In the news: Oldest radiocarbon-dated human remains from Japan discovered from the Shirahosaonetabaru cave in Ishigaki city, Okinawa


Experts excavate ruins of a community in Ishigaki island. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Researchers: Human bone in Okinawa is 24,000 years old

(Asahi, Nov 11 2011)

ISHIGAKI, Okinawa Prefecture–A 24,000-year-old human bone fragment discovered in a cave on this island is the oldest among human remains found in Japan, researchers said Nov. 10.

The Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum said the piece of bone, excavated from the Shirahosaonetabaru cave, is believed to be part of a rib.

Using direct dating, the researchers concluded that the fragment is 4,000 years older than the previous oldest find in Japan.

Archaeologists at the University of Tokyo are using radiocarbon dating

to determine the age of the fragment from the Paleolithic Period (2 million B.C.-10,000 B.C.)

The researchers are studying about 300 pieces of human bone as well as animal bones, including one from a wild boar, found in the cave. The cave is located in a construction site for a new airport.


24,000 year old human bone found in Japan (Tokyo Times, Nov 13, 2011)

Researchers have found a 24,000-year old human bone from a cave ruin in Ishigaki island in Okinawa Prefecture, believed to be the oldest human remains identified in Japan.

The human bone was excavated from a Shirahosaonetabaru cave which the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum suggested was a fragment from a human rib.

Using radiocarbon dating or analysis, archaeologists at the University of Tokyo determined the age of the bone which is said to be 4,000 older than the previous human bone found in the cave ruin in Naha, Okinawa.

“These human remains are among the oldest found so far in Japan, after earlier finding of a portion estimated in 32,000 years ago in a cave in Naha, Okinawa,” the researchers announced on Thursday.

The research team led by Minoru Yoneda, an anthropologist and associate professor at the University of Tokyo, examined about 25 fragments of human bones taken from the 20,000 to 24,000-year-old bottom layer and other locations at the cave. The primeval cave is known to be an abode for about 20,000-year-old human remains traced to belong to the Paleolithic Period.

The Japanese researchers said that discovery of human bones could help ascertain data on Japanese ancestors.


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