In the heart of Maebashi City, central Japan, a groundbreaking discovery has shaken the grounds, revealing a treasure trove of 100,000 Kamakura coins, including the rare ‘Ban Liang,’ China’s inaugural unified currency. Let’s embark on a journey through time as we delve into the historical tapestry woven by these remarkable artifacts.
Ban Liang Coin: Tracing the Dynasty Era of China
As the dust settles, the star of the show emerges—the Ban Liang coin from 175 BC, a relic hailing from China’s first unified dynasty era. This tiny piece of history, measuring 2.3 centimeters in diameter, carries the weight of more than 2,000 years. With a 1-millimeter thickness and a distinctive 7-millimeter square hole, engraved characters for “Ban” and “Liang” tell tales of ancient transactions.
The coins, bundled in groups of 100, intricately connected by straw cords called ‘sashi,’ unveil a strategic hiding, possibly orchestrated during a tumultuous period of war and chaos. The Sojamachi district’s proximity to medieval Japanese residences suggests elite concerns and safety measures during times of warfare.
Revealing the Tapestry: Coins Across the Centuries
Officials from Maebashi municipal government meticulously examined 334 coins, unveiling at least 44 variants spanning from 175 BC to 1265 AD. These coins, with origins from China’s Western Han Dynasty to the Southern Song Dynasty, carry the legacy of the Ban Liang introduced by China’s inaugural emperor, Qin Shi Huang, around 210 BC.
The collection’s latest addition, dating back to 1265, hints at an interment during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). The Maebashi City Government speculates the concealment for security reasons during the Kamakura Jidai, a historical era commencing with the rise of the Kamakura shogunate in AD 1192.
Kamakura Jidai: Turbulence and the Rise of the Samurai
The Kamakura Jidai, marked by confrontations, Mongol invasions, and the rise of the samurai, ushered in a period of turmoil and conflict. Civil wars, uprisings, and territorial struggles among samurai clans defined this era, leading to the establishment of feudalism in Japan. The decline of the shogunate in 1333 during the Kemmu Restoration marked the end of this turbulent period.
Excavation Significance: From Kofun to Ritsuryo Period
Spanning one kilometer, the excavation site in Kozuke province signifies a central point from the late 3rd century to the late 7th century, transitioning from the Kofun to the Ritsuryo period. The area, encompassing Sosha burial mounds, San’o Temple Ruins, and Ueno Kokubunji Temple, highlights its historical importance.
The artifacts from the Sosha Village East 03 site are showcased in Maebashi City’s Otemachi district at the “Newly Excavated Cultural Artifacts Exhibition 2023,” open to the public until the 12th of this month, free of charge.