Stone tool inventory

Paleolithic stone tools (Yokohama History Museum)

Many stone tools have been excavated from numerous paleolithic sites in Japan.

From the Shirataki site: scraper; point; burin; awl; knife; microblade (Left to right, top to bottom)

From the Shirataki group of paleolithic sites, 4.6 million items were discovered from the paleolithic group of 100 sites including: large and small points, large bifacially flaked tools, boat-shaped keeled scrapers, various types of blade and microblade cores, plus large amounts of refitted materials.

Along the Paleolithic path, let’s take a rough inventory of the lithic tools the Paleolithic hunters of Japan used and left behind:

35,000-21,000 years ago:

Pebble tools

Flake tools (made of sandstone, slate, chert, andesite and agate)

20,000 bp:

*Microblades in Hokkaido

24,000-22,000 years ago:

Knife-shaped tools (Backed tool made on a blade-flake)

-18,250 years ago:

Stone choppers

Edge ground stone axes

Projectile points (especially made of obsidian from Shinshu mountains of       Nagano prefecture and Kozu Island)

18,000-15,000 years ago:

Backed blades

Bifacial points

16,000 years ago:

Pebble tools disappear around 16,000 years ago

15,000 years ago:

*Microblades appear in Southern Japan (much later than the northern islands) and cores

14,000-13,000 years ago:

Many large stone axes

13,000-12,000 years ago:

Bifacial spear points (may have evolved into stemmed arrow points around this time)

Stone tool blades

Knife-shaped stone tools

Ground axes

Scrapers

Gravers

Flakes (chipped off rock to be used as knives or spears)

12,000-10,000 years ago:

Age ground axes “pecking tools” (Iwajuku)

Spear points

Arrowshaft smoother

5,000 years ago:

Arrowheads (for hunting)

Stemmed scrapers

Awls

Chipped stone axes (hoes for collecting yam and other plant roots)

Polished stone axes

Pebble tools

Stone mortars

Grinding stones (for processing nuts)

Net sinkers

Some of the richest archaeological finds have come from the 20 sites of the Lake Nojiri area that has yielded important tools including stone knife-blades, scrapers, gravers, blades and awls and a large number of bone tools such as ivory artifacts, bone points as well as used fragments of wood. Pictures of the Lake Nojiri excavation sites here.

In the area that is Tokushima today, people lived there from around 20,000 years ago. The prehistoric peoples who lived there made stone tools using Sanukite, a kind of volcanic rock transported from present-day Kagawa prefecture. Many such stone tools were recovered from 40 archaeological sites north of the Yoshino River and from the Hataeda Site in Anan City. Most of the tools were backed blades; those found on the northern side of the Yoshino River were made of Sanukite and those south of it were made of chert.

*Detailed research has produced convincing theory of how the microblade (aka pressure debitage blade) technology originated in a single center in Upper Palaeolithic Eurasia (by Palaeolithic hunters in Southern Siberian or Northern China) and having dispersed to Japan, via Hokkaido around 20,000bp (see The Emergence of Pressure Blade Making: From Origin to Modern Experimentation by Pierre M. Desrosiers which identified the microblade tradition as having spanned the Far North of America, Siberia, Northern China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan )

To see more images of 20,000 year old Japanese Paleolithic stone tools, click here and here.  See also this page for photos of flint tools, side-blow flakes, knife-shaped stone implements, stone arrowheads, earthenware from Kokubudai and Tambe pond in Kagawa prefecture.

***

References:

Asian Paleonanthropology: From Africa to China and beyond pp. 194 Trapezoidal edge-ground stone adzes have been found from Kyushu’s Tachikiri sites(on Tanegashima Island) all the way to Honshu Island (numbering over 50 sites). The Tachikiri stone stools (hence from the south) including trapezoidal stone tools, are the earliest lithics to appear in Japan.

Radiocarbon dates and archaeology of the Late Pleistocene in the Japanese islands by KUDO, Yuichiro et al. Daphne database. The Early Upper Paleolithic, characterized by Trapezoid industries, lasted during approximately 34-26 ka. The Late Upper Paleolithic period includes both the backed-blade stage and point-tool stage, the latter appearing chronologically later than the former. This stage covers ∼25-15 ka.

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