Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stone Troughs

One of the on-land mysteries of Yonaguni is the hollowed-out stone troughs. They are knee deep, usually rectangular, about two to three feet in length. You see them everywhere, but what are they for?

I grew up watching TV cowboy shows in which Gabby Hayes always ended up dunked in the horses' watering trough, and to me, those stone containers look like tiny watering troughs for Yonaguni's tiny horses. Other guesses are: containers for a day's supply of water for household needs, vats in which to mash up grain or fruit to make wine, foot baths, and funerary urns.

With the passing of time, objects that once were in common use--things whose uses went without saying--end up as mysteries. For instance, if someone showed you one of Henry Ford's engine cranks, would you know what it was? Would you recognize a shoe button hook? How about George Washington's hair powder box?

The stone troughs scattered around Yonaguni are like that. A thousand or more years ago, no one had to ask what they were for. Is that what the future holds for I-pods?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

World of Stones

The underwater ruins at Yonaguni's Iseki Point meet the powerful Black Current head on. If they have been there for any length of time, anything light or portable will have washed away. It goes without saying that anything that could be dissolved in water or eaten away by marine life would also be gone. Only stone remains.

A typical feature of the ancient castle/fort/shrine structures known as gusuku in Okinawa is a surrounding wall made of piled up rocks and a stone-paved road. (see the photo from Shuri Castle in Naha) Underwater surveys of Iseki Point show a loop road with a retaining wall made of boulders held in place with smaller rocks.

The loop road and wall are good reasons to believe that Iseki Point was once part of a gusuku complex.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yonaguni NPO Annual General Meeting

June 7 was the big day. Membership is up. Sponsorship is up. What's more, media interest in Yonaguni is still strong. One of the attractions at the meeting was a screening of Discovery Channel's program on unsolved mysteries which featured Yonaguni's Iseki Point along with a site off Great Britain's Isle of Wight and another submerged site along the Indian coast.

Dr. Masaaki Kimura, chairman of the NPO Marine Cultural Heritage Research Association, is fond of quoting his favorite professor's advice to look for traces of the world's most ancient civilizations under water. The world's coastlines have changed drastically over the eons, and what used to be prime real estate is now submerged. He heard that advice some 40 years ago, and chose to act on it. It was interesting that the Discovery Channel program ended with the comment that future discoveries concerning mankind's past will not be made on land; they will be made at the bottom of the sea.

That means the relics at Yonaguni are part of the world's cultural heritage. If they are as old as many experts suspect--dating from 10,000 years ago--Iseki Point may be where the world's oldest building stands.