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The Beginning of Tool Making in the Paleolithic Era

"The Beginning of Tool Making in the Paleolithic Era"

Heiseikan Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 2, 2021 (Tue) - September 5, 2021 (Sun)

  
Microblades, Found at Oketo Azumi Site, Hokkaidō, Paleolithic period, 18000 BC (Gift of Mr. Matsudaira Yoshito)

People first settled in Japan about 40,000 years ago, marking the beginning of the Paleolithic era, which continued until pottery was first created approximately 13,000 years ago. This era coincided with an ice age during which Japan was still connected to the Asian continent via land bridges and inhabited by large mammals such as mammoths. People led nomadic lives and made tools from stone and animal bone, using them to hunt and forage.

This section explores how Paleolithic tools changed over time through common examples: trapezoids with cutting edges, knives, spearheads, and miniature blades for making composite tools such as harpoons. Generally, Paleolithic tools were made by chipping stone into the desired shapes, while polished stone tools first appeared in the following Neolithic era. Japan’s Paleolithic era, however, is characterized by the use of stone axe heads with partially-polished blades.

The most common material for tools was obsidian, a type of volcanic glass found in abundance across most of Japan. The sedimentary rock siliceous shale was used in northeastern Japan, where obsidian was scarce, while the volcanic rock sanukite was used in the Kinki region and around the Seto Inland Sea. All of these materials were suitable for making tools because they were relatively hard and fine-grained, allowing sharp edges to be formed by chipping.

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 9 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
Raw Material (Obsidian) for Stone Tools Excavated at Shirataki, Engaru-cho, Hokkaido Paleolithic period, 18000 BC Gift of Mr. Matsudaira Yoshito, J-39521-7
_MD_RECOMMEND Projectile Point in the Shape of a Spearhead Found in Tsurugashima City, Saitama Paleolithic period, 18000 BC J-8946
_MD_RECOMMEND Polished Stone Axes From Kannoki Site, Shinano-machi, Nagano Paleolithic period, 35000 BC Lent by Nagano Prefectural Museum of History, Nagano
_MD_RECOMMEND Backed Blades From Kannoki Site, Shinano-machi, Nagano Paleolithic period, 35000 BC Lent by Nagano Prefectural Museum of History, Nagano
_MD_RECOMMEND Microblades Found at Oketo Azumi Site, Hokkaidō Paleolithic period, 18000 BC Gift of Mr. Matsudaira Yoshito, J-39524-1
Projectile Point Found at Shimo-shanafuchi Site, Hokkaidō Paleolithic period, 18,000 BC Gift of Mr. Matsudaira Yoshito, J-39519-1
Gravers Excavated from Araya site, Nagaoka-shi, Niigata Paleolithic period, 16000 BC Gift of Mr. Hoshino Ryo, J-38449-1
_MD_RECOMMEND Projectile Point in the Shape of a Spearhead Found in Akishima City, Tokyo Jōmon period, 11000-7000 BC Private collection
_MD_RECOMMEND Stemmed Projectile Point Found in Tokorozawa City, Saitama Jōmon period, 11000–7000 BC J-23432
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