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Himiko - Japan

Remains of building in Japan may be palace of ancient shaman Queen Himiko


Archaeologists in Japan have uncovered the remains of an ancient building that they believe was the palace of the shaman Queen Himiko, who is said to have ruled Yamatai in 3 rd century AD.  Scholarly debate over the identity of Himiko and the location of her domain Yamatai have raged for centuries and has been described as "the greatest debate over the ancient history of Japan." 

Queen Himiko is not mention in Japanese sources, rather it is a classic Chinese historical text written in the late third century, ‘Records of the Three Kingdoms’, which gives the earliest and most complete picture of this ancient queen.  The ‘Records of the Three Kingdoms’ (compiled ca. 290 AD) is considered one of the most reliable of the Chinese dynastic histories, but its record of this exchange leaves Yamatai's precise location ambiguous. Yamatai is said to have controlled some 30 other countries making up the Japanese islands, although its actual location has never been proven.  The text describes how the mysterious Himiko came to the throne:

The country formerly had a man as ruler. For some seventy or eighty years after that there were disturbances and warfare. Thereupon the people agreed upon a woman for their ruler. Her name was Himiko. She occupied herself with magic and sorcery, bewitching the people. Though mature in age, she remained unmarried. She had a younger brother who assisted her in ruling the country. After she became the ruler, there were few who saw her. She had one thousand women as attendants, but only one man. He served her food and drink and acted as a medium of communication. She resided in a palace surrounded by towers and stockades, with armed guards in a state of constant vigilance.

The remains of the building were found at the Makimuku archaeological site, which is located near the ancient capital of Nara and dates from the early third century to the early fourth century. It follows the discovery last month of ‘Himiko’s mirror’, a so-called ‘magic mirror’ that can conjure up images of mountain wizards and divine beasts for sun-worshipping rituals.

"The latest finding virtually confirms that buildings stood in a regular geometry along the central axis of a quadrangular area stretching 150 meters from east to west," said Hironobu Ishino, director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology. "That is an extraordinary dimension for third-century artefacts. It now appears ever more likely that the site represents the residential area of the two queens of the Yamatai state, Himiko and her successor, Toyo, who are mentioned in an official chronicle of China."

Whoever Himiko was she has earned her place in Japanese legend in a similar manner to King Arthur in the West.  She has also become a feminist symbol as a powerful Queen in a patriarchal society.

Featured image: A depiction of Himiko

By April Holloway



Very intelligent people, focused on mathematical equations here

malisa wright

I made many trips to Japan during my Navy career , and was always impressed with their classic style of building . I wish (now) that I had paid more attention to that than to their superb beer . Unfortunately , it didn't work out that way . No regrets though , and a whole seabag full of good memories .

aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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