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    Session convener-recommended article JpGU Meeting 2013

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    Heavy metal pollution in Ancient Nara, Japan, during the 8th century

    Kawahata H, Yamashita S, Yamaoka K, Okai T, Shimoda G, Imai N

    Hg, Cu and Pb pollution, Ancient urban activity, Heijo-Kyo (Ancient Nara), the Great Buddha (Nara Daibutsu), Eighth century

    Great Buddha statue, Nara Daibutsu

    Hg, Cu, and Pb contents in samples

    We quantitatively investigated the eighth century heavy metal pollution in Heijo-kyo (Ancient Nara), the first large, international city of Japan. In this metropolis, mercury, copper, and lead levels in soil were increased by urban activity and by the construction of the Great Buddha statue, Nara Daibutsu. Mercury and copper pollution associated with the construction of the statue was particularly high in the immediate vicinity of the statue, but markedly lower in the wider city environment. We therefore reject the hypothesis that extensive mercury pollution associated with the construction of the Nara Daibutsu made it necessary to abandon Ancient Nara, even though severe lead pollution was detected at several sites. The isotopic composition of the lead indicated that it originated mainly from the Naganobori mine in Yamaguchi, which was a major source of the copper for the Nara Daibutsu.