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14 July 2011
Dancing shaman carved on ancient Japanese pottery

A carving of a dancing shaman has been found on an ancient pottery shard unearthed years ago at an archaeological site in Aomori, making it possibly the oldest depiction of a shaman on an artefact uncovered in Japan. "It is speculated to be a shaman with a ritual tool in hand, praying and dancing. It is a very valuable find," says Michio Okamura, chairman of an expedition committee for the site.
     The shard was uncovered in 1993 from an earth mound near the centre of the Sannai-Maruyama archaeological site in the city of Aomori, in the far north of the main island of Japan. The shard has been dated to the middle Jomon period, around 4,300 years ago. Last month, a worker noticed that there was a carving of a human on it.
     The shard is around 8cm tall and 6cm wide, and the shaman depicted is dancing with a tool in hand and feathers decorating the top of the head. The carving is around 4cm tall and 3cm wide, and is thought to have been made with a stick-like object around 1mm in diameter. According to the Prefecture's department of protection for cultural properties, depictions of people and expressions of movement are both rare on Jomon pottery.

Edited from The Mainichi Daily News (9 July 2011)

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