Entrance to the Izuruha Cave, Hinokage Town, Miyazaki (Photo: Miyazaki Tourist Information)
Surviving the cold and the elements was a daily concern for the Paleolithic people. To see an example of where the Paleolithic lived and took shelter, see the Izuruha cave. In 1965-66 an archaeological excavation was carried out at this site. From the second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth layers of this excavation, remains from the Jomon and Pre-ceramic periods were revealed. Stone tools used some 20,000 years ago were found found in the eighth layer.
What do you think it was like living in a cave? Cold and damp? Dark but cozy? Why do you think the inhabitants chose this cave?
The Izuruha Cave (Takachiho town, Miyazaki prefecture) lies in a mountain range at an altitude of 920 metres. The well-lit sunny entrance to the cave faces southward towards a stream which empties into the Hinokage River.
Paleolithic homes and sites (dating back to the later part of the Upper Paleolithic period) were also newly discovered in northern part of the Musashino plateau in the center of the Kanto plain.
A study showed that the sites are situated near water resources such as creeks and spring water sources. The sites surveyed are known to be a known to be in a region where water resources are scarce. Archaeologists found that large sites were located where water supply was abundant. Many large sites associated with water resources were also discovered in the southern Musashino plateau, where there are many rivers, springs, and abundant subsurface aquifers in this region. Hence we need to remember how important living near a water source was for the survival of the Paleolithic people and for their hunting strategy and ranging behavior.
How to pick a Stone Age home
- Search for a cave or rockshelter.
- Make sure it’s in a sunny position.
- It should be south or southeast facing.
- It should be on high ground so that your family can see large game animals coming.
- A cliff or ravine nearby would be helpful, so you can chase the animals over the cliff and then scavenge the dead or injured animals for food.
- A streamside slope is a good choice, if not, make sure it is near some kind of water source.
To look at the artefacts from the Izuruha Cave and other Paleolithic sites, take a field trip visit to Takachiho History and Folklore Museum. Access: Mitai 1515, Takachiho, Miyazaki, 882-1101. Tel. (0982)72-6139. Fax (0982) 72-6140.
The number of excavated prehistoric cave dwelling sites are not many in Japan, but the use of mountain caves as temporary hunting campsites have been known – one notable example being the Yukura cave in Nagano prefecture, which was used from the Earliest Jomon times through to the modern period. Many stone artefacts were found in from it, including arrowheads and scrapers, and some 350 Yayoi period arrows. To see the Yukura cave exhibits, visit the Takayama Village History and Folk Custom Museum
Sources and references:
Takachiho Community Center | Takachiho History & Folklore Museum webpage has information on the Izuruha Cave and the relics found in it.
Ryuzaburou Takahashi, Symbiotic Relations between Paddy-Field Rice Cultivators and Hunter-Gatherer-Fishers in Japanese Prehistory: Archaeological Considerations of the Transition from the Jomon Age to the Yayoi Age, SENRI ETHNOLOGICAL STUDIES 73: 71-98 ©2009 Interactions between Hunter-Gatherers and Farmers: from Prehistory to Present, ed. K. Ikeya, H. Ogawa and P. Mitchell
“The Early Palaeolithic Tradition of East Asia” by Fumiko Ikawa-Smith, “Early Paleolithic in South and East Asia” ed. Fumiko Ikawa-Smith