Journal of the Anthropological Society of Nippon
Online ISSN : 1884-765X
Print ISSN : 0003-5505
ISSN-L : 0003-5505
Ainu Skeletons Excavated at the Northern End of Honshu, Japan
Author information

1951 Volume 62 Issue 1 Pages 1-10


In the summer of 1950, seven skeletons were sent to me by the benediction of Mr. T. OTOKITA, Hachinohe City, which were excavated incidentally in 1944 at
Same-town near Hachinohe City, Aomori Pref. and then were buried in a templeyard in the neighbourhood.
While the skeletons were discovered at a site of prehistoric Jomon period (shellmounds), only one skeleton out of the seven is a male adult of prehistoric age, the other six skeletons (three female adults and three infants) are presumed to be those of modern age from the differences in the state of their preservation (petrification). Judging from the wooden Japanese bowl which was discovered with. one of the modern skeletons, the latter ones are estimated to belong to the 16-17 th Century, perhaps the beginning of the Tokugawa era.
The physical characteristics of the first skeleton is not only distinct in general, but also even in the morphological specialities resembles the recent Hokkaido Ainu, such as the skull with long and low head, with strongly developed upper and lower jaws and the flat limb-bones and so on. The second one is a little different from the first and it is hardly said to be a typical Ainu, but it is believed that the physical characteristics in general fall within the variations of the Ainu.
Though the skull of the third one is mostly missing, it is generally very similar to the first one.
When the first and second skeletons are compared on trial with those of the present Ainu kept at the Tokyo University (No. 1436 and No. 1459), the skeletons coincide with each other, especially in the form of the skulls (Fig. 3). Therefore, the skeletons of Same-site are regareded as the Ainu.
According to documents in Tokugawa era, the Ainu dwelt in the northern end of Honshu, chiefly in Tsugaru and Shimokita Peninsulas of Aomori Pref. in 16 th. or 17 th. Century, but they assimilated with the Japanese in the middle of 18 th. Century.
The skeletons discovered at Same-site must probably have belonged to the Ainu community which appeares in the mentioned records. It has been generally believed that the Ainu were gradually driven from Honshu northward up to Hokkaido and that those who were mentioned in our modern history are those Ainu who had been left behind in the north end of Honshu. If it is true, in the light of the fact that those Ainu on the documents and theAinu skeletons just described are very similar to the present Hokkaido Ainu, much more skeletons of just like
Ainu should be found among the human bones from sites of various periods and parts of Honshu. As it is, such kind of bones have not been excavated yet, it may be concluded that the racial border-line between the Japanese and the Ainu existed in Tsugaru Strait from very old times.

Information related to the author
© The Anthropological Society of Nippon
Next article