Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Fukushima archeology dig brings up trove of ancient graves, homes in same space

A group is seen being shown around the Maeda site and its findings, in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 14, 2020. (Mainichi/Rikka Teramachi)

KAWAMATA, Fukushima -- An excavation site in this east Japan town with artifacts found dating back to the late Jomon period (about 3,500 years ago) attracted a number of archeology fans on Nov. 14 when it opened to the general public for an explanatory workshop.

    Inspections of the Maeda archeological site this fiscal year have brought up a trove of discoveries, including more than 40 human remains and their graves as well as some 140 wooden pillars or the holes where they stood.

    Located on a hill about 3 kilometers southeast of the center of town, the Maeda site has been undergoing inspections since fiscal 2018 as part of efforts coinciding with improvement works to National Route 114. The project, undertaken by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education, had up until fiscal 2019 dug up ceramic and lacquer works.

    Among the fiscal 2020 discoveries are pit graves from the late Jomon period, in which the remains of more than 40 people were buried with their limbs bent in the "kusso" method, or flexed burial. The remains of children interred in pots were also found.

    Discoveries of human remains in inland areas are rare, and as the find was well preserved, the board says it intends to carry out DNA checks on the buried. Among the other confirmed findings were ruins of pit dwellings with indoor fireplaces dating to the mid-Jomon period (around 4,500 years ago), and some 140 huge wooden pillars with diameters of around 60 centimeters, which date to the last years of the Jomon period (about 2,700 years ago). The educational board said it's not yet known what the pillars were used for.

    Hideyuki Yoshida, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Cultural Promotion Foundation's research division, and the person in charge of the work at the site, said, "When thinking about Jomon era culture, this is a hugely important find. Why did we find graves and residences in the same place along with multiple layers of pillars? Why were the bodies so well preserved despite being buried in an inland area? There are many things we still don't know, and I want us to keep looking into the site."

    (Japanese original by Rikka Teramachi, Fukushima Bureau)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media