Japan's New "Middle Palaeolithic" --
I Think I Have Seen This Before

Home | Index Charles T. Keally
September 11, 2003

As the extent of Japan's Early and Middle Palaeolithic hoax became clear and one "Fujimura site" after another was taken off the list of pre-35,000-year-old sites in Japan, a number of other known but largely ignored sites began to receive attention. One of these sites is Kanedori in Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan.

In July (2003), the newspapers reported that the dates for this site had been confirmed -- the lowest cultural layer was 80,000 to 90,000 years old (Ito 2003; Kachi 2003; Kanedori 2003; Nihon 2003; Shizen 2003; Shutsudo 2003; Zenhitei 2003). These news reports gave me a very strong feeling that "I have seen this before."

  1. The newspapers are interviewing and quoting only leading archaeologists; there are no comments from archaeologists expressing caution or doubt about these dates or these artifacts.

  2. The same stereotypes and assumptions are being expressed or implied.

  3. The deposits are shallow (about 1.4 m for 90,000 years versus the 3.0 m in Tokyo for only 35,000 years).

  4. The deposits contain several clear pumice or ash layers, and what photographs suggest is natural gravel.

  5. There is no indication of vertical displacement of the artifacts.

  6. No one is offering an explanation of why Middle Palaeolithic artifacts are being found in such deposits and in northern Japan, when decades of extensive excavation in much cleaner deposits in South Kanto have never found artifacts older than about 35,000 years.

  7. The local village is talking about the promotional benefits it will gain from these finds -- mura okoshi.

I am especially troubled that the newspapers are interviewing and publishing the comments of the same leading archaeologist who was the first to put the stamp of approval on the "Fujimura sites" -- Yamada Uenodai in 1980 and Zazaragi in 1981. He also was one of the outspoken critics of those who criticized the "Fujimura sites." Given the vertical power structure of Japanese archaeology, his acceptance of the "Fujimura sites" and criticism of the critics effectively stopped all other open criticism of the "Early and Middle Palaeolithic" finds in Japan from 1980 to 2001. Now, again, the newspapers are printing his approving comments:

These [artifacts, dates and interpretations] are the results of careful excavation and analysis, and are the expectable results. I think this site should be given special attention among the very few old sites [in Japan]. These recent results will likely make Kanedori the type-site for this period. (Kanedori 2003, p. 18)

The lithics have no repeated forms and are like those that precede the advent of standardized stone tools. They are convincing as lithics older than 30,000 years. (Shizen 2003, p. 20)

If more lithics are found [in this summer's excavation], this will be one step toward confirming the presence of the Early and Middle Palaeolithic [in Japan]. (Shizen 2003, p. 20)

But, in Palaeolithic sites, the artifacts are scattered widely; possibly nothing will be found. Those who are watching this work need to be prepared for such results; they need to keep in mind that "something would always be found if we dug" was not natural. (Shizen 2003, p. 20)

The news media have considerable responsibility for promoting the hoax by Fujimura. They need to take a lesson from that and show a lot more caution and objectivity about what they publish on these new "Middle Palaeolithic" sites, including many others besides Kanedori.


Asahi Shimbun

Hokkaido Shimbun

Iwate Nippo

Mainichi Shimbun

Nikkei Shimbun

Japan Tsushin Joho Center

Kanedori Site 2nd Excavation [on-line diary]

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