Early & Middle Palaeolithic Class
Lecture Notes, Fall Semester 2000

Home | Index by Charles T. Keally
May 25, 2001

The following are the notes I used in my lecture on Japan's Early and Middle Palaeolithic in my course on Prehistoric Japanese Cultures in the fall semester 2000. These notes make quite clear what my thinking was less than one month before Mainichi Shimbun exposed the fabrication at two Early Palaeolithic sites excavated in the few months before this lecture.

As these notes make clear, I saw a number of serious problems in the Early and Middle Palaeolithic materials. But these materials were widely accepted by leading archaeologists. And the causes of doubt were circumstantial evidence -- red flags -- but not scientific evidence aganst them. It would be unscientific to simply ignore these materials because of my own reservations. Therefore, I presented them as accurately as possible and concluded with a discussion of my own reservations.

In fact, some of these materials seemed to have possibilities for validation, IF the problems about them could be cleared up either by (1) good explanations for the problems, or (2) by a new paradigm of Early and Middle Palaeolithic human lifeways in Japan and the world.

I am critical of those people who had serious doubts about these Early and Middle Palaeolithic materials but said nothing. I am equally critical of those who simply ignored these materials because they had doubts.

Class #4 to Class #7
Oct. 13 (Friday) to Oct. 23 (Friday)

Early & Middle Palaeolithic Chronology

Early Palaeolithic (600-134 Ka)

Kami-Takamori site (ca. 500-700 ka) Nagaone, Nagaone Kita & Minami, and Ogasaka sites (ca. 300-500 ka) Sodehara 3 site, Cultural Layer 6 (>300 ka, poss. 400 ka) Sodehara 3 site, Cultural Layer 4 (> 280 ka, poss. 300 ka)

Middle Palaeolithic (134-45 ka)

Sodehara 3 site, Cultural Layer 1 (>100 ka, poss. 150 ka) Nakajimayama site (ca. 100 ka) Ohira site (45-50 ka)

Middle Palaeolithic (45-35/30 ka)

Early & Middle Palaeolithic Lifeways

Early & Middle Palaeolithic Problems

  1. geological processes in site formation not studied -- taphonomy
  2. scarcity of refits
  3. almost no cultural evolution in Early Palaeolithic
  4. seems that early excavations generally found no spatulas, but more recent excavations all find them
  5. all eastern Japan sites found by Fujimura
  6. rather sloppy work & publications
  7. accept as human artifacts because they fit the parameters, but context says geofacts
  8. compilations of the Early & Middle Pal. materials are very superficial
  9. dates are in fact widely scattered for the same stratum
  10. sociological problems in Early & Middle Palaeolithic research
  11. many archaeologists dig only as deep as their interest

Sato, Hiroyuki. 1992.
Nihon Kyusekki Bunka no Kozo to Shinka (Structure and Evolution of the Japanese Palaeolithic Culture). Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobo.

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