An extremely rare clay cup dating from the mid-fifth century with a horned face was recently discovered.
Archaeologists hope the piece will provide important clues about Japan's religious customs of the time, as a similar design was found on ancient murals in China and the Korean Peninsula.
"The face (in the glass) is likely to represent cattle, although it was painted to look like a human," said Hideo Minami, a senior official at the Osaka City Association of Cultural Properties. "It's also interesting that the face adorns a common vase apparently used in everyday life."
The cup will be exhibited at a special exhibit at Osaka History Museum through January 6 next year.
The association excavated from July to August last year on land surveyed in preparation for the construction of an apartment.
A settlement that existed between the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 BC and 300 AD) and the Kofun Period (3rd to 7th century) was located on the site.
Local historians have found the "sueki" earth cup, with a diameter of 10 centimeters. The face, measuring 2,7 cm, was at the base of its strap.
According to the association, sueki with this design were actively created in Japan during the 6th century, but were highly unusual in the mid-5th century.
Minami said the face resembles Taoist demonic gods who had animal faces often found on tomb murals in Goguryeo, which ruled an area from northeastern China to the North Korean peninsula at that time.
He noted that China's religious philosophy could have been introduced to Japan at the same time that horses, cattle and their rearing techniques were imported from the Korean Peninsula in the 5th century.
"Philosophies and religions of the continent may have spread to the Japanese archipelago to some extent in the fifth century," said Minami.
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