In the news: Rare octagonal tomb in Nara identified as Empress Saimei’s

Imperial dig: The octagonal stone paving in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, has been identified as part of the tomb of seventh century Empress Saimei. KYODO PHOTO

Nara tomb said that of seventh century empress

Japan Times Fri., Sept. 10, 2010

NARA (Kyodo) An ancient tomb in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, has been identified as that of a reigning empress and her daughter built in the seventh century, as an octagonal stone paving was newly discovered, researchers at the local education board said Thursday.

Octagonal structures are considered to be unique to Imperial tombs built between the middle of the seventh to early eighth century. Given that shape, the tomb was identified as that of then reigning Empress Saimei (594-661) and her daughter, Princess Hashihito, the researchers said.

The Imperial Household Agency has claimed another tomb in Takatori, Nara Prefecture, is that of Empress Saimei, although little academic evidence has been found to support that argument. The new discovery may prompt academic reviews of other tombs designated by the agency as those of Imperial family members, researchers said.

One side of the octagon measures 9 meters, and about 7,200 white stones are believed to have been used to build the three-layered stone paving.

At the center of the tomb was a stone chamber for two corpses.

About 550 tons of stones were used to build the whole tomb structure, the researchers said.

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