blades, and have the images of a sea voyage, with things such as sail boats and waves, carved into it. This is viewed to be a prayer for safe sea voyages.
Previously, stone slabs with sea-themed images carved into them have been excavated at Chatan and Kadena, but this is the first finding of a stone utensil with these depictions. The Maizo Culture Center is saying that it was likely carved by a mason or someone similar, but that the intent is still unclear.
Kyonouchi was a place used for prayer and rituals during the Ryukyu Dynastic era, and men were prohibited from entering. It is possible that the stoneware uncovered here were used
for a ritual, but the details remain unclear.
The artifacts will be on display in the,”Shuri Castle Kyonouchi Artifact Exhibit” at the Maizo Culture Center from February 21 through May 14. Entrance to the exhibit is free.
(Translated by T&CT and Sam Grieb)
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