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Japan’s oldest wooden mask

Fragments of a wooden mask dating back to the 2nd century, the oldest yet found in Japan, has been discovered at the Daifuku archaeological site.

The latest find from Daifuku represents only the left side of what would have been a whole mask. It is made of Japanese umbrella pine and is 23 centimeters long, up to 7 cm wide and 5 millimeters thick. There are no artificial patterns or coloring on its surface.

The fragment has an oval hole, 0.9 to 2.5 cm across, and a circular hole 2.5 mm in diameter. Experts said the larger hole probably represents an eye, whereas the smaller one was likely used to accommodate a string for wearing the mask on the face.

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Story: Jo Marchant, Nature | Photo: Open University/University of Manchester

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