The Japan Times
June 17, 1999

Discovery of tools puts primitive man in Saitama

URAWA, Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) Three stone tools estimated to be 350,000 years old are the first evidence that primitive man inhabiting the Japanese archipelago lived as far south as Saitama Prefecture, researchers said Wednesday.

The tools were found in a layer of earth in the Nagaone ruins in the Chichibu region of Saitama Prefecture, according to officials of the prefectural education board. Two of the three tools are "scrapers," believed to have been used to break the bodies of dead animals into pieces.

It is the first discovery of stone tools dating from the early part of the Old Stone Age, which ended 30,000 years ago, in a region other than Tohoku, they said.

The scrapers are 4.5 and 2.5 cm long. The other tool, whose purpose is unknown, is 6 cm long.

They are thought to be 350,000 years old as they were buried in a layer of earth about 2 meters above a 380,000-year-old layer.

Primitive man, also known as Homo erectus, is believed to have appeared some 1.5 million years ago and probably reached Japan 600,000 years ago at the latest.

Other stone tools, estimated to be between 500,000 and 780,000 years old, have been Found in Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures, all of which are north of Chichibu.

"The Chichibu discovery tells us primitive man lived in a wider area of the Japanese archipelago than we had earlier thought," said Meiji University archaeologist Masao Ambiru.

The bone of an early human was discovered in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, in 1931. But it was later found to be between 50,000 and 120,000 years old and therefore too recent to be that of a primitive man.

The stone tools will go on public display at the Saitama Archaeological Center in Osato, from Monday to July 2.