First Japanese Radiocarbon Dates Table
Home | Index Japanese Archaeology last revised: April 14, 2004

First Radiocarbon Dates for Japan 1951-1970

 site, layer, type
(old-to-young sequence)
 original source(Ikawa 1964)(Watanabe 1966)(Keally & Muto 1982)
1Chojakubo, aceramic expression of a ceramic culture older than the Hachinohe Pumice (HP)1963
Kigoshi & Endo 1963:114-115
Oike 1964
12,700}260 (Gak-205), for HP  
2Fukui Cave, IX, non-ceramic  13,130}600 (I-947)  
3Fukui Cave, VII, non-ceramic196713,600}600 (Gak-951), (Kigoshi 1967)   
4Fukui Cave, VII, non-ceramic  10,700}300 (I-946)  
5Fukui Cave, IV (IV lower), non-ceramic 14,000}400 (I-945), (Morlan 1967)   
6Fukui Cave, IIIb (IV upper), IIIa (III lower), Linear-relief1967Kigoshi 1967:53 12,700}500 (Gak-950) (unpublished)same
7Fukui Cave, II (III upper), Tsumegatamon [error; correct is Linear-relief]1967Kigoshi 1967:53 12,400}350 (Gak-949) (unpublished)same
8Kamikuroiwa, IX, narrow Linear-relief  12,165}600 (I-944)same (unpublished)same
9Fukui Cave, I (II), Tsumegatamon & narrow Linear-reliefN/A    
10Iwashita Cave, IX, Tsumegatamon & plain1970Stuckenrath & Mielke 1970:201  11,300}130 (SI-503)
11Kamikuroiwa, VI, plain (scarce)  10,085}320 (I-943)same (unpublished)same
12Natsushima SM, Natsushima II1960Crane & Griffin 1960:459451}400 (M-907) [error for M-769]9450}400 (M-769)same
13Natsushima SM, Natsushima II1960Crane & Griffin 1960:459231}500 (M-770/771)9240}500 (M-770)same (M-770/771)
14Fukui Cave, 0 (I), OshigatamonN/A    
15Kamikuroiwa, IV, Oshigatamon cf. Kishima typeN/A    
16Iwashita Cave, V, Oshigatamon1970Stuckenrath & Mielke 1970:201  9010}120 (SI-501)
17Iwashita Cave, IVb, Oshigatamon1970Stuckenrath & Mielke 1970:201  8710}100 (SI-502)
18Kishima, Kishima/Tado Lower1958Crane & Griffin 19586443}350 BC (M-237)8400}350 (M-237) [=8393 BP] same
19Kojohama, undecorated Earliest Jomon1963Trautman 1963:757680}200 (I-550)samesame
20Kojohama, shell-marked Earliest Jomon1963Trautman 1963:757700}200 (I-551)samesame
21Kamo Peat Bed, Early Jomon1956Crane 1956 5100}400 (M-240)same
22Ubayama SM, late Kasori E1951Libby 1951 4546}220 (C-548)same (ave. of 2)
23Ubayama SM, late Kasori E1951Libby 1951 4513}300 (C-603)same

NOTE: Ikawa (1964) does not cite any original, earlier, publications for the dates she gives. Watanabe (1966) notes that the dates published in Science were republished in Daiyonki Kenkyu 2(6).
NOTE: Fukui Cave strata numbers are given according to the 2nd excavation; the strata numbers in parentheses are for the 1st excavation (see below and Kamaki & Serizawa 1967).
NOTE: The rows with N/A mean that the site/stratum/pottery type is not dated, but it has been included in the table to make the sequence clear.

The world's first radiocarbon dates were published in the first half of 1951 (Arnold & Libby 1951). The first Jomon, and the first Japanese, radiocarbon dates were published in the second half of that same year (Libby 1951). These dates were "received at first with much scepticism" (Ikawa 1964: 104). But this "surprisingly early date" was soon corroborated (Ikawa 1964: 104). And, within 10 years, the oldest dated pottery in the world was in Japan. However, these early dates for pottery in Japan actually still were quite controversial in the 1960s (Yamanouchi & Sato 1962; Yamanouchi 1969), and this skepticism remained widespread at least into the 1970s.

Ikawa (1964: 104-105) states that these first dates show Jomon pottery goes back at least to 8000 BC and possibly earlier, which is older than the 6000 BC date which is the oldest then known outside of Japan. Ikawa (1964: pp. 98-99) also implies that Chojakubo might be a non-ceramic expression of a culture that in fact did have pottery, and she quotes Serizawa (personal communication in 1964) as saying that Chojakubo dates at least to 11,000 BC, probably based on the radiocarbon age of the overlying Hachinohe Pumice (12,700±260 BP [Gak-205]). (Chojakubo as an occasionally ceramic culture was not confirmed until the excavation of the Odai Yamamoto I site in 1975-1976 [Miyake 1977; Miyake & Iwamoto 1979]. By 1985 there were 11 radiocarbon age measurements for the Hachinohe Pumice [Hayakawa 1985], and 9 of these ranged from 12,200 to 13,770 years, with an average of 12,952 years.)

There are numerous problems in these first publications of Japanese dates, not the least of which is the frequent omission of the lab numbers and references to the original publications. The "original" publications sometimes came after the dates were already being used in other publications. These original publications also sometimes did not give the associated pottery types or gave different pottery types from other or later publications -- Libby (1951) gives no pottery type with C-548 and gives the type as Horinouchi for C-603, whereas Watanabe (1966) gives late Kasori E as the type for both dates; Crane & Griffin (1958) give Initial Jomon similar to Tado for the Kishima date (M-237), whereas Ikawa (1964) says at least some of the sherds were Oshigatamon, and Watanabe (1966) gives the type as Tado.

Other problems include associating dates with the wrong site -- Esaka, Okamoto & Nishida (1967) give 10,700}300 BP as the date for Kamikuroiwa VII, although this date is for Fukui Cave VII. And the dates for Fukui Cave itself present a number of problems:

  1. The excavators changed the strata numbers from the 1st excavation to the 2nd and 3rd excavations, consequently Watanabe (1966) and Keally & Muto (1982), and probably many others, have assigned the wrong pottery type to the date Gak-949 for Layer II.
  2. The main report for Fukui Cave (Kamaki & Serizawa 1967) illustrates the artifacts by layer using the numbers from the 1st excavation, but then it discusses the finds and gives the dates using the layer numbers from the 2nd and 3rd excavations. Without very, very careful reading, it is quite easy to get the layer associations mixed up, which many writers do. In fact, overall, this report is terribly confused and confusing.
  3. Apparently the labels on the dating samples from the 1st excavation got mixed up in the course of processing -- the "Wisconsin" dates, I-945, 946, 947.
  4. The report gives Layer XII for the date I-946, but this is a typing error for Layer VII, and might even be a typing error for Layer II.

Fukui Cave Stratigraphy & Dates
1st exc.
2nd & 3rd exc.
pottery typesdate
1st exc.
2nd & 3rd exc.
II upperI upperNail-marked (Tsumegatamon)
some Linear-relief
II lowerI lowernarrow Linear-relief
some Nail-marked
III upperIIsame as above, but
almost no Nail-marked;
some wide Linear-relief
 12,400}350 (Gak-949)
III lowerIII upperwide Linear-relief
some narrow Linear-relief
 12,700}500 (Gak-950)
given only as III
IV upperIII lowerrare?  
IV lowerIVno pottery14,000}400 (Wisc.) [I-945]
given only as IV
VII   13,600}600 (Gak-951)
IX  13,130}600 (Wisc.) [I-947]  
XII  10,700}300 (Wisc.) [I-946]
[actually for Layer VII?, or possibly for Layer II?]
XV   >31,900 (Gak-952)
* based on Kamaki & Serizawa (1967)
NOTE: The Wisconsin dates are I-945, I-947 and I-946 in that order; and stratum XII is a typing/printing error for stratum VII, or possibly for stratum II.

References Cited