Kikonai (Japon): Painted stone finding gives clues to ancient spiritual culture

Fumiko Yoshigaki

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KikonaiA stone piece bearing the painting of a human face and found in Kikonai, Hokkaido (Yoshinori Toyomane)

Kikonai2The first piece of stone painted with a human face dating from the Jomon Pottery Culture (c. 8000 B.C.-300 B.C.) has been found here and hailed as a very important discovery.

The find is extremely precious in that it could help ascertain what the spiritual culture in the mid-Jomon period was like,” said Yasushi Kosugi, a Jomon culture professor at Hokkaido University.

The Hokkaido Archaeological Operations Center said Nov. 29 that the stone fragment from the latter half of the mid-Jomon period (4,300 years ago) was unearthed on Oct. 19 from 50 centimeters beneath the ground where a pit house used to stand.

The discovery location is part of the Koren five archaeological sites in Kikonai.

Measuring 12 to 13 cm per side and 1.4 cm thick, the stone, flattened with a whetstone or other tools, is shaped like an inverted triangle.

While a horizontal line is drawn near the top side with a black pigment, an ellipse that apparently represents an eye and lines forming eyebrows and the nose are also painted on it.

Although how the stone piece was actually used remains unclear, experts said the object may have been used for religious services and other purposes in ancient times.

A painting of a human body drawn with pigments at the lower part of the earthenware unearthed at the Todonomiya archaeological site in Nagano Prefecture is known to have been made during the Jomon Pottery Culture, but no face drawings have previously been found across Japan, according to center officials.