Shinichi Fujimura by age 50, had established himself as a leading archaeologist in Japan. His career, however, only began as a hobby interest. One of his first jobs was working at a manufacturing company where he developed an interest in Japan’s early history. He taught himself archaeology and began searching for early Japanese artefacts. It was not long before he was bringing the attention of world archaeologists through his spectacular finds.
Japan’s Oldest Stoneware
Fujimura’s first significant discovery occurred in 1981 when he located stoneware that dated back more than 10,000 years. It was said to be the oldest stoneware ever found in Japan. This discovery rocketed his career and his reputation soared. During the subsequent years, he worked on over 150 archaeological sites around Japan, managing to consistently discover increasingly older artefacts that pushed back the limits of Japan’s known history. His apparent skill at finding Japan’s ancient relics was so great that he became known as the archaeologist with ‘divine hands’.
Japanese Love of Archaeology
Archaeology is fashionable in Japan and Fujimura’s career was maintained by the popularity of his trendy science. Japanese bookshops devote entire sections to the new Stone Age Japan and archaeological discoveries regularly make the front pages of newspapers.
In recent times Fujimura had been excavating an historic site near the town of Tsukidate, about 186 miles northeast of Tokyo. Numerous important finds had already been made and work at the digging site had been going on for some time. The town was enjoying the tourism trade that an archaeological site attracts in Japan. It had even developed a unique signature drink, called Early Man.
The Oldest in the World
Fujimura and his archaeological team announced the unearthing of a collection of stone pieces that they thought to be the work of very ancient people. They also located several holes that they theorised had once held pillars or columns that supported early dwellings. On October 22, 2000 Fujimura claimed that the stones and the holes were over 600,000 years old, making them one of the oldest relics of human habitation in the world. The discovery drew international attention and immediate fame for Fujimura.
Fujimura was Snapped
However, only two weeks later, Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper published three photos on its front page showing Fujimura digging holes at the site and burying the artefacts that he later dug up and had announced as significant discoveries. The artefacts were said, by Fujimura, to be Stone Age lithic items that had been modified by humans for scraping or cutting purposes. The newspaper’s reporter had taken the pictures covertly and did not publish them until it confirmed with Fujimura that he had dug the so-called pillar holes and buried the lithic artefacts himself.
Fujimura, at a later press conference, confessed that he had planted the artefacts and had faked many other discoveries. His shame was obvious as he kept his head bowed low during the conference saying that he wanted to be known as the archaeologist who discovered the oldest stoneware in Japan.
Fujimura also said that he had planted 27 pieces found at another important site. He also admitted that he had falsely lodged all 29 artefacts found at the Soshinfudozaka site earlier in the year. Naturally, suspicion was then cast over all of the archaeological sites that he had worked on in Japan.
News Shocked Academic Japan
Japan was shocked by these revelations and none were more furious than Fujimura’s own colleagues. The reason that Fujimura could get away with this hoax for so long was deeply embedded in the difficulty of dating lithic objects. Radiocarbon dating is only possible on organic items and uranium/lead and potassium/argon dating techniques regularly show defective results. It was concluded that Fujimura’s own self-made reputation had enabled him to fabricate his hoax and succeed with such flimsy evidence.
It was no surprise that Fujimura was dismissed from his scientific position and this sent Japanese publishing companies to reprint their archaeological texts omitting any reference to Fujimura.
This was the first time that Japan had been fooled by such an extensive hoax but it was not the first time they had been deceived. Nobuo Naora, an amateur archaeologist, duped the archaeological establishment in 1931 by producing ‘missing link’ evidence in the form of a primitive hipbone. However, it was only another clever hoax.