Asian Perspectives, vol. 49, no. 2 (2010)

Special Issue: New and Emergent Trends in Japanese Paleolithic Research


Peter Bleed, 227

This serves as an introduction to eight articles on Japanese Palaeolithic archaeology that illustrate the types of research issues recently addressed and the kinds of archaeological data currently available on Pleistocene deposits in Japan. The articles also show how Japanese researchers are setting out to explain Palaeolithic variability at various scales, including the regional level. Perhaps, most importantly, given the recriminations following the relatively recent exposure of faked “early and middle Palaeolithic” artifacts in Japan, these papers show how Palaeolithic archeologists working in Japan have recognized the importance of presenting reliable archaeological and paleoenvironmental data in the context of clear research methodology.
Keywords: Palaeolithic, Japan, Pleistocene, lithic technology.

Dual Nature in the Creation of Disciplinary Identity: A Socio-historical Review of Palaeolithic Archaeology in Japan
Yuichi Nakazawa, 231

An expansion in archaeological excavations and site identifications over the last 30 years, particularly through an increase in salvage projects and the growth of government archaeology in Japan, has made the Japanese Islands one of the most dense regions of Palaeolithic archaeological sites in East Asia. The history of Pleistocene site discoveries and chronological frameworks for Palaeolithic lithic industries are summarized, followed by a critical review of research trajectories in the accumulation of a Palaeolithic record, specifically in terms of changes in relationships among academic archaeology, government archaeology, the public, and mass media. This article also attempts to clarify the peculiar structure of current Japanese archaeology that allowed the construction of a falsified Palaeolithic prehistory by some unscrupulous researchers for 20 years until its sensational exposure by a national daily in 2000.
Keywords: Palaeolithic, Japan, government archaeology, academic archaeology, public archaeology, mass media, lithic industries.

Transitions in the Early Upper Palaeolithic: An Examination of Lithic Assemblages on the Musashino Upland, Tokyo, Japan
Takuya Yamaoka, 251

This article explains lithic assemblage transitions during the Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) on the Musashino Upland by quantitative comparisons of lithic raw materials, core reduction (blade technology), and formal tool production. The results suggest that changes in aspects of lithic assemblage variability could be explained by changes in raw material utilization, not developments (sophistication of tool-making skills) in blade technology and methods of formal tool production. The results also indicate the possibility that the changes in lithic raw material would have been affected by changes in residential mobility and the foraging territorial scale of EUP hunter-gatherers, as well as the changes in organic raw material utilization in whole technological organization in various environmental settings during the EUP. Beside them, the characteristics of the lithic assemblages in Period I as the initial EUP assemblages in this region are different from general characteristics of Upper Palaeolithic assemblages (blade technology, standardized and formal flaked tools) in Eurasia. The nature of lithic raw material utilization, especially flaked tool use, in Period I assemblages looks extremely expedient. Therefore, the characteristics of initial EUP assemblages in this region represent that diversity in lithic raw material utilization and technological organization was present during the EUP.
Keywords: the Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP), Japan, the Musashino Upland, stone tools, raw material, foragers.

Mobility and Lithic Economy in the Terminal Pleistocene of Central Honshu
Katsuhiro Sano, 279

During the Terminal Pleistocene in central Honshu, which coincided temporally with the emergence of pottery, lithic raw material reduction sequences ceased to be rational and economical, instead becoming expedient and wasteful. Furthermore, hunter-gatherers had stopped importing lithic raw materials over long distances, and attempts made previously to attain a maximum number of usable edges on artifacts upon one nodule had ceased. Their reduction sequences might have no longer required a sparing strategy, since they now used abundant local raw materials, probably due to reduced mobility. It is suggested that the emergence of pottery allowed them to exploit more diverse plant sources and enabled them to survive within smaller territories, while the lithic reduction strategies changed as they adapted to use of available lithic raw materials.
Keywords: Japan, Honshu, microblades, bifacial points, lithic economy, mobility, foragers.

The Palaeolithic Exploitation of the Lithic Raw Materials and the Organization of Foraging Territory in Northeastern Japan
Kohtaro Yoshikawa, 294

This paper explores the organization of foraging territories of populations in early Upper Palaeolithic northeastern Japan. First, a chronology is established for the region, outlining three stages known as chronological stages 1 to 3. This is followed by a discussion of the role of trapezoids and knife-shaped blades, lithic raw materials (especially locally available siliceous shale), and their environments in understanding lithic technology, food procurement strategies, and lithic resource exploitation in each chronological stage. Various site types are categorized by examination of tool composition, procurement and consumption of foods, and lithic raw materials in each site. The results of this analysis indicate that foraging territories have been reorganized three times, corresponding with each chronological stage. Transformations in foraging territories are associated with changing tool types, lithic technology, exploitation of lithic raw materials, and food procurement strategies, representing the adaptation of human populations to environmental fluctuation in early Upper Palaeolithic.
Keywords: Palaeolithic, Japan, lithics, raw materials, foragers, territoriality, trapezoids.

Assessing the Reality of a Palaeolithic “Dwelling Structure” in the Japanese Archipelago: The Structure of the Tana-Mukaihara Site
Takanori Sakashita, 318

The Tana-Mukaihara site is located on the left bank of the Sagami River in the Sagamino Upland in southern Kanto Plain (Honshu, Japan). In addition to the two lithic scatters (mainly composed of obsidian debitage and tools) and two pebble clusters, the site has been recognized as a prominent Upper Palaeolithic site (c. 20,000 cal.y.b.p.) because of an exceptional pebble-surrounded habitation area identified as a dwelling structure, 12 postholes, and two hearths. The purpose of this article is to examine human activities in this Palaeolithic dwelling site through the analysis of thermally altered obsidian artifacts and their spatial distributions. The results show that thermally altered obsidian artifacts are not only concentrated around the hearths, but also in the postholes, suggesting that the so-called postholes indeed functioned as hearths with the other two hearths. This study provides new insight into the reality of Palaeolithic dwelling structures in the Japanese Islands.
Keywords: Upper Palaeolithic, spatial analysis, experimental archaeology, obsidian, hearths, macrodebitage.

Refitted Material and Consideration of Lithic Reduction Sequence among the Microblade Assemblages: A View from the Okushirataki-1 Site, Hokkaido, Northern Japan
Jun Takakura, 332

In this article, I attempt to reconstruct the lithic reduction sequence of the microblade assemblage from the Okushirataki-1 site, Hokkaido, northern Japan, and to discuss the relationship between the technological variability of lithic reduction sequences and the morphological features of lithic raw materials, through with the assessment of numerous refitted materials. In terms of results, the refitted materials from this assemblage show that the detaching of microblades inevitably connects with the removal of blades in the course of the reduction sequence. Additionally, the presence and content of core preparations or rejuvenations on the flaked surfaces may have a significant role in the formation of variety among the blade and microblade reduction sequences. Therefore, it is not appropriate to compare the lithic assemblages and examine inter-site variability only through the analysis of morphological attributes reflected in the reduction sequence, which has been the focus of previous techno-typological approaches.
Keywords: Japan, Hokkaido, Palaeolithic, stone tools, lithic reduction sequence, microblade assemblage, refitted material.

Experimental Study on Heat Alteration of Palaeolithic Material: Preliminary Results from Shale in the Northeastern Region of Japan
Kaoru Yonekura, 348

In order to obtain a better understanding of the intentional thermal alteration of Palaeolithic materials in the northeastern region of Japan, heating experiments were carried out on two types of shale samples. Mechanical properties such as strength and hardness as well as surface morphology were analyzed before and after heating. As a result, a functional change was observed in mechanical factors after heating. A hard shale sample comprising small grains exhibited a significant decrease in strength and noticeable increase in hardness after heating. On the other hand, shale comprising larger crystal grains exhibited an increase in both strength and hardness values. Moreover, smoother surfaces were observed through SEM analysis in both samples after heating. These results lead us to the conclusion that the heating process, especially in the case of harder shale with higher strength values, might have modified material properties such as flaking characteristics as well as functional attributes that are relevant to hardness.
Keywords: thermal alteration, Japan, Palaeolithic, stone tools, flexural strength, microhardness, scanning electron microscopy.

Use Angle and Motional Direction of End Scrapers: A Case Study of the Palaeolithic in Hokkaido, Japan
Katsunori Takase, 363

This article examines the direction of tool movement of end scrapers used by Palaeolithic peoples for hide-working in the Japanese Islands. Specimens are approximately 400 end scrapers from three sites dated to the first half of the late Palaeolithic in Hokkaido, northern Japan. As a result of examination using a method combining the high-power approach of lithic use-wear analysis with a replication technique for measuring the edge angle and the use angle, it was clarified that end scrapers were used only for hide-working. They were classified into four groups: (1) relatively short end scrapers used in a pulling motion (group A); (2) relatively short end scrapers used in a pushing motion (group B); (3) relatively long and large end scrapers used in a pulling motion (group C); and (4) relatively long and large end scrapers used in a pushing motion (group D). Groups B and D (i.e., for pushing motion) are dominant among whole specimens. This study will contribute significantly to the investigation of tool use strategies, curation systems, and the reduction sequences of end scrapers when compared with results of techno-morphological research. At the same time, the methodology performed for this article enabled to change of needs for hide products in prehistoric society.
Keywords: Palaeolithic, Japan, Hokkaido, stone tools, end scrapers, lithic use-wear analysis.

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