Oldest Okinawan earthenware found in Sakitari Cave in Nanjo City

Oldest Okinawan earthenware found in Sakitari Cave in Nanjo City

Pieces of earthenware with the Oshibiki pattern dating back 8,000 years (upper side). In Sakitari Cave in Nanjo City in the morning of November 21.

November 22, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

A representative of the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum announced on November 21 that the oldest piece of Okinawan earthenware discovered to date has been found in the Sakitari Cave in Nanjo City. Carbon dating has identified it as a piece with the Oshibiki pattern from about 8,000 years ago, making it from the Initial Jomon Period. This is the first time that researchers have found earthenware with the Oshibiki pattern in Okinawa. People involved commented that the discovery could reveal prehistoric life in Okinawa.

Previously, the oldest earthenware found in Okinawa was that featuring the Mu and Natotsumegata patterns, which date back 6,000 to 7,000 years. This latest discovery has confirmed the use of earthenware in Okinawa 1,000 years earlier again.

Sakitari Cave

Researchers are now digging in the layer under where they found the earthenware, so it is possible that they could find even older pieces.

According to the museum, the researchers unearthed the earthenware under the layer where they found an item dating back 5,000 years. They found about 200 pieces making up the body of a piece of earthenware. The museum was able to restore the pieces into the form of a pot about 30 centimeters long. It has the Oshibiki pattern, which is created by pushing with spatula-like tools with both a soft and strong touch.

The researchers established the age from two snail shells found at the same layer. Different institutions analyzed them and decided that the earthenware dates back 8,000 years.

Excavation in the Sakitari Cave, which began in 2009, found human remains and stone artifacts dating back about 12,000 years.

In the neighboring town of Yaese, researchers unearthed remains of the Minatogawa people, prehistoric people of Okinawa dating back about 18,000 years. Since that discovery, they had not found any evidence of prehistoric life such as human remains and tools. This latest finding has attracted interest because it could reveal aspects of prehistoric life in Okinawa, about which there is little information. The museum will make the items available for viewing on November 24.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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