NARA - The bone of a wild boar believed to have been used for fortune-telling sometime between the late 3rd century and early 4th century was found among the ancient Makimuku ruins in Sakurai, Nara Prefecture.
According to the Research Center for Makimukugau, the wild boar bone, or bokkotsu, was found in a hole at the ruins, which is known as one of the potential spots of the legendary Yamataikoku kingdom.
Bokkotsu has been discovered in sites around the nation, but it was the first found at the Makimuku ruins, which was believed to be the political centre at the period.
"The bone suggests that ancient fortune-telling may have been passed down from generation to generation, and developed into a nationwide religious service at that time," said a spokesman for the research centre.
In ancient times, animal bones were burned for fortune-telling, with the shape of cracks left on the bones serving as a guide to the future. This style of fortune-telling was depicted in the Chinese documents of the "Gishi Wajin-den" (The Record of Japan in the History of Wei).
The bokkotsu found this time was 16.7-centimeter long and 6.7-centimeter wide in its widest area and is believed to have been taken from the right shoulder of a wild boar. It was found in a one-meter-deep hole at the ruins. Part of the bokkotsu is missing, and no cracks remain in the bone, but three marks on the bone show that a burned rod was pressed against it.
The late 3rd century is believed to be the era of Queen Toyo, the successor of Himiko, the powerful queen of the Yamataikoku who also conducted religious rites of the kingdom.
"Bokkotsu is believed to have been used for fortune-telling on important occasions, such as war, marriage and burial," said Hironobu Ishino, director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology.
"There is a possibility that Toyo was involved" in the fortune-telling, Ishino added.