This Old House
March 24, 2000
by Angela M.H. Schuster
Remains of what are believed to be the world's oldest man-made structures have been found on a hillside at Chichibu, just north of Tokyo, according to Japanese archaeologist Kazutaka Shimada, curator of the Meiji University Museum in Tokyo. Shimada reported his findings in the March 4 edition of The New Scientist.
Discovered during construction of a park, the site has been potassium-argon dated to 500,000 years ago. It consists of what appear to be ten post holes, which form two irregular pentagons thought to be the remains of two huts. A total of 30 stone implements were found around the site, seven of which were discovered within the pentagons themselves. "Most of them are crude cutting instruments made of chert and shale," says Shimada, "and have clearly been worked."
If confirmed. the dates of the structures are contemporary with Homo erectus, which flourished in Asia from ca. 1.8 million to possibly as little as 50,000 years ago.
Before the discovery, the oldest-known structural remains had been found at two sites near Nice, France--those of a 380,000 to 450,000-year-old wooden hut containing a hearth at Terra Amata and a 400,000 to 500,000-year-old tentlike structure in a cave known as Grotte du Lazaret.
© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America