Japan’s First People: The Paleolithic People – History Brought Alive
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Japan’s First People: The Paleolithic People

Some archeologists believe the history of human habitation of the Japanese archipelago could date back as far as 100,000 years. However, as with most of human history from long ago, there’s not much in the way of tangible evidence. As we mentioned above, The Japanese archipelago would have made an attractive spot to early humans living on nearby islands or the mainland of Southeast Asia. So, it makes sense to assume human habitation of Japan goes back a long, long time. 

The study of Paleolithic Japan relies heavily on stratigraphy or the study of soil layers. The volcanoes of Japan are quite helpful to archeologists since eruptions would cover the soil of the island with levels of volcanic ash which are easy to detect and useful as a reference for establishing dates. 

The earliest human remains discovered in Japan were found in the Yamashita Caves in modern-day Okinawa. Archeologists found tools made of deer horns and bones along with the remains of a 7-year-old girl. Carbon dating revealed these to be around 32,000 years old, making them the first physical evidence we have of human habitation in the archipelago.

Around that time, there was an ice age which created lower sea levels. This in turn created land bridges that early settlers were able to walk across. One land bridge to the north connected the island of Sakhalin to Hokkaido. Another connected the Ryukyu Islands with Taiwan to the south. The lower sea levels also mean the Korea Strait was significantly narrower than it is today, making it another route ancient peoples may have used to reach Japan.

It is unclear whether or not the peoples who settled in Japan at this time are the ancestors of modern Japanese people. It is possible that they are, having assimilated with later groups that migrated here. It is equally likely that they died off and are not the ancestors of the modern Japanese. 

Whether they are a part of the lineage of the modern-day Japanese or not, it is worth noting they were responsible for the creation of some of the first ground and polished stone tools in the world, dating back to around 30,000 BCE. In most of the rest of the world, comparable tools would not be seen until around 10,000 BCE.

The most prevalent theory is that the earliest ancestors of modern Japanese people arrived in two waves of migration. The first migration is a group of people called the Jomon. The second group of people is known as the Yayoi. Let’s take a look at them now.

You can read more about Japan History in our book: https://www.amazon.com/Japanese-History-Magnificent-Mythology-Achievements-ebook/dp/B09WNHRR2L 

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