The University of Arizona

Paleoenvironment of Medieval Archaeological Sites in Central Japan: Assemblage Analysis and 14C Dating of Insect Fossils

E Okuno, Y Mori, T Nakamura


This study aimed to investigate the paleoenvironment of 2 Medieval archaeological sites, Onigashioya and Ooke, in central Japan, by assemblage analyses of insect fossils preserved in sediments at the sites. In the Onigashioya site located in Mie Prefecture, the sclerites of insect fossils classified as the "village" type were detected, which indicates that human activities, and in particular farming, were taking place there. Rice paddies and fields existed near the site, which explains why many insects harmful to rice plants and crops were detected in the area. The radiocarbon date for sclerite remains of Hydrophilus acuminatus, an aquatic beetle that live in rice paddy fields, was calibrated to be cal AD 1010-1155. Analysis of sclerite remains of Craspedonotus tibialis, a ground beetle that typically inhabits seashore environments, resulted in a date of cal AD 1020-1155. This finding suggests that human settlements existed in the seaside areas of the Onigashioya site in the 11th century AD. In the Ooke site located in Aichi Prefecture, "insect pits" were found, which are structural remains containing a large number of Anomala rufocuprea, an insect that preys on field crops. Farmers would have gathered the insects from the fields and buried the dead remains in the pits. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dates on sclerite remains of A. rufocuprea ranged from cal AD 1264 to 1385. It should be noted that fruit trees and vegetable crops were planted widely around the site in the 13th century AD. As the result, A. rufocuprea propagated greatly around the site in that period. It is probable that many insects harmful to field crops multiplied largely in this region due to the development of local woods and plains into farming fields. This type of development occurred throughout Japan during the Medieval period.

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