SENDAI – The head of the Tohoku Paleolithic Institute apologized Monday to officials of the town of Tsukidate, Miyagi Prefecture, after one of the institute’s senior researchers admitted planting artifacts at an archaeological site located in the town.
Toshiaki Kamata explained the series of events leading up to Sunday’s admission by Senior Director Shinichi Fujimura, 50, that he fabricated the discovery of stoneware at the Kamitakamori ruins — initially thought to be more than 600,000 years old — by burying the artifacts himself.
Fujimura, who said he was compelled to fabricate findings as he felt pressure to make a discovery to put him in the history books, was formally expelled from the institute, Kamata said Monday.
“While they were the actions of an individual, we feel responsible as an organization,” Kamata said tearfully to Deputy Mayor Kiyohiko Sato.
Sato responded that the incident was very regrettable and that the town would like to believe Fujimura when he said there were no other planted artifacts at the ruins.
Sato added that he would like the institute, which consists of archaeologists belonging to private organizations, to study the Kamitakamori findings and prove that the other finds are authentic.
The town has been giving the research institute 500,000 yen per year since 1998 to help subsidize the dig. Town officials said the next installment of this grant, due Friday, would be suspended.
Meanwhile, Hiroshi Kajiwara, an institute director, made a similar visit to Obanazawa, Yamagata Prefecture, where the disgraced Fujimura led the excavations of the Sodehara ruins in the city.
In Tokyo on Monday, Education Minister Tadamori Oshima said he plans to have officials of the Cultural Affairs Agency investigate the case and ensure discoveries at nearly 160 other ruins made by Fujimura are authentic.
“I will consult with the Cultural Affairs Agency on the investigations. If we clarify the facts, Mr. Fujimura’s genuine achievements will not be ruined,” Oshima said.
The minister also expressed concern about descriptions in high school textbooks that Japan’s oldest stoneware was unearthed at the Kamitakamori ruins based on findings involving the archaeologist.
Miyagi prefectural officials also said they would launch investigations into the case for possible violation of the law promoting the activities of nonprofit organizations.
Fujimura was a founding member of the institute. , which obtained the nonprofit organization status from Miyagi Prefecture in August.
A research team led by Fujimura announced Oct. 27 that it had discovered eight stoneware pieces that experts believed were the oldest in Japan from a layer of earth more than 600,000 years old in the Kamitakamori ruins.
The team’s archaeologists said the stoneware dated back to the early Paleolithic period, as early humans such as Peking man lived in caves. However, they were actually objects from the mid- to late Paleolithic period planted in the layer by Fujimura on Oct. 22.
He also confessed to burying all 29 stoneware pieces that were unearthed in the Soshin Fudozaka ruins in Shintotsukawa, Hokkaido, but denied tampering with excavations at other ruins, including the Ogasaka ruins and the Sodehara ruins in Yamagata Prefecture.
Town reels on news
SENDAI (Kyodo) The town of Tsukidate, Miyagi Prefecture, was reeling at the news Sunday that at least some of the artifacts unearthed at its Kamitakamori ruins are not authentic.
The revelation could dent the town’s efforts to promote itself as a tourist attraction on the strength of its archaeological treasures.
Town officials carry business cards with the catchphrase: “The town with the same skies viewed by early man.” One town staffer expressed concern of the impact of the fabrication news, wondering about the town’s future.
Officials at the local chamber of commerce and industry also fretted, noting that many of the town’s souvenirs used the ruins as a motif, and said there might be a decline in sales.
Shotaro Nakajyo, president of a liquor shop in the town that sells sake with the label Takamori Genjin (Early Man), was deflated.
“It’s so shocking, especially because we were so proud of the ruins,” he said.