NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – A human skeleton thought to be the oldest in Japan has been found in a collapsed cave in Okinawa, a local museum said Friday, adding that it appears to be around 27,000 years old.
The nearly complete skeleton, dating from the Old Stone Age, appears to have been intentionally placed in the cave, providing the first evidence of a funerary rite dating from that period, according to the Okinawa Prefecture Archeological Center.
Previously, the oldest human bones discovered in Japan were a set dating from around 22,000 years ago that were found in the southern part of Okinawa Island.
The skeleton was discovered in Shirahosaonetabaru cave on Ishigaki Island during research at the site from 2010 to 2016.
“This is an important discovery that could mark a new chapter in the human history of Japan,” Kamenobu Kinjo, head of the center, said at a news conference.
The center said it appears bodies were not buried at the time because the skeleton was found on the ground face up.
More than 1,000 human fragments from at least 19 individuals have been unearthed at the site.
A human skeleton believed to be about 27,000 years old is displayed at a cultural facility in the town of Nishihara in Okinawa on Friday. | KYODO