Fraudulent archaeology (editorial)
How far back can we trace our ancestors? For how long have humans inhabited the Japanese archipelago?
Many scholars and researchers have poured their heart and soul into efforts to answer archaeology's grand questions. Shinichi Fujimura, the deputy director of the Tohoku Paleolithic Institute, was one such researcher. And for many years, he had enjoyed the limelight for his role in discoveries that suggested that an Early Paleolithic culture dating back some 600,000 to 700,000 years had existed in Japan.
But Fujimura admitted on Sunday that he had planted pieces of stoneware at the Kamitakamori ruins in Tsukidate, Miyagi Prefecture, and at the Soshin Fudozaka ruins in Shintotsukawa, Hokkaido Prefecture.
Fujimura's admission of fraud has dealt the field of archaeology a major blow. Fujimura has attributed his actions to his being "possessed by the devil" and "under pressure." However, his attempts to fabricate the historical record cannot be tolerated.
Fujimura is a self-taught archaeologist who has made important discoveries of Paleolithic Era ruins over the past 28 years. In addition to finding stoneware that proved Japan had been home to a Paleolithic Era culture dating back more than 30,000 years, he has had a hand in most of the discoveries of stoneware artifacts dated to the Early Paleolithic Era. Fujimura had a knack for discovering Paleolithic Era stoneware. The discoveries that he made had pushed back the date of Japan's oldest known ruins so often that he was considered to have "God's hands." Some high school history texts had begun referring to some of his most important discoveries.
Fujimura has only admitted to planting pieces of stoneware at the Kamitakamori ruins and the Soshin Fudozaka ruins. However, his unethical behavior also casts doubt on the reliability of his earlier discoveries. It is only natural that all of his work now be subjected to a thorough re-examination. We hope that Fujimura summons up his goodwill and pride as a researcher to come clean on all of his misdeeds. His revelations could necessitate a rethinking of the scholarship on the Paleolithic Era and a rewriting of early Japanese history.
An effort should also be made to determine why scholars and experts were not able to see through his fabrications. In addition to scrutinizing Fujimura's record of discoveries, archaeologists also need to consider new methods for confirming new findings.
Unfortunately, Fujimura's fraud could dampen the passions of young researchers and students who do not have official positions in the field of archaeology. Over the years, amateur archaeologists have made many important contributions to the field.
For example, an amateur played a central role in overturning the conventional view that humans did not inhabit the Japanese archipelago during the Paleolithic Era after helping to discover stoneware artifacts in a stratum of soil about 25,000 years old in Gumma Prefecture.
Fujimura was revered by students in his field. Archaeology is an appealing discipline that has an aura of adventure. Fujimura has a responsibility to explain himself fully so that he does not completely shatter the hopes of aspiring archaeologists.
From the Mainichi Shimbun, Nov. 6, 2000