The Japan Times
November 19, 2000


More doubts over archaeologist's 'finds'

Doubts have surfaced over the excavation in the 1980s of ancient ruins in Taiwa, Miyagi Prefecture, by a disgraced archaeologist who earlier this month admitted fabricating his "discoveries" at another site in the prefecture, sources close to the case said Saturday.

The sources said Shinichi Fujimura, 50, former deputy chief of the Tohoku Paleolithic Institute, discovered archaeologically important stone implements during the excavation - but only when he was alone at the site.

Fujimura's discoveries led to the estimated date of the site, named Nakamine C, being pushed back, making it between 140,000 and 370,000 years old. It was initially believed to date from the Heian Era, which spanned the eighth to 12th centuries.

Suspicions that Fujimura may have fabricated many of his finds, including ones at Nakamine C, are likely to prompt archaeologists as well as the Cultural Affairs Agency and Miyagi Prefecture to re-examine the discoveries he reported around 1983.

Fujimura shocked Japan's archaeological world by admitting Nov. 5 that he planted "discoveries" at the the Kamitakamori ruins in Tsukidate, Miyagi Prefecture, in October and at the Soshin Fudozaka site in Shintotsukawa, Hokkaido, in September.

He has since been expelled from the institute. However, he has denied wrongdoing in connection with his other discoveries at 160 sites nationwide, including the Nakamine ruins.

Work to excavate Nakamine C was started in April 1983 by a prefectural research team. Records of the excavation work show that Fujimura visited the site in May and discovered the stone tools when other members of the team were not present.

Until then, no such tools had been discovered at the site, even though the other researchers had almost completed their survey. Similar stone tools suddenly began to be excavated in large numbers after Fujimura's discoveries.

In July of the same year, Fujimura discovered three stone implements, again while alone at the site. The discovery prompted further digs, which yielded about 30 crafted stone items buried in a layer about 10 cm below the surface, the sources said.

The following month, the prefectural research team carried out a large-scale survey using a digging machine. However, no more similar implements were found.

Nevertheless, Fujimura surprised everyone after a summer holiday recess when he discovered more than 40 implements at a site that had already been examined by the prefecture's team.

These findings prompted archaeologists to consider the Nakamine C site, together with other excavations made by Fujimura in the prefecture, as evidence of human habitation in the Early and Middle Paleolithic periods in Japan.

"We did not consider (Fujimura's finds) suspicious at the time," the sources quoted a member of the research team as saying. "But after hearing the reports of his fabrications (in Kamitakamori), it seems strange that Fujimura, who only visited the site briefly during lunch breaks from his company, was always the first one to make the discoveries."

The researcher was not alone in harboring similar misgivings about Fujimura's almost uncanny ability to discover items.

People who have seen him at excavation sites say his method bordered on the occult - he found stone tools as if he had supernatural powers. One of them recalled that Fujimura always worked alone.

In the 1990s, Fujimura and fellow researchers at the Tohoku Paleolithic Institute claimed a series of major discoveries that would rewrite ancient history textbooks, including the excavation of stone implements from the Kamitakamori site from a layer estimated to date back 500,000 years.

Fujimura became a "star" within archaeological circles, often digging up major discoveries with media photographers and scholars looking on - just as did on Oct. 27 at the Kamitakamori site, where he unearthed tools that he had buried himself several days earlier.