Home | Index Japanese Archaeology last revised:
June 14, 2003

The Story of the Excavation of the
Yamanesakaue and Haketaue Sites in Hamura
on the Western Part of the Kanto Plain in Tokyo

by Charles T. Keally

This report is a story, not an academic research paper. It tells of personal experiences on a single excavation project that I directed between 1977 and 1981. It is written from memory. All excavations are different and even the generally shared characteristics change with time. Much has changed in Japanese archaeology in the twenty years since the project reported here ended, but much has stayed the same. I hope this story gives the reader a better "feeling" for field archaeology in Japan, something of value that cannot be found in textbooks.
  1. Background
  2. Planning
  3. Getting Started
  4. The Excavation
  5. The Field Laboratory
  6. Subcontracted Work
  7. The Office
  8. Publication

1. Background:
The Yamanesakaue and Haketaue sites are two contingent large Middle Jomon village sites in the city of Hamura on the western edge of the Musashino Upland of the central Kanto Plain in western Tokyo. Both sites sit on the bluff above the east side of the Tama River where that river flows out of the mountains onto the plain. And both sites have been excavated many times. The main excavation work was conducted from 1977 to 1981 in advance of highway construction, as required by Japanese law for all construction projects threatening to destroy sites. This is called mitigation, reduction of the loss that will be incurred by the construction. This is a part of cultural resources management under the Japanese Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties of 1950, as ammended.

Jomon potsherds were first discovered at the Haketaue site (then the Kawasaki site) in 1935 when the grade school was built there. A small research excavation was conducted at the site in 1953 in conjunction with the rebuilding of the school. The Yamanesakaue site was discovered during road construction in 1969. Small test-trenching work was carried out there in 1971 by archaeologists associated with Gakugei'in University, for the purpose of acquiring information for the city history that was being written that year. This work avoided the highway right-of-way, suggesting that the archaeologists were aware of the highway plans. The highway was probably planned in the 1950s (construction of a section in the neighboring city was underway already in 1960), with the first serious talk of construction of the section in Hamura coming more than a decade later. Normally, when talk of the contract excavation of such a site begins, the archaeologists who had done the earlier work would be the ones to take the larger project, too. They did not, perhaps because their earlier results showed that this would be a massive project that they did not want to take on, at least at that time. This was one of the largest independent excavations conducted up to that time.

But construction of the road was moving northward from Fussa toward Hamura, and by 1976 the Civil Engineers were wanting to move forward with the final planning and construction of the Hamura segment. I was contacted late that year to be director while I was working at the Takaido Higashi site in Suginami Ward. After some consultation with my coworkers at the time, I took on the project, for a starting date at the beginning of the next fiscal year, April 1, 1977.

During the first year of this excavation, in 1977, other parts of the Yamanesakaue site were excavated for sewer construction. This work gave us a good idea of the overall plan of the Middle Jomon village there. Shortly after that, road repair on the Haketaue site necessitated some emergency excavation on that site too. This work showed that that site extended much more broadly than we had thought, changing our view of the site considerably. And the Yamanesakaue site has been excavated at least three times since the road project ended. First a large supermarket was built in the fields on the northern side of the road, right in the center of the Jomon village. A year or so later another large building was put up across the road, which resulted in excavation of most of the rest of the center of the village. And recently another building was put up on the east side of this second building, necessitating a third excavation.

2. Planning:
I began planning with the help of the Tokyo archaeologist I generally worked with, Oda Shizuo. We worked out (1) who would make up the archaeology staff, (2) the organization of the excavation committee and excavation team, (3) the number of workers we would need and how we would go about recruiting the field workers, (4) estimates of the amount of material we might find, (5) what tools and equipment, and buildings would be needed, (6) what areas we would excavate, (7) the form of our record books, (8) the schedule, (9) and the budget.

(1) The first action was to decide on the basic archaeology staff. Among the archaeologists I was then working with at the Takaido Higashi site were four recent graduates in archaeology from Nihon University and an American from Sophia, all of whom had worked with me for several years. Against my better judgment, I was cajoled into taking all five of these, although I thought only the American and one of the Japanese were qualified for the work.

(2) The organization of the staff would be the same as that used on most sites in Japan: an excavation committee with a board of directors to oversee the budget and coordination, and an excavation team to do the actual field work. The committee and board of directors were headed by the local mayor and included people from the contractor (Tokyo Civil Engineers, Road Department) and the local city hall, a representative of the Tokyo Cultural Properties Section, and members of the local community, especially those concerned with the preservation of cultural properties. We also included a famous local amateur archaeologist, because he was my teacher and because this excavation was taking place in his "territory." As director, I was also on the board of directors. The field team consisted of me as director, the amateur archaeologist as advisor, and the five young archaeologists as supervisors, and a larger team of field and field-laboratory workers. The office would consist of the director and one office clerk on the site, and the Social Welfare Section chief and assistant chief and one additional office clerk working at city hall. The office would take care of the business side of the operation.

(3) For workers, we decided to hire local people, mostly housewives and retired older men, to do the actual excavation and laboratory work. The team initially would have 25 outside workers and 10 inside workers. And for the first six months we had about 10 experienced older men from the neighboring town to help guide the inexperienced local people. We acquired these people by advertising for help in the local media. At the time, hiring middle-aged local people to do the work was not heard of in Tokyo, because it was felt that archaeology was an academic undertaking that only college students and archaeologists could do. Only out in the countryside, where it was hard to get students to do the work, were middle-aged local people used, and then mostly for the hard labor. I planned to have them do everything, with the archaeologists only supervising and doing some of the most highly specialized work.

My reasons for this were that eight years of working on excavations with students and archaeologists had been disastrous -- these young, college-educated people were mostly sloppy, lazy and weak. They could not dig hard all day in the sun, they would not keep their tools or work areas clean and consequently made far too many errors, and they broke far too many tools, and they were prone to leaning on their shovels instead of digging. But the older local workers I had seen on excavations in Chiba and Gumma prefectures were clearly much better, as were the handful of day laborers that had helped with the hardest jobs on some of my own earlier excavations. These local people at Hamura proved to be excellent workers, soon requiring little or no supervision. In fact, one of the women, who started drawing for us at the age of 44, is now the only women in the Japan Antiquities Drawers Association and, at almost 70, is traveling around the country to draw antiquities for other cities that have only ordinary archaeologists to do that kind of work.

(4) A major factor in the time and expense of doing any excavation is the amount of archaeological material encountered, and we had to estimate this in order to develop estimates for our planned budget and schedule. This was truly an intuitive operation, based on our knowledge from the earlier excavations that we were dealing with two large Middle Jomon village sites and on our past experience with such sites. But even guessing fairly accurately how much material will be found only helps estimate the budget if we follow the excavation methods we originally calculated the budget on. In the end, the archaeologists insisted on excavating and recording in much more detail than I thought necessary (for "just another Middle Jomon site") and the budget estimates were way off very quickly.

(5) Another part of the cost of an excavation is the tools, buildings and other equipment and facilities that are required. The number of shovels depends on the number of diggers and on how many shovels they might break. Many of the other tools have to be planned on the same bases. The number of boxes needed to store artifacts depends on the numbers and kinds of artifacts that are found, and our guess for boxes was no more valid than our guess of how much archaeological material we would find. Buildings depend on the number of field-laboratory workers and the amounts of artifacts we would have to store. The accuracy of our crystal ball for seeing the quantities of artifacts in the ground was a big factor in the accuracy of our estimates for the building sizes. But we also had to estimate the weights the floors would have to support in order to estimate the cost of the buildings and other facilities.

(6) The excavation area covered a road right-of-way that was 16 m wide, running for 1 km through a large part of the back side of the Haketaue site and right through the middle of the Yamanesakaue site, parallel to the bluff. There appeared to be a short break between the two sites at the two-meter bluff bisecting the terrace where the sites were located. We planned to test pit the entire 1-km length through both sites and then fully excavate about half of the total 16,000 m2 of the right-of-way.

(7) Keeping records was the major objective for this excavation, as on any excavation, but especially so here since the part of the site to be excavated would be fully destroyed by the road construction. Japanese call this kind of excavation "preservation by recording". The American student was interested in computer applications in archaeology, so he designed our record books for easy handling both in the field and for computer input. In the past, the stationary-shop notebooks we had used on the sites were often very hard to read, were dirty, and always had to be rewritten in the laboratory, all of which resulted in an unknowable number of errors getting into the final records. And it would have been impossible to use them straight from the field for key punching (no PCs at that time). We designed record books -- field logs, laboratory logs, and diaries -- that were all 20 lines per page, with labeled blanks for all necessary information so no one could forget something important. The workers who made the record also had to put their name(s) on each page they wrote so any illegible entries could be queried. There was also a box for a checker who would confirm that each page was legible and had all the necessary information entered on it. We had these record books printed, with a heavy-paper copy and a light-paper original bound together in pairs. The heavy paper was pink in the field books, green in the laboratory books, and white in the diaries. These record books are the only part of our original planning that really worked well, in fact, better than we had dared imagine. We made rubber stamps following the same principles for the graph paper drawings that were made during the excavation.

(8) We planned to do the field-laboratory processing on the site, in parallel with the excavation work for the first 18 months, and then do the remaining processing for six more months after the outdoor digging finished, for a total of two years. In the end, we spent three years on the excavation work and one further year finishing the processing and publication. Clearly our original estimates were very wrong somewhere along the line. But partly our low original estimate was because the Tokyo archaeologist had pressured me to give a low, easily accepted estimate to avoid up-front controversy, ignoring the fact that this usually resulted in even greater problems later on.

(9) The budget had to include every detail of the expenses. For example, we had to estimate how many days of work each month by how many people at which of the several pay scales we used for different positions. This meant we had to have workers who would always come regularly, but it also meant we had to make good guesses about the weather -- more sunny days than expected and we go over the budget, more rainy days than expected and we go under. We also had to estimate the numbers of artifact boxes, pencils, erasers, rolls of toilet paper, shovels, rulers, skeins of mason's string, tags for artifacts, plastic bags of various sizes, and on and on for hundreds of items. The final proposed budget was several pages long.

3. Getting Started:
During the months before the excavation work began, we searched for suitable equipment, trying to find new kinds of tools, boxes and so on that would work better than those that were then standard. One of the best things we found were the "snap rulers", 2-meter-long roll-up rulers that were very easy to handle and could be used to measure either from zero or from the other end at 200 cm. We also had to get the buildings put up, all of them rented prefabricated (and reusable) structures. Then we had to buy all the necessary equipment. This work had to be coordinated through the local city hall, which has acting as the office overseers.

The excavation was scheduled to begin on April 1, but before we even got that far, or had our plans developed, we had to conduct a small emergency test excavation at the Haketaue site. The Department of Sewers was tunneling 35 m under the road right-of-way, and the digging broke through a powerful spring, flooding the whole tunnel. The work could not continue until they bored numerous holes down from above and forced a hardening liquid down to keep the tunnel from caving in when the water was pumped out. We had to do the small test excavation before they could bore the holes through the site. A handful of indentured friends did this in one rainy day.

We had decided to use a grid aligned with magnetic north and south. The Civil Engineers' map of the road already had such a grid on it, with 100-m squares, and some of the stakes for this grid were in the ground. This would be our basic grid, and the grid numbers would be assigned from 1 beginning in the northwest corner of a 10x10 set of 100-m squares. Each of these would be subdivided into 100 squares, each 10 m on a side. These 10-m squares got their numbers by assigning letters to the rows and numbers to the columns from the northwest corner of the 10-m grid in each 100-m square. Thus any 10-m square could be identified by its 100-m and 10-m number, such as square 23 B-5.

On previous excavations, the artifact locational information had been kept in a single record book for the whole site, with the artifact numbers beginning at 1 and going up. This had invariably resulted in a lot of lost records, mixed records, unintelligible records, and lost time because there was only one record book. To avoid these problems we decided to keep artifact record/log books separately by 10-m square, numbering artifacts from 1 up in each square, making the 10-m square number part of the individual artifact number. For measuring the planar location of each artifact, the 10-m squares were too wide, so we divided them into 25 squares each 2 m on a side. These were numbered 1 to 25 for recording in the record books, and these numbers served as part of the record of the planar location of each artifact.

Our first and only real problem with this grid system was that the surveying skills needed for this complicated site were beyond our young archaeology team, so we subcontracted a local surveyor to set the stakes for the 10-m grid squares that would be our main working units. Our team could then easily survey in the 2-m squares we would use for making measurements. We had this work done before the April 1 starting date, so we could get right into the excavation itself. (As a side effect of hiring a local surveyor, we accidentally developed good local relationships that later proved very valuable to us.)

We dug 4-m square test pits in the northwest corners of most of the 10-m grids, digging down until we could determine the possible quantities of artifacts in the area, or until we hit the sterile sand and gravel under the site. This allowed us to determine the main areas of the prehistoric villages and to get some idea of the quantities of artifacts and features we would find with full excavation. This information should have allowed us to estimate the time and budget necessary to finish the work, but we had been required to estimate these before the test excavation and we misjudged terribly, originally setting the total time at two years, then later needing to explain an extension to three years and finally to four years. Even with the test excavation finished and a reestimation of the time and cost, we missed almost as badly.

As the excavation work began, the director and the advisor went around the neighborhood introducing us and our work to the local people who would be affected and asking their cooperation. This is a standard courtesy, and following it later benefited us considerably -- no artifacts were stolen, nothing was destroyed, and, when the little kids discovered our wonderful piles of dirt, the neighbors helped keep them out in the evenings and on Sundays when we were not around.

4. The Excavation:
The field crew that we eventually hired was about half male and half female. There were some young males freshly out of college and two middle-aged salaried men, but most of the males were retired and in their sixties or seventies, and one was over eighty. The females were mostly housewives running in age from the late twenties to the mid fifties when we hired them; all were over thirty when we finished, and two had just turned sixty. During the second year, however, we fired all but one of the people under thirty -- most notably the young males -- because they worked so poorly.

This local work force was totally inexperienced, and, to make things worse, the archaeologists were young and largely inexperienced too. This created real difficulties in training the crew. To overcome this problem, I had 10 older and experienced field workers from the neighboring town come to work with us for six months. These were men who worked under one of my early teachers and with whom I had worked for a number of years. This got the training done quite well despite the incompetence of the first year"s archaeologists (and also provided some interesting looks at Japanese sociology as a bonus). But the workers themselves soon got involved and read books and studied excavation reports from other sites. Although they were "supervised" all the time, by the middle of the second year (and after six months under good supervision) they required little real attention. These middle-aged housewives and retire older men were doing on their own what most archaeologists thought a person needed a college education to do, and they were doing it better than most college-educated and experienced archaeologists.

We divided the 1-km long excavation area into several smaller sections to make control of the work easier by keeping everyone closer together, especially in the beginning when there were only 35 excavators and the supervisors were inexperienced. We started with the southern half of the Yamanesakaue site near where Gakukei'in University had excavated trenches some years earlier. We knew from this earlier work that this section would be a part of the main settlement of the Middle Jomon village on this site. We next excavated half of what we thought was the main part of the Haketaue site, then the other half there, and after that the remaining half of the main settlement at the Yamanesakaue site. Once the main village areas of both sites were excavated, we finished the project by extending the digging into the peripheries of both sites, where artifacts and features were much less numerous than in the centers of the villages.

Like any such excavation, digging began with the spade-and-wheelbarrow removal of the topsoil. In some places the surface was so hard-packed that we had to use picks to break it up for digging. Unlike most excavations, this heavy labor was shared equally by males and females, old and young. But the greater skill of the older workers was obvious from the beginning; many of the young did not seem to know how to use spades or picks or wheelbarrows, and they were responsible for most of the broken tools.

While the field crew was removing the topsoil, the archaeologists set datum points for controlling the depth measurements of the artifacts. We then measured the altitudes of the datum points from a government benchmark located on one of the nearby streets. This meant measuring the altitude of several intermediate fixed points in order to get around all the blind corners between the benchmark and the datum points on the site. Once we had fixed the altitude of a solidly set concrete datum point on the site, we set a number of temporary datum points along the edge of the excavation for use in the nearby grid squares. This was necessary because of the length of the excavation area. Over the three years of the excavation we used 15 or 20 of these temporary datum points, all of which had to have an individual number that was recorded in the log books along with the depth measurements of the artifacts. With this information, a computer could then calculate all artifact depths to standardized altitudes for three-dimensional plotting of artifact locations.

Tool repair and carpentry are two activities that always go along with any large excavation. After the buildings were put up, we decided we needed porches and porch roofs on them. Men from the field crew with carpentry experience designed and constructed these. They also put up temporary shelters in the field for breaks and for shelter from sudden showers. One day one of the men came to me to say that many of the tools were getting dull and needed sharpened. As an old farmer he was skilled at this, so I asked him to take care of tool maintenance whenever it needed done. He worked the rest of the three years without further instruction or supervision. He even came around in the fourth year, too, to sharpen knives, even though he was no longer employed.

On the Haketaue site were a car junk yard and a scrap-metal dealer. Both of them had been using the vacant area on the road right-of-way to dump old cars and large containers of scrap metal, or for parking their trucks. We could not get the excavation started there until these things were removed. We asked city hall several times to talk with these companies and to get the things off the excavation area. Each time the things were removed, but in a few days, before we had time to get the digging started, the things were piling up again on the site. City hall explained that nothing could be done because these were "Koreans" and "yakuza". Finally I went to talk to them myself; we had no problem after that. The "Korean" even used his wrecker to help us pull out some large fence posts -- free of charge. The obvious racism of the people at city hall was the reason these companies did not respond well to them but did respond to me.

5. The Field Laboratory:
From the first day, we had to set up the system for cleaning the facilities. The outside workers would take care of cleaning the tools and stacking them in the tool shed at night. They would also take care of cleaning the outside break shelter. The inside workers would clean the laboratory and related facilities, and the office worker would clean the small office. That left the toilet, which was shared by everyone. I thought this would be easy, just rotate crews of two or three people chosen from both the outside and the inside workers every day. But the females rebelled -- emphatically no men were going to be involved in cleaning the toilets. Lesson number one in local sociology.

The next lesson was in local politics and involved ping-pong tables. Processing artifacts requires large tables, and we had selected ping-pong tables as being the ideal size for this work. A few days after these arrived on the site the city hall office people suggested that the local school could use these nice new ping-pong tables, and that we should immediately exchange our new ones for their old, beat up ones. We did make the exchange because it would be a waste to damage these new tables so they could not be used later for ping-pong, and the workers felt uneasy using such nice tables. In addition, our new tables were not nearly as strong as the old ones from the school, so it worked out to our benefit to have the old ones. But this event only represented one of many times that the local city hall tried to rake something off for themselves from our excavation budget.

As we got into the third year of artifact processing it became time to start the work of drawing the artifacts -- the complete pots and the stone tools -- and making ink rubbings of the potsherds. The drawings take considerable skill, and not many people ever acquire the necessary level for publication. But many of the women who had spent so much time working with the pottery wanted to go on to be the pot drawers. We selected a few to try, and some of the ones we turned down were unhappy. One day found me outside in the rain with a crying 56-year-old women trying to explain to her why, with her poor eyesight, she could not be a pot drawer. But she was insistent, so we compromised: we would let her try, but, if it did not work out in a week or so, she would voluntarily quit and go to the ink rubbing work. Two weeks later she was doing the ink rubbing.

Just as we have to take thousands of photographs in the field to properly record our work and finds, we have to take thousands more of the artifacts after processing in the field laboratory. Initially we had set aside one room for this, and had put in the necessary shelves, back-lighting table, reflector umbrellas, tripods and cameras. But after city hall decided we needed a darkroom (their second attempt to get their hands into our budget, illegally), we also had full facilities for developing and printing all of our black-and-white photographs. Until that time we had a professional photographer on the site, and he did all the DPE work in his own darkroom. But once we had the on-site darkroom it was no longer profitable for him to work with us. But, by then, his assistant, an ex-salaried man about 30 years old, was able to do all the work without supervision. In addition to the photographer, there was a photographer's assistant who took care of putting all the negatives and slides into files and the prints into albums, and keeping the records of the all the photographs. With thousands of black-and-white and color photographs, this was a full-time job that required skill and great attention to detail.

We needed to do mineral analysis of the soils to find the New Fuji Tephra, which was a dating horizon important to our research. Since the archaeologist who was the head supervisor was trained in geology, we decided to do the work on site. After we got the necessary microscope and other equipment, he trained one of the housewives to prepare the soil samples for slides and study under the microscope. He also trained her to identify the minerals that were important to the research. Unfortunately, however, this marker tephra was not present in these sites.

Our computer operation was planned for two major purposes: (1) to produce tables of artifact quantities and percentages that were flawless and (2) to produce three-dimensional maps of artifact distributions sorted by whatever parameters we felt would be useful in helping us understand the prehistoric occupation of the sites we were excavating. Most excavation reports have these tables and maps. But the rows and columns of the tables rarely add up correctly, and I know from experience that the distribution maps have 10% to 20% or more error in them. Computer operation in archaeology is generally thought to be a job that requires a very high intelligence and extensive training, but in fact what it requires most is someone with a high tolerance for tedium. Right from the beginning of the excavation project, we had put one of the slower housewives on the task of checking all the field records for clarity and completeness. She had performed this tedious task excellently. And this work had made her the person most familiar with our artifact log books. She became our computer specialist.

Our field logs contained all the three-dimensional locational information for each of the more than 330,000 artifacts we had recovered. Our laboratory log books contained the classifications of all of these artifacts -- the types of pottery, the types of stones tools, and the types of pebbles and debris. We had planned to record much more information about the artifacts, but time did not allow. So we decided that for computer input we would simply put the artifact type codes directly into the field log books. To do this we had rubber stamps made with the names of all of the artifact types on the top (for the humans) and the code number in rubber on the bottom (for the computer). This avoided the messy and error-prone process of reading codes off a code sheet, and trying to remember them, and then writing them into the log books. Our checker-turned-computer-specialist was able to stamp 10,000 to 12,000 codes a week with no more than a handful of errors in the whole 330,000 codes that were recorded.

The computer work on the site also required this housewife to fill out special request forms to order the outputs that we wanted. The archaeologists planned these outputs in the process of interpreting the finds and gave her written verbal orders. She then transferred these to the specially coded format that the computer company needed to input to the computer to get it to make the distribution maps we wanted. These maps came off the computer in rolls, sometimes 5-10 m long, in three colors, with symbols and all kinds of other fancy information on them. We ended up with many kilometers of maps, far more than we were able to digest before the project ended.

6. Subcontracted Work:
There are a number of things that need to be done on any excavation that are beyond the capabilities of the archaeology team. These things are subcontracted to specialists. As already discussed, the complexity and size of the Yamanesakaue and Haketaue sites, and the inexperience of the original archaeologists, required us to subcontract the initial grid survey to a local company. We also occasionally needed to use heavy equipment -- bulldozers, dump trucks and backhoes -- and this work was also subcontracted to local companies. But we also had to subcontract several important research projects.

We always try to get aerial photographs of excavations in Japan. But these two sites were close to a military base and flying was restricted in the area. Someone came up with the idea of using an aerial balloon with a camera slung below it and operated by remote control. The office contacted a company that operates the advertising balloons that fly over department stores to announce bargain sales. This company sent a balloon and an operator to us for two days. The first day we arranged the sling and tested the use of the remote control. The second day the operator (as required by law) flew the balloon to 50 m, with our workers holding it in place with three long guy ropes. Ordinarily this would have been done from light airplanes at higher altitudes, but the balloon system worked quite well for us.

We developed the research projects based on pollen analysis ourselves, as discussed above, and we collected the samples, but the actual pollen identification was done by a subcontractor, in this case a company that specializes in this kind of work for archaeology. This same company did our wood species identification too, after we found it impossible to get a research scholar to give us a clear statement of cost and schedule. This kind of contract archaeology requires the archaeologists to present -- and follow -- clearly stated budgets and schedules. We are also required to get at least three bids for everything, and to take the lowest one. But the scholars could not give us clear bids and there was at this time only one company in the business doing the analyses we needed done. So the contract went to them.

But we did find a scholar who would give us a clear bid for the seed identification. He first separated all of our charcoal into wood or seeds/nuts. Then he gave rough estimates of the proportions of each in the samples we had him study. We weighed all the samples, gave values to his rough estimates and produced a report on how much charred wood and how much weight of seeds/nuts we had found. The quantity was quite high. The seeds/nuts were primarily walnut-shell fragments, plus a few other species.

Radiocarbon dating is not commonly done for Jomon sites, or for any other sites in Japan, but we had collected a lot of good samples both for dating our materials and for studying problems in our samples. We sent samples to two different laboratories, and for several of the samples, where we had a lot of charcoal, we sent part of the same sample to both laboratories for a cross check. We did find a consistent but not large difference in the dates they returned. We also found that some fractions of the samples were contaminated and that some features had mixtures of older and younger charcoal. We got very consistent dates on the four samples taken from the same charred log we found in one of the pits.

The computer work also had to be subcontracted. This was 1980 and before personal computers. It was a time when a large mainframe had three megabytes (today a small PC). Our work would also require large and fast hardware for plotting and for making tables. Even today, though, with all the advances in personal and office computer hardware, it is still not possible to do the work we did on the site or in a central archaeology laboratory. We were also on the leading edge here, because no one had yet used a computer in Japanese archaeology. Archaeologists were talking about using computers, but they felt that only archaeologists could input the data and make the programs archaeologists needed, so subcontracting had never been one of the options they considered. And the archaeologists were stymied for years by their own abysmal lack of understanding of computers; they are two decades or more behind American archaeologists in this area.

The company that did the work for us took our field log books (something all archaeologists assured me could not be done) and sent them directly to their facility for input. This work was done by a small army of young and middle-aged housewives. The initial outputs were sent back to us with ticks where apparent errors had occurred or where the keypuncher was not sure what was written in the log book. Once these errors were corrected, we got other outputs to run other checks on the accuracy of the data. We discovered that the field workers had made a lot of recording errors -- seen as artifacts plotted outside the excavation area, among other oddities. These corrections then went back to the company and more outputs of a different kind came to us. Once we were satisfied that all possible errors were eliminated, we started requesting outputs for research purposes. Much more than the other subcontracted work, the computer work required constant coordination between the subcontractor and the archaeologists.

7. The Office:

The four young Nihon University archaeologists that started with me on this excavation were effectively incompetent. The only one that was capable of doing the supervision and the work invariably succumbed to the pressure for harmony with the group, which I referred to as the "four headless horsemen." On the first day, the one with the only key to the buildings showed up three hours late. Another one got caught sleeping on the roof, goofing off. During summer vacation they recruited a lot of students to work with us, then spent most of the time hanging around where the young girls were instead of supervising the whole crew. And they always had themselves incapacitated with "problems" that they saw -- or imagined -- in everything we did. They also disagreed with me about almost everything, yet could not get anything done right on their own. Eventually, when they complained about the way I wanted them to do something, I told them that the door was right over there and they could leave anytime they wanted to -- it was a free world.

My happiest day on the excavation came near the end of the first year when the headless horsemen informed me they were quitting. But city hall, as usual, was very unhappy and wanted to stop the whole excavation project. When I refused to stop it, they took me to the chief of the Tokyo Board of Education, the person in Tokyo with the final responsibility for excavations. After a short discussion, he agreed with my proposal that I would continue for awhile with only the American student and the amateur archaeologist as supervisors, but if things did not work well that I would let him know and he would stop the excavation. This made the city hall people furious, but there was nothing they could do. The day after the headless horsemen left, two very good archaeology supervisors joined the team and everything went smoothly after that.

Dealing with the local city hall was a problem throughout the project. Initially the Social Education Section acted as our office staff, as was commonly the case on excavations at that time. The people there knew nothing about archaeology and also did not care about it: the section chief once said bluntly that prehistoric objects were of no value to modern times. Even after we got a professional office manager and city hall no longer acted as our office, they were still on the board of directors and continued to be generally uncooperative, opposing almost everything we wanted to do, although the project was not costing the city any money and in fact was bringing a lot of money into the pockets of local people and businesses.

The city hall people (specifically the section chief) also left me with the impression that they were unhappy that I had set up the oversight on the budget so tightly that there was no possibility for them to "pull" money out for their own use. Twice the section chief did use our workers to do projects for the city while they were on our time -- and budget. And they opposed installation of a photolab until they found a (personal?) need for one; then they (the section chief) ordered the photolab without consulting us or the contractor. After the lab arrived, they realized we would also have to pay for air-conditioning and other things to make the lab usable. The contractor was quite unhappy about this. Finally they did something (I do not remember now what it was) that was really causing problems. We (the archaeologists) talked with the workers, many of whom were relatives of councilmen or other powerful people in the city, and had them put pressure on city hall to get off our backs.

And just at this time, the local surveyor who had set our original grid and who was also one of the councilmen, called me to his office to show me a flawed bronze plaque of the U.S. Marine flag raising on Iwojima near the end of World War II. He wanted to know if it was authentic (a check with the U.S. Department of Navy showed it was a genuine flawed first casting) and if I could find someone on the nearby American base who would be interested in having it. The wife of an Army colonel who worked closely with the Marine general who was chief of all U.S. forces in Japan was taking my class at that time. In quick succession the Marine general was at the surveyor's office in full (and impressive) uniform and staff car with assistant to see the plaque. A few weeks later at the Marine Corps birthday party, the plaque was formally presented to the Marines -- and the councilman was highly impressed and city hall was in a deep sweat.

(As a footnote to these problems with city hall, in 1997 the man who was Social Education section chief during the excavation, and our main problem in city hall, was arrested for accepting bribes in conjuntion with his duties as office chief overseeing construction of a sanitation plant in the city.)

Racism was a major problem that I had to deal with throughout the project, especially from city hall. (It is also the only real barrier I have had to deal with as a foreigner in Japanese archaeology.) The city hall was clearly racist, and that racism seemed to show itself as a dislike for me personally because I was a foreigner. This appeared to be part of the reason they showed so much resistance to the project -- to try to keep the foreigner from succeeding. Many times every day I had to endure being told I did not understand, could not understand, because I was a foreigner. I would request something that was standard on almost all excavations in Japan, and they would tell me "we Japanese don't do things that way." It was hard to figure out if they were lying or if they were not listening to what I actually said but were twisting it into what their racist preconceptions thought foreigners say -- which had to be something different from what Japanese would say. When I finally got a young Japanese archaeologist on the site with whom I could communicate, he and I would go together to make requests. I would make the request first, and they would say no. Then he would make the request using the same words I had used, and they would say yes. The request was okay as long as it came from a Japanese face and not a white face.

I also encountered racism from the workers, but usually not directed at me. During breaks they would be talking, and sometimes the talk would be unkind things about "Koreans" and other such people. Then the workers would realize I was there and say, "Oh, maybe we shouldn't talk like this in front of Keally." "Maybe you shouldn't talk -- or think -- like that at all."

Toward the end of the excavation one of the Civil Engineers confided to me that they had shown so much resistance because they thought a foreigner would cheat and so they did not trust me, but that in the end their biggest problem in dealing with me was my absolute honesty. For the first time ever they had heard the truth about what excavations were really doing and what they really needed. Then they had to try to explain this new and truthful story to the people above them who also had never heard it before. But the real problem came from the fact that now they knew all the Japanese-run excavations were lying and cheating on the budgets and this was going to be a very messy fact to deal with in a society that values harmony.

That all the other excavations cheated on the budgets was something I knew before I started planning the Yamanesakaue and Haketaue excavations. They all built up slush funds (purukin = pool/pull money) by making out fake personal resumes and buying personal seals (hanko) for them at the local stationary store. Then they paid these ghost workers every month. On some excavations this could make up as much as half the wages paid out. When they needed equipment that they did not know how to explain the need for, they used the slush fund. Or, as in one case I saw, they would bury it in another item's budget by getting someone to overcharge and return the extra, minus a kickback. In this particular case they prepared a public budget that showed ¥10,000 for analyzing each piece of obsidian submitted and a private budget that showed much less per sample but which included ¥350,000 for a microscope. The totals for the two budgets were the same. When other archaeologists found out I had no slush fund, they marveled that I could get the work done without one. Cheating was clearly pervasive in archaeology at that time.

But cheating on the budget was not then -- or now -- limited to archaeology. The newspapers then (and even more so now) were full of reports of similar cheating throughout the national and local bureaucracy. In 1997, a bribery scandal broke into the news, related to the construction of a sanitation facility in western Tokyo. One of the people arrested and jailed in this scandal was the man who had been head of the Social Education Section, the man at city hall who had given me so much trouble for the whole four years of the project.

The first year was a real disaster in the office, with an uncooperative city hall responsible for the work as a sideline to its other duties. I had long talks with the Civil Engineers' representative that visited regularly, emphasizing the troubles and the fact that it was really foolish to put an archaeologist and a part-time city hall in charge of a ¥300,000,000 budget. (At the time, that was $1.5 million, but today would be $3.0 million, or about $7.0 million adjusted for inflation. That is a lot of money.) I stressed the fact that I thought a professional office manager was needed. One of their own people retired at the end of our first year, and he became our office manager for the remaining three years. (They also changed their representative to one with archaeology experience in college.) This really improved the office work, and, of course, greatly improved the trust between the archaeology team and the contractor. It made dealing with city hall a little easier, too, but those people were still quite bullheaded about their opposition to us.

Getting the budget for pollen analysis was relatively easy, given the amount of money involved -- we had about 250 samples processed at around ¥20,000 each (a total of ¥5,000,000). The Civil Engineers had already explained that money for research was not a problem, as long as we did not extend the time. They were also quite interested in seeing new research conducted in order to learn new things about the past, and to make the project more worthwhile. But we still had to make very good explanations of the need. Watanabe Makoto had already presented an important theory that Middle Jomon people were leaching acorns to provide a stable food for supporting their large population. One of the major implications of his theory which he stated clearly was that the open area in the middle of the big villages like we were excavating was free of trees and was used to sun-dry the acorns and the powder made from them. But he had no proof that these open areas, called "plazas" in Japanese, were free of trees. I copied one of Watanabe's best (but short) articles and explained this weakness in his theory to the Civil Engineers' representative. I explained that we could get the necessary evidence by analyzing pollen data across the two sites, from well beyond the fringes of the villages, across the dwelling areas, and across the plaza. This would show us whether the plaza was shaded by trees or was wide open to the sun (it was wide open to the sun), which would be a major support for a theory that was good but needed more support. We got the budget without further questions.

Getting the budget for a geologic microscope was a different matter. We easily convinced the Civil Engineers of the need to do the research that required the microscope, and hence of the need for the microscope. But this kind of equipment remains at the end of the project, and they would be stuck with something they did not need and which would cost more money to get rid of. The other archaeologist was a geology major and knew that the science teacher at the local high school was a geologist. He contacted the teacher to see if the school would like to have a good geological microscope. They did want one and agreed in writing to buy ours for the depreciated price (cheap) when the project finished. This opened the way for the purchase, because now the Civil Engineers would not get stuck with it.

Getting the budget for computer use, in contrast to the pollen and microscope budgets, was extremely difficult. The Civil Engineers agreed that using a computer made great sense, and they did not understand why archaeologists did not use computers in their work. But archaeologists did not use computers at all at this time, and new approaches of this expense (¥6,000,000) were out unless we had a very good explanation. The first part of the explanation was that all excavation reports did already put in tables of artifact quantities and numerous artifact distribution maps. The second part of the explanation required demonstration that using a computer would be better than producing these tables and maps by hand. I could quite easily demonstrated that these tables and maps usually had many errors in them. Demonstrating that using a computer would save time and money was harder. First, I had several of the laboratory workers produce maps by hand, keeping records of how many artifacts they could plot per hour. After two weeks they were so frustrated with this tedious and strenuous work that they were ready to rebel. I then ran these figures through a special computer program to compare them with figures a computer company provided for the same work by machine. There was no question that, even at the minimum of outputs, the computer was cheaper, and that the more outputs we requested the cheaper it got. The third part of the explanation was to have the Civil Engineers talk directly to the frustrated and rebellious housewives. That clinched the computer budget for us.

But that was not the end of the computer-budget problem. The city hall people knew that we had been talking to a particular computer company since the planning stage of the project. They hoped to force this company out by requiring us to take bids from other companies. This was nonsense, because it had already taken nearly three years to get the ideas across to the company we were talking to; we would never be able to get another company to produce what we wanted. We took the bids from the three companies (three is the required number of bidders) that city hall contacted, plus the bid from the company we were already dealing with. Only one of the other companies showed any understanding at all of what we were doing, but all of them bid higher (or ridiculously lower) than the original company. City hall kept trying to interfere with our work, but they kept striking out; they never seemed to learn that we were a lot smarter than they were.

Once we got the computer budget, we were overwhelmed with the outputs. The computer produced kilometers of artifact distribution maps organized according to every conceivable parameter. In the end, we never were able to analyze and use a large part of the output, but the computer did greatly improve our final result even at the limited level we were able to cope with it.

No long excavation would be complete without regular parties, and ours took several fieldtrips, including over-night stays, too. For the parties we usually took off half a day and went to a rented hall for food, drink and relaxed conversation -- togetherness. Some parties were simple 3-5 p.m. juice-and-beer affairs on the site. City hall at first opposed holding the parties before 5 p.m. because this cut into working time. But, with so many housewives who had to get home shortly after 5 p.m. to fix dinner for their families, we had no choice. Convincing city hall of this, however, required sending the older workers from powerful local families down there to twist arms. We took days off occasionally to visit some local excavations, renting buses to get there. We also took bus tours to sites in Shizuoka and Nagano, staying over night and visiting museums too. The parties and the fieldtrips served to educate the workers and to keep up morale.

8. Publication:
Producing and publishing the final report on an excavation is part of the field-laboratory process in Japan. But for the Yamanesakaue and Haketaue sites it was also a separate story of its own. This was the one area of the work that I was the only one to have any real experience with. And as director it was my duty to guide the publication anyway.

The first step was to plan the content and the layout and size of the reports. I did this by studying high quality reports on other large Middle Jomon excavations in the southern part of the Kanto Plain. This allowed me to work out statistics on how many pages of text, drawings, charts and tables would be required for a given number of artifacts and features. I found, for example, that when the number of features increased, all reports increased the number of pages in direct proportion, but when the number of artifacts increased, the number of pages per 1,000 artifacts increased at a lower rate and that this rate dropped as the number of artifacts increased. Thus, I could easily determine how many pages we needed to publish our features simply by multiplying the number of features by x (the number of pages needed per feature). But for the artifacts I had to work out a progression statistic. Most excavations recover between 20,000 and 100,000 artifacts, so much of it pottery and so much of it stone tools. The proportions of pottery and stone tools were roughly the same in all excavations, but the number of pages per 1,000 potsherds or 1,000 stones tools decreased as the numbers of these artifacts increased. We had recovered over 330,000 artifacts of which 130,000 were potsherds and 4,500 were stone tools, and the remainder were pebbles and debris. These numbers were way off the chart that I could plot directly with the information from other reports. I worked out the progression "statistic" by plotting the data from the published reports on graph paper and extending the line with my "artist's" eye. (We published exactly the number of pages I had estimated.)

Next I had to get publication-size photocopies of all the artifacts and features that we were going to illustrate in the reports and lay them out exactly as they would look in the published figures. I also had to work up true-size sketches of other figures we needed, and of charts and tables.

Once I had these statistics and the models for the figures and tables and charts, I laid out a real-size mock-up of the actual report on special paper designed for this purpose. This mock-up showed every page, what would be on the page, and how much of the page would be used for figures and how much for text. It was then a simple matter to count the blocks in the text part to know how many ji (or Japanese characters) of text needed to be written for that page or section. The laboratory workers used this mock-up to guide production of the actual manuscript and figures to be sent to the printer. I produced the mock-up only for the first volume of the three volumes to be published. After that the laboratory workers were able to make the mock-ups for the remaining two volumes.

With the mock-up and the examples of excavation reports I had based it on, my next job was getting the budget for the printing and publication. Since we planned to put text, figures and photographs on the same page, we needed to use high quality paper. The contractor bulked at this, saying it would cost too much. But I had already checked out our paper needs, and the costs of the highest and lowest quality papers. The difference in cost was one I could afford to pay out of pocket, which surprised everyone -- first that their assumptions about paper costs were wrong and second that a foreigner had so easily outsmarted them. We then got bids from several local printers and took the one that was about the same as our estimate.

City hall, however, was still not out of the picture and continued to make trouble here too. The law only requires that a report be made; it does not say how many copies or that it should be printed. The law does say that the cultural properties are to be preserved for the benefit of the all the Japanese people, implying that enough copies should be made so that the results of the excavation can be fully disseminated. In general practice this has meant that the contractor pays for the original plates and 300 copies of the report. Then the archaeology team borrows enough money to print several hundred more -- which is cheap since the plates are the bulk of the cost of publishing -- and sells half and gives the other half away in exchange for reports from other sites. When city hall found out about this, they threatened the printer with no more contracts from them if he printed our extra copies. The workers protested because they had all wanted copies of the work they had produced, and city hall (which now had the rights to the plates) promised to print extra copies on the next year's city budget. But they never did.

And, as seems to happen on all excavations, despite the best scheduling plans, the work never keeps to the schedule. When March 31 arrived and the whole excavation team and committee were disbanded and the budget closed, we still had the final checking of manuscript for the third volume and proofreading of all three volumes left to finish. But we had no place to do the work, and the workers would not get paid anyway, so they all left. But the archaeologists had a moral and legal responsibility to finish this work. The other two archaeologists, however, claiming they had to earn money to live (both were single), took off for excavations elsewhere, leaving the work here unfinished. As a consequence, I (with a wife and two teenage children) spent the next six months working in a back room at the printer's office without pay to finish the report. This was my tenth excavation and the tenth time the other archaeologists had failed to meet the schedule and then walked off when the budget ended, leaving someone else to pick up the pieces. This was also the reason I quit field work in Japan.

In the end, we published about 800 pages of report on this excavation -- my graduation thesis, in a sense....