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30 March 2004
Dolphin fishing site discovered

Archaeologists have unearthed bones that show that dolphins were being fished for between 6500 BCE and 7500 BCE off the coast of what is now the Chiba Prefecture (Japan). The excavation site, near Okinoshima in Tateyama, dates from the early Jomon period (ca 10000 BCE to ca 300 BCE). Although only 20 square meters in extent the site has also yielded artefacts and clues about the natural environment of 8,000 years ago, when the climate was gradually warming after the last Ice Age.
     The bones, apparently from a full-grown dolphin some 2.5 meters in length, were mingled with stone implements used for stripping bones and skin, earthenware and an obsidian arrowhead. According to team leader Professor Seiichi Yanagisawa, from Chiba University’s faculty of letters: “There is what looks like an underwater valley in Tateyama Bay which Jomon fishermen probably used to corner dolphins before catching them. The bones we dug up probably belonged to a dolphin that had been cut up after being caught in that way.” The remains of a fire were also discovered at the site.
     Excavation of coastal sites from the early Jomon period is rare because most were submerged by rising sea levels. But the area of Tateyama Bay around Okinoshima, which used to be an island, was joined to the mainland by the Genroku Kanto Earthquake of 1703 CE and the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 CE. “There are lots of Jomon remains around Tateyama because ground that used to be below sea level is now above sea level,” says Professor Tozo Okamoto, also of Chiba University, who has investigated a separate site some two kilometers to the southeast.
     Excavation work was carried out jointly by the Awa Museum in Tateyama and the archaeology department of Chiba University in 2003. Researchers are planning a second dig in the autumn of 2004, to add to the material and data discovered so far.

Source: Daily Yomiuri (30 March 2004)

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