| 9 November 2005
Database to record Jomon artifacts is being compiled
They are an archaeologist's dream come true, and a telling glimpse into prehistoric life. But the ancient Sannai-Maruyama ruins are providing so many relics that researchers are having trouble storing them.
Researchers have been excavating the Jomon pottery culture (c. 8000 BCE-300 BCE) site since 1992. Items unearthed include clay pots and ornaments, stone tools and other remnants of what are thought to be huge pit-dwellings. They are presently stored in 23,500 plastic cases at eight facilities in Aomori city and Rokkasho village.
But while the perfect lines of stacked boxes that fill the prefabricated storage facilities may look organized, local officials say that is far from the truth. Even though the dig is now in its second decade, no database exists. Not one of the items can be easily located. Researchers must rely on memory when they need to pinpoint a particular item. There are no lists, inventories or anything. The Aomori Prefecture Museum stores and displays 1,958 items that were designated in 2003 as important cultural property, but all other artifacts are kept in the warehouses.
Museum staff complain that locating certain pieces is time-consuming and jeopardizing the academic side of the project. Most of the items were excavated between 1992 and 1994. Because of the sheer volume, researchers felt their priority should be on preserving the artifacts. Thus, little thought was given to keeping a detailed record of the finds. But that is about to change.
When the education board started making inquiries about items it needed to photograph for its annual Sannai-Maruyama report, it was told quite simply that there was no guarantee the pieces could be found in time. The board's fiscal 2006 report that is now being prepared focuses on the South Mound, which proved especially fruitful. When museum staff said they could not be sure they would find all the pieces needed for the report, the Aomori prefectural government set aside a portion of its fiscal 2005 budget to set up a database project, which was tendered to NTT East Corp. for 1.85 million yen.
By the end of the year, officials say, all of the treasures will be recorded on a searchable database. "The database will allow us to easily draw up a plan for research and share information even after those in charge of each project have moved on," says Takashi Saito, a cultural properties protection official.
Source: Asahi.com, IHT (8 November 2005)
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