Did Japanese Population Originate with this Paleolithic (Minatogawa) Man?

The recent scientific report published in Nature has concluded that the Japanese are likely to have originated from the Minatogawa people that belonged to the Palaeolithic era. Well, they came to this consensus based on the study of a 20,000-year-old human named Minatogawa 1. This human was discovered in Okinawa in a limestone quarry in 1970.

Replica of the Minatogawa man’s skeleton

The Origins of Modern Human Population in Japan

According to paleoanthropologists, modern human beings moved to the east from Africa and then into China in around 50,000 BC. Interestingly, as per belief, the first humans in Japan came from Southeast Asia. As per archaeological evidence, people arrived in Japan first in the late Pleistocene. This happened around 40,000 or 30,000 years ago.

The news on human history in Japan says that today’s Japanese people have come from two different migrants. These two groups were the Jomon people between 14,500 BC and 1,000 BC, and the farmers from Northeast Asia called the Yayoi. They found this based on the kind of pottery excavated.

Skull of a Jomon migrant in Japan.

Discovery of the Minatogawa

An archaeologist named Seiho Oyama, in the late 1960s, bought some purchased stone blocks. In these stones, he found some fossil traces. This got him interested in the Minatogawa quarry in Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands. He had bought these stones from this pace only. In 1968 the traces of human remains was informed to a University in Tokyo by professor Oyama. This professor then excavated the site till the year 1974.

At the sit on digging, they found traces of fissures. They also found pieces of bones of about 5-9 skeletons. These skeletons found were named the Minatogawa people. Hisashi Suzuki, the Tokyo University professor who was leading the excavations, stated that these humans must have been killed by arrows or spears and then cannibalized.

It was then concluded based on the evidence found that the males must have been around 5 feet tall and the women about 4.6 feet tall. They also further stated that they must have been narrow-shouldered with a grounded lower-body skeletal build. Thus they could have been good runners.

The skeleton that was found at the quarry was named Minatogawa 1. In fact, its replica is created and showcased at the Tokyo University Anthropology Museum for people to see.

Until the discovery of Minatogawa 1, Japanese archaeology had found no traces of any skeleton or fossil remains. Thus this discovery drew all the attention. Usually, no archeological remains are found because the soil is acidic made of volcanic ash creates an environment that does not foster preserving of the old biomolecules. This was clarified by the report published by Nature.

The 20,000-year-old remains that have been excavated at the Okinawa quarry are one of the few Palaeolithic humans that have been found in Japan, as reported by Archaeology News Network.

Reconstruction on the display of a Minatogawa man in Japan.

Science showcases New Links to justify the Origins of the Japanese Population.

Do you think the Minatogawa people were the ancestors of the Jomon? Did the Minatogawa people all die? Or they happened to just move to some other place?

Since there is no full-proof evidence to justify and confirm the connection to the modern-day Japanese people, Archaeology News Network concluded the archeological findings and their connection to the Japanese people could not be established on the basis of the facial skeleton of the Minatogawa people. Then later, a group of researchers from universities like the Graduate University for Advanced Studies and Toho University came together to study mitochondrial DNA.

Minatogawa 1 soon was the main area of study as the team had discovered a mitogenome sequence. They were of the thought that the ancestral line of the modern Japanese population could be pushed further back than the Jomon.

The study of Minatogawa 1’s DNA found some common elements between the Jomon, the Yayoi, and modern Japanese people.

This means that the people of Japan are most likely to have an ancestral relationship with the Minatogawa people. However, this is not completely proved yet, and for the same archeologists will yet have to investigate and study deeper into this matter.




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