Stone Coffin Opened at Yoshinogari Site in Saga Pref.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Workers remove the stone lid of a sarcophagus tomb at the Yoshinogari archaeological site in Saga Prefecture on Monday.

SAGA (Jiji Press) — The Saga prefectural government Monday opened a sarcophagus tomb unearthed at the Yoshinogari archaeological site to launch a study into its contents.

Excavated at the enormous ruins of a moat-enclosed settlement in Saga Prefecture, the stone coffin is believed to have been built around the second to third centuries during the late Yayoi period, when the Yamatai country existed.

The coffin is around 2.3 meters long, bigger than other graves found at the site.

On Monday, the Saga government opened the coffin, which has four stone lids.

The prefectural government believes that an individual in power was laid to rest, as the coffin was excavated from the top of a hill and the coffin lids were found with x marks etched on the surface.

Experts say that such markings were believed to have been made to pray for the souls of the dead and prevent the dead from coming back to life again.

The area where the stone coffin was found had escaped excavation as there was a Shinto shrine there. Following the relocation of the shrine last year, the prefectural government found the coffin in April this year.

The coffin has not been affected by grave-robbing, the Saga government said.

While graves of people in power during the mid-Yayoi period have been found at the Yoshinogari site so far, no such grave from the late Yayoi period had been found there.

Scholars and others have long been divided over whether the Yamatai country was located in what is now the Kyushu southwestern region or the Kinki western region.

The study of the stone coffin is unlikely to immediately impact the controversy, a Saga official said.

But “we hope that (our study) will provide new insights into what tombs were like at the time as well as into the social structure,” the official added.