Shimane Prefecture and Oda City began collaborating on a Comprehensive Research Project in 1996 to shed light on the overall features and value of the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. Investigations are continuing in the following areas:
This is a key element of the comprehensive study, designed to uncover the realities of the 400 year history of Iwami Ginzan. The chief objective of this work is to clearly understand the systematized mining and refinement techniques used in the mine. More recently, the focus has shifted to the maintenance and use of the ruins. To date, a variety of ancient structures and artifacts have been unearthed in good condition, providing clues into the lives of the mining workers, consumption and circulation of silver, ruling systems, and popular beliefs.
Unearthed Artifacts (Ishigane Fujita Region)
Yasuhara Valley Survey
Stone Structure Research
Tombstones and other stone structures have been examined to see how Iwami Ginzan was developed, and to study the social hierarchy and population change of the people there. The research project can be subdivided into: 1) distribution research wherein each area of the ruins is visited to produce a rough figure; and 2) detailed research into particular characteristics of a graveyard based on parameters including what religious sect the person belonged to, grave location, and how well the grave is preserved.
Grave of Okubo Nagayasu
Survey of the Sainen-ji Temple Graveyard
Paleographic and Philological Research
This research aims to elucidate how Iwami Ginzan was operated and how the silver mined from Iwami Ginzan and other mines in Japan was circulated worldwide, together with the socio-economic relationships with neighboring areas and other mines. Historical analysis of archives from both the site itself and overseas, and cataloging, photographing and analysis of historical data is being carried out, with the results of these findings being complied into a chronology, a collection of academic papers and a database.
Letter Written by Okubo Nagayasu
Silver Mine Transportation Route Research
This research is centered on the two routes used to carry silver out from and supplies in to the mine. It is designed to determine routes and shed light on characteristics and historical changes in the routes through investigation of archives, stone constructions, buildings, folk customs, and nature. Fact-finding themes include: 1) Remains indicating popular beliefs, ruling systems and lifestyles; 2) The morphological characteristics of the two ports, moorings; 3) Mountaintop castles, shrines, communal wells in the surrounding hills and in the narrow valley; 4) The history of the settlements by the ports; and 5) The cultural value of the overall landscape.
Nishita Village (Yunotsu Okidomari-do)
Materials collected from the excavations are being evaluated scientifically to shed light on the series of techniques, from mining to refining, that were employed at Iwami Ginzan. Specific projects include: 1) using artifacts to reconstruct a demonstration of the "haifuki" cupellation method; 2) creating a flow chart of the refining process; and 3) three-dimensional measurements, chemical treatment, and removal of the remains to study methods for their preservation and exhibition.
Preservation of Unearthed Artifacts
Brushing the remains at Dashiuchidani
Other research is also being undertaken including tunnel surveys to search for remains in outcrops and mining tunnels in the Sakunouchi Area, castle surveys to find out more about fortifications that controlled the Iwami mines, cultural surveys to unearth more about the people that inhabited the area around the mines and surrounding regions, further research into the port towns of Tomogaura and Okidomari that both formed shipping ports for silver and silver ore, and comparative studies in order to compare and study remains with those from mines overseas.
Port Settlement Investigation (Okidomari)
Mabu Mine Shaft Distribution Investigation