The Japan Times, November 4, 1998


Tools may be oldest in Japan

SENDAI (Kyodo) A collection of 13 stone implements believed to be the oldest found so far in Japan have been unearthed in Tsukidate, Miyagi Prefecture, archaeologists said Tuesday.
The implements were found in a deeper stratum of the Kamitakamori ruins than those unearthed in 1995, which were estimated to be 600,000 years old and at the time were thought to be Japan's oldest, they said.
The tools found at the Kamitakamori site date back to the early Paleolithic period.
Archaeologists from a private archaeological research group based in Miyagi and Tohoku Fukushi University had jointly been conducting the excavation.
"Looking at the stratum from which it was unearthed, the stone tools are Japan's oldest and there is a possibility that this (site) was a place for producing stone tools," a member of the archaeology team said.
The archaeologists said the tools belong to roughly the same era as that of the Peking man and will serve as precious materials in searching for the roots of the Japanese people.
The stone tools were found in an orange stratum about 15-20 cm below a volcanic ash stratum in which stone tools dating back 600,000 years were excavated three years ago.
One of the tools is 6.5 cm long, 5.5 cm wide and 5.5 thick and is believed to have been used as a base material for making smaller tools. Some of the other tools were found scattered around the largest one.
All the tools are made from agate.
"Based on the stratum, we believe the stone tools were used between 600,000 to 780,000 years ago," said Hiroshi Kajiwara, a professor of archaeology at Tohoku Fukushi University, who attended the excavation.
Kajiwara said there is no doubt the tools date back more than 600,000 years. The team plans further research to determine the exact age of the stratum.
The professor also said the team will continue to search for other materials in the Kamitakamori ruins that will give clues to the living environment of ancient Japanese.