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Over 150 stone tools dating back 36,000 years found in west Japan historic ruins

This Sept. 17, 2020 photo shows fragments of stone tools dating back to the Upper Paleolithic Period, which were found at the Ueno ruins in the western Japan city of Kyotango, Kyoto Prefecture. Obsidian rocks from the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture are pictured on the right. (Mainichi/Kazuo Matsuno)

KYOTANGO, Kyoto -- A total of 152 primitive stone tools or their fragments dating back around 36,000 years have been found at the Ueno ruins in this western Japan city, the Kyoto Prefecture Research Center for Archaeological Properties announced on Sept. 17.

    The Ueno ruins are located in the city of Kyotango, which lies on the northern tip of the Sea of Japan side of Kyoto Prefecture. The pieces are thought to be from the early Upper Paleolithic Period, between 40,000 and 16,000 years ago. It was revealed that five of the discovered fragments are obsidian rocks from the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture. Stone tools incorporating obsidian rocks from the Oki Islands that date to the late Stone Age have also been found in Shimane and Okayama Prefectures in western Japan, but the discovery at the Ueno ruins is said to be the easternmost that items from the period have been found in the country.

    According to the research center, the stone tools and fragments were excavated from three locations in stratum situated between geological layers of volcanic ash from around 60,000 to 30,000 years ago. The time periods were estimated based on stone tools of the same type which were found in the same stratum in different regions. The pieces dug up in the Ueno ruins are believed to be from the same period that the human ancestors of the Japanese people appeared on the Japanese archipelago for the first time, and appear to be among the oldest stone tools from the late Stone Age found in the country.

    Of the 152 pieces, about 10 were stone tools with diameters of 2 to 5 centimeters that had retained their original forms, and were shaped as if they had been attached to the ends of spears and arrows. Most of the remaining pieces were chipped stone fragments of a diameter of 1 cm or less.

    A representative of the research center explained, "Any pieces that were broken or shaved off during work using stone tools, and fragments that were produced when cleaning them, may have been disposed of altogether."

    The representative also said that the ruins site is thought to have been a temporary camping spot for people on the move to hunt food, as few stone tools were found at the site.

    (Japanese original by Kazuo Matsuno, Miyazu Resident Bureau)

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