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Scientific Direction: Dr. Daniele Petrella, Ph.D.
Starting year: 2022

Tsushima, an island in the middle of the Sea of Japan (East Sea) just 47 km from the Korean coast, has been a crossroads of cultures over the millennia, making it a place of primary importance for those studying the history of Japan, from prehistory to the modern era.

It is precisely there that IRIAE is conducting excavations and archaeological investigations aimed at reconstructing the history of an area that, precisely because of its centrality, has played a fundamental role in the events linked to Japan and the countries bordering its straits.

At the present stage, the Tsushima Project is conducting archaeological investigations (terrestrial and underwater) on a site whose proper interpretation can provide fundamental information on the formation of the first cultures of the Japanese Neolithic period (Jōmon Period: ca. 9500 B.C. - ca. 1000 B.C.).

In fact, the promontory of Ongasaki, which perfectly faces the Korean coast and closes the Ongaura Bay to the north, has always aroused enormous interest, due to the huge quantity of obsidian outcropping on its surface despite the absence of quarries.

As a result of IRIAE's investigations, the amount of obsidian found has further increased and analysis shows it to have come from at least (for now) three quarries located in western and northwestern Kyūshū. Furthermore, from the type of samples, it is now clear that this is a site for processing precious glass and, almost exclusively, harpoon points. The same patterns, dating back to the Incipient Jōmon, have been found not only in Kyūshū but also on the southern coasts of Korea.

Why a processing site located precisely on Ongasaki? What is the relationship between the obsidian found and the thousands of pottery artefacts of Korean origin found in places close to the site? What do the routes that obsidian took between Kyūshū, Tsushima and the coast of Korea tell us? Why, to date, have only fishing harpoons come to light?

These are the questions that the project, in collaboration with the Tōkyō University of Marine Science and Technology and ARIUA, is answering.

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