As many as 27 Jōmon period pit buildings stood lined up in cramped fashion.

Photos courtesy of Minamisōma City Board of Education

Many visitors came to the site, such as these pupils from the Haramachi First Elementary School. The pit building in the foreground is 7 m in diameter, and is composed of a stone-lined composite hearth and five postholes.

Composite hearth as excavated

Composite hearths found in the pit buildings are a Middle Jomon period type of fireplace peculiar to the Tōhoku region, characterized by a stone-lined hearth combined with another made with a pot buried in the ground. Pots used for the hearths were in a variety of sizes.

A variety of Jōmon pottery

The item at lower left is the upper half of a vase-shaped vessel. The other three are deep-bottomed pots (the item at upper left has a rim diameter of 33.1 cm, and vessel height of 42.9 cm.). All were buried as part of composite hearths.

Azuma-chō Site,
Minamisōma City, Fukushima Prefecture

Middle Jōmon period (approximately 4,500 years before the present)

A core-type settlement of the Middle Jōmon period

The Azuma-chō site is located at an elevation of 20 m, at the edge of a river terrace on the south side of the Niidagawa river, which flows through the central portion of the city of Minamisōma on the Pacific coast of Fukushima prefecture. The current excavation was conducted in advance of a group location project for disaster prevention, consisting of residential land development for tsunami victims.

As a result of the investigation, the presence of a settlement of the Middle Jōmon period (approximately 4,500 years before the present) became clear. A large volume of Jōmon pottery centering on deep-bottomed pots was found, along with a variety of stone tools including stone pestles and grinding stones, plus stone projectile points and adzes, together with 27 pit buildings, storage and other pits, and so forth. Also, 15 of the pit buildings were equipped with composite hearths, peculiar to the Tōhoku region, on the southern side of the dwellings.

These features were ascertained in overlapping fashion across an excavated area of approximately 2,000 square meters, and the pit buildings are thought to have been rebuilt over three or four periods. As the density of residence is extremely high, the residential precinct is thought to extend beyond the area of excavation, and may be called a core-type settlement of the middle Niidagawa river basin. (Saitō Takashi, Yamasaki Takamori)