Fake discoveries shock archaeologists
Archaeologists expressed shock and outrage on Monday after the Mainichi exclusively revealed that a top archaeologist lied about the discovery of ancient stoneware pieces.
Since the devious digger, Shinichi Fujimura who has confessed to fabricating findings at two more sites had his hand in excavations at than 180 ruins across the country, researchers said some of the discoveries of Early Paleolithic Era ruins must be treated with suspicion.
Even experts who highly appreciate Fujimura's academic accomplishments and are sympathetic with him agree that his achievements must be fundamentally reviewed.
Some said Fujimura's lies may force archaeologists to bring forward the origin of the Early Paleolithic Era, believed to be 600,000 to 700,000 years ago, to a mere 30,000 years ago.
A research team led by Fujimura, 50, a former senior director of the Tohoku Paleolithic Institute, announced Oct. 27 that it had discovered eight stoneware pieces, from a layer of earth, more than 600,000 years old in the Kamitakamori ruins in Tsukidate, Miyagi Prefecture. Experts believed the pieces were the nation's oldest. However, Fujimura confessed over the weekend that he had buried the stones at the ruins in advance of the excavation.
Fujimura also acknowledged that he had buried all 29 stoneware pieces that were unearthed in the Soshin Fudozaka ruins in Shintotsukawa, Hokkaido. He has denied, however, that he had lied about excavations at other ruins, including the Ogasaka ruins in the Chichibu district of Saitama Prefecture and the Sodehara ruins in Yamagata Prefecture.
"Fujimura admitted to having fabricated the discovery only at the Kamitakamori ruins and in Hokkaido. But his entire academic achievements are now in doubt," Professor Hajime Sakura of Sapporo Gakuin University said.
Sakura added that the origin of the Early Paleolithic Era will have to turn back to somewhere around 30,000 years ago because doubts must be cast on the accuracy of findings of ruins that had been believed to be older.
Toshiki Takeoka, a part-time lecturer at Kyoritsu Women's University, said stoneware pieces found at 10 locations in addition to Kamitakamori and Soshin Fudozaka, where Fujimura took part in excavation work, included those obviously produced using techniques developed around the Jomon Period (about 10,000 B.C. to about 300 B.C.).
"The discovery of many ruins that were believed to be from the Early Paleolithic Era is now under question. Relics found from these ruins must be thoroughly re-examined and analyzed," he said.
Michio Okamura, senior cultural properties examiner at the Cultural Affairs Agency, said the Tohoku Paleolithic Institute should re-examine its findings and report the results to the public.
On Monday, institute executives visited local governments that have jurisdiction over the ruins where Fujimura worked to apologize for his lies.
Toshiaki Kamata, head of the institute, visited Deputy Mayor Kiyohiko Sato of Tsukidate at the municipal government.
"Even though the deception was carried out by Fujimura alone, it's a problem involving our entire organization by association," Kamata said. "We're sorry for all the trouble that's been caused."
"The local community placed high expectations (on further discovery), but it's not true that all (the discoveries at the Kamitakamori ruins) have a cloud hanging over them," Sato said.
As a result of Fujimura's subterfuge, the municipal government decided Monday not to provide 500,000 yen in subsidies to the institute for research on the ruins this fiscal year.
Professor Hiroshi Kajiwara of Tohoku Fukushi University, who is a board member of the institute, visited Norio Ono, mayor of Obanazawa, and told him that no discoveries at the Sodehara ruins had been fabricated.
"There is no problem with the authenticity of the discoveries at the Sodehara ruins. I would like to ask the municipal government to continue to cooperate with us in our excavation next year," Kajiwara said.
Fujimura did not accompany either Kamata or Kajiwara.
"He wasn't able to accompany us to offer apologies because he is still mentally unstable," Kamata told reporters.
Fujimura, who was expelled Monday from the institute, was quoted by Kamata as saying, "I don't want to cause any more trouble to the institute. I'll no longer get involved in archaeological research."