Abstract: The Puzzle of Queen Himiko and her Country of Yamatai: Japan in the 3rd Century AD.


A celibate queen and priestess, Himiko, ruled the country of Wa in Japan around 240 AD, according to Chinese records. She established diplomatic relations with China and received a gift of 100 precious bronze mirrors. A never-ending debate about the location of her capital has been fuelled by recent finds of tombs and palaces in two parts of Japan, northern Kyushu and Nara. I review recent discoveries, including some 2,000 peach pits in a votive pit at Makimuku (Nara), the site of a 3 storey palace. Did Himiko eat the Peaches of Longevity, which figure prominently in Chinese Daoism?  Was she caught up in the Chinese cult of the Queen Mother of the West? Her bronze mirrors reflect past religions, political alliances, and modern fancies (including a world famous anime series). What do archaeological discoveries from the 3rdcentury AD tell us about the ancient society of Japan? The lecture focuses on finds from sites such as Yoshinogari, Kurozuka, and Makimuku.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Barnes, G. L. 2007  State Formation in Japan: Emergence of a 4thCentury Ruling Elite. London, Methuen.

Farris, W. 1998  Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press. 

Kidder, J.E. 2007  Himiko and Japan’s Elusive Kingdom of Yamatai. Honolulu. University of Hawaii Press.

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