Ahead Of 2020 Winter Olympics, A Building Boom In Kyoto Is Yielding Ancient Artifacts

Archaeologists are rushing to uncover, document and preserve centuries-old objects, as new hotels and office buildings go up in the ancient former capital of Japan.
Archaeologist Koji Iesaki holds a carved roof ornament excavated at the former site of the Jyokyo-ji temple in Kyoto. Iesaki and other archaeologists have their hands full, as a pre-Olympic building boom has helped reveal centuries-old artifacts from the city's long history. Source: Anthony Kuhn/NPR

Deep in the urban center of Kyoto, behind a department store, archaeologist Koji Iesaki digs down through successive layers of earth, each about 8 inches thick, taking him back in time to the Heian period, which began over 1,000 years ago.

He's found images of mythical beasts carved on roof tiles, remains of a moat that surrounded the temple in the Warring States period some 500 years ago and ritual vessels that held placentas, which were buried after childbirth in the belief that they would ensure a

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