Tokyo--A Japanese archaeologist has stunned colleagues by admitting that he planted primitive stone tools at a dig so his team could get credit for discovering the oldest stone artifacts in Japan.
On 23 October, researchers led by Shinichi Fujimura, deputy director of the private Tohoku Paleolithic Cultural Research Institute, announced that this summer and fall they had found rings of postholes and stone tool cache pits at a site in Kamitakamori, at the northern end of Honshu, Japan's main island. Volcanic ash located above the finds was dated to 570,000 years ago by paleomagnetic and thermoluminescent dating, making the structures and the tools among the oldest ever found in Japan. Fujimura, 50, is an amateur whose ability to consistently come up with important artifacts made him famous but also aroused suspicions.
Fujimura's downfall came on 5 November, when the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported that it had secretly caught Fujimura on video burying artifacts at the site earlier in October. At a press conference later that day, Fujimura admitted burying 61 of the 65 artifacts found at Kamitakamori and all 29 stone tools found earlier this year at Soshin Fudozaka, a site in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island. He says that these were the only times he had ever planted artifacts. Toshiaki Kamata, director of the institute, said other members of the team were unaware of the fraud, and that the rings from the postholes and four of the artifacts are genuine.
"At this point, I think we have to be pretty suspicious" about claims for the Kamitakamori site, says Peter Bleed, a professor of anthropology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, now on leave as a guest professor at Tohoku University Museum in Sendai. Bleed, who is familiar with the site and the researchers, says he had been touting the importance of the site to colleagues. Now, "many of us are looking silly," he says.