Kambayashi iseki: What a Paleolithic campsite looked like

Recreation of the Kambayashi campsite during the Paleolithic era (2008, Shimada / Sano City Education Board)

The above is an illustration recreating the restored Kambayashi campsite and the surrounding landscape during the Paleolithic era.  The scene was recreated based on a diagram made after a status survey of the relics of the excavated ruins by the Sano City Board of Education. The survey established the remains of a campsite group arrangement in what is called a “ring block”. The residential community estimated to have consisted of between 50-100 people or about 10 families, built their campsite on a slight slope and not far from the water source – inland waters that run into the area north from the campsite.

Survey of excavated ruins and the distribution of relics at Kambayashi, Sano, Tochigi (Kosuge 2006 / Sano City Board of Education).

A rich cache of stone tools was uncovered from the campsite dating to between 30,000 – 20,700 years BP from the Pleistocene layers of Kanto loam depositions of volcanic ash from Mount Fuji’s eruptions from which the artefacts were unearthed. The Paleolithic stone tool finds and dates appear to be consistent with those of other Upper Paleolithic trapezoid stone tool finds from the Tochigi area – among 441 stone tools (see photos immediately below) that were unearthed on Mount Takaharayama and thought to date back to 35,000 years ago.

The Japanese Paleolithic layers have turned up what were the earliest known ground stone tools and polished stone tools in the world, dated to around 30,000 BC … until this record was displaced by the discovery of earlier stone edged ground tools in Northern Australia.

Polished stone tools or axes. Hinatabayashi B site, Shinanomachi, Nagano. Paleolithic period, 30,000 BC. Tokyo National Museum.

These are uncharacteristically early dates for a technology typically associated with the beginning of the Neolithic, around 10,000 BC, in the rest of the world.

It was not known why such tools were created so early in Japan and the dates doubted until the finds of ground-edged stone tools in Nawarla Gabanang, Northern Australia. Given that these finds were AMS radiocarbon-dated to 35,499 cal BP making them the earliest ground-edged stone tools in the world so that the close-in-time Japanese dates now made sense, particularly given that genetic studies have detected the Y-DNA C-M130 lineages haplogroups C1 and C4 found only in Japan and Australia.

Elsewhere, the earliest polished stone tools are axes, adzes and cutters with only blades polished – dating between 21,000-19,000 cal BP have turned up in South China (at the Liyuzui site, Dalongtan, Liuzhou Museum). Whole polished stone tools appeared thousands of years later.


列島の考古学 旧石器時代 堤 隆 pps. 103-105

Earliest Evidence for Ground-Edge Axes: 35,400±410 cal BP from Jawoyn Country, Arnhem Land 2010 Australian Archaeology 71:66-69  Jean-Michel Geneste et al.

日本列島の旧石器時代 栃木県佐野市上林遺跡 HP

Hiroshi Yajima, Toshio  “Interim report of archaeological research on Kambayashi, Sano, Tochigi (“New Science” Monthly Journal of Archaeology  No. 412/1997) 矢島俊雄・出居博「栃木県佐野市上林遺跡発掘調査の中間報告(ニュー・サイエンス社『月刊考古学ジャーナル』通号412/1997)

Location of 24 archaeological sites including Kambayashi at Sano City, Tochigi see 佐野新都市開発整備事業予定地内には24遺跡

Access map (English) and Japanese page to Kambayashi site location: Kambayashi S 1056-345 Takahagi other towns, Sano, Tochigi

Prehistoric Japan, New perspectives on insular East Asia”, Keiji Imamura, University of Hawai Press, Honolulu, ISBN 0-8248-1853-9

Earliest Evidence for Ground-Edge Axes: 35,400±410 cal BP from Jawoyn Country, Arnhem Land Geneste, J.-M., B. David, H.Plisson, C. Clarkson, J.-J. Delannoy, F. Petchey and R. Whear 2010 Australian Archaeology 71:66-69.

Early polished stone tools in South China evidence of transition from Palaeolithic to Neolithic  UDK 903(510)“633/634”. Documenta Praehistorica XXXI.

Early humans in Japan produced stone tools (Asahi, 13 April 2007) Upper Paleolithic humans “mined” stone from Mount Takaharayama to produce trapezoid and other stone tools 35,000 years ago

Global distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroup C reveals the prehistoric migration routes of African exodus and early settlement in East Asia, Journal of Human Genetics (2010) 55, 428–435; doi:10.1038/jhg.2010.40; published online 7 May 2010, Hua Zhong et al.

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