Archaeologists say wooden tablets found in southwestern Japan and dated to the seventh century are believed to be the oldest census record in Japan's history.
Unearthed in the city of Dazaifu in Fukuoka prefecture, the tablets were examined in infrared light, which revealed writing on one 12-inch by 3-inch tablet, China's Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.
The writing contains at least 16 names of families together with their titles and relationships along with words related to change of address or historical place names, researchers said.
The tablet is believed to be a census registration note of a type used in the period between A.D. 685 and 701, they said.
"The discovery is epoch-making to learn how the ancient government controlled people living in regions of the southwestern Japan before the Nara period (701-794), when the enactment of Taiho Ritsuryo formed a nation managed under the 'ritsuryo' legal code system," Nobuhide Yamamura, a representative of Dazaifu's cultural assets section, said.
Although similar wooden tablets dating to the eighth century have been found in other areas of Japan, the Dazaifu artifact is the country's oldest record of information about local residents, researchers said.