Archaeology ［Chapter 2］ The Origin of Humans and The Japanese Archipelago: The Stone Age
In the seven million year history of the human species, homo sapiens appeared only two hundred-some thousand years ago. Homo sapiens, born in Africa, migrated throughout the world, developing complicated systems of language, religions, and artistic sensibilities along the way. The archaeological record left by our shared human ancestors gives us evidence of these facts.
Ancient humans eventually followed the megafauna on which they subsisted, the giant elk, mastodon and mammoth, in a great migration across continental Asia to the Japanese archipelago, where the first humans are thought to have arrived some forty thousand years ago. Stone axes and tools over sixteen thousand years old are dated as "late paleolithic"and have been discovered in Japan. This indicates that such items were in use here in the stone age.
Those prehistoric stone-age people subsisted by hunting and gathering wild foods, moving across the plains and dwelling in caves. Over time their stone implements began to develop regional distinctions. For example, detailed stone knives found in Japan, dated as late neolithic period, display very different patterns between the east and west areas along the Tone river watershed.
In Japan's stone age archaeology, items found in the loam strata of the Musashino and tbe Sagami plateaus are used as a standard point of reference. Between 29,000 and 26,000 years ago, volcanic erruptions covered the land in a layer of volcanic ash, making it possible to date materials either before or after this period. The layer before the eruption contains patterned stone utensils, axes, and knives. The period after the eruption sees the development of stone tools throughout the Japanese archipelago such as knives with local and regional variations. By the end of the paleolithic period, thin stone blades for knives are common in all areas.－From the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age to the Jōmon Period－
The appearance of earthenware pottery and the development of settlements mark the great shift into the Jōmon period. The archaeological research laboratory at Kokugakuin University has conducted excavations yeilding stone and earthenware utensils as well as organic remains in order to understand changes in conditions from the nomadic culture of the early stone age to the settled early Jōmon period. The University has conducted archaeological expeditions in Nagano (Yanagimata), Niigata (Motonoki), and Gunma (Iyai Iwakage) prefectures.