Minatogawa quarry and fissure (photograph © National Science Museum,Tokyo)
The Minatogawa 1 male skeleton was found in 1970 at the Minatogawa limestone quarry on Okinawa (Suzuki and Hanihara 1982). Three female skeletons, in varying states of preservation, and assorted other fragments were also recovered. The Minatogawa skeletons have been described in detail in Suzuki and Hanihara (1982), with Suzuki (1982) describing the crania. Additional comparative information can be found in Baba and Nerasaki (1991). The Minatogawa 1 cranium is not as complete as Liujiang and Upper Cave 101, particularly in the basi-cranium, facial skeleton and temporal regions (Brown In Press). Several of the dimensions in the table below had to be estimated.
Unlike Liujiang and Upper Cave there does not appear to have been any concern over the reliability of the dating of Minatogawa. Radiocarbon dates of 18,250 ±650 to 16,600 ±300 years BP were obtained from charcoal inside the fissure (Kobayashi et al. 1974). Fluorine content of human and non-human bones within the site suggested that they were contemporaneous (Matsu'ura 1982). Assuming that the site was well stratified, that the carbon dates do bracket the skeletons and that the skeletons were not intrusive, then Minatogawa remains do have a strong claim to being the earliest modern human skeletons in East Asia (Brown In Press).
Minatogawa 1 skeleton, (photograph © National Science Museum,Tokyo).
The Minatogawa 1 skeleton is that of a relatively short person, approximately 153 cm tall (Baba and Nerasaki 1991), and the cranium is correspondingly small but robust for its size. Minatogawa's vault is both higher and broader relative to cranial length than Liujiang and Upper Cave 101 (Brown In Press). Maximum cranial breadth is located in a relatively inferior position, just above the squamous suture, and there is marked post-orbital constriction. The glabella region is inflated and the nasal root depressed, with nasal bones that appear to be pinched. Facial breadth, both bi-frontal and bi-maxillary (estimates) exceeds Liujiang and Upper Cave 101, but the face is extremely short for its breadth. The orbits are low and rectangular in shape. To some degree overall facial morphology is similar to Liujiang, however, the malars in Minatogawa have a more antero-lateral orientation. Areas of masticatory and neck muscle attachment are quite rugose and the chin region of the mandible is not prominent. It is unfortunate that the maxillae, nasal and sub-nasal regions are damaged in Minatogawa 1. Apart from the orientation of the malars there is little in the remaining cranio-facial morphology of Minatogawa 1 that is shared with Neolithic and modern East Asians (Brown 1996).
The Minatogawa skeletons are housed in the Anthropology Museum, Tokyo University. For access you should write to Emeritus Professor H. Suzuki at the Anthropology Museum. Casts of the Minatogawa crania and mandibles are sometimes available for exchange.
Baba, H. And Narasaki, S. 1991. Minatogawa Man, the Oldest Type of Modern Homo sapiens in East Asia. The Quaternary Research 30: 221-230.
Brown, P. 1998. The first Mongoloids: another look at Upper Cave 101, Liujiang and Minatogawa 1. Acta Anthropologica Sinica 17 (4):255-275.
Brown, P. 1996. The earliest East Asians: a view from the Late Pleistocene and Neolithic of China and Japan. In K. Omoto (ed.) Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Origins of the Japanese. International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto.
Kobayashi, H., Hirose, Y., Sugino, M. and Watanabe, N. 1974. TK-99. Radiocarbon 16: 384.
Matsu'ura, S. 1984. Fluorine dating of Upper Minatogawa man. Journal of the Anthropological Society Nippon 92: 111-112.
Suzuki, H. 1982. Skulls of the Minatogawa Man. In H. Suzuki and K. Hanihara, The Minatogawa Man, pp. 7-49. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo.
Suzuki, H. and Hanihara, K. (eds.) 1982. The Minatogawa Man. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo.
Table 1. Comparative dimensions of Upper Cave 101, Liujiang
|Variable list||U.C. 101||Liujiang||Minatogawa|
|max. cranial breadth||144||143||147|