5,500-year-old find points to early contact between Okinawa and Kyushu

The Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum held a press conference Nov. 7th announcing the discovery of red pigment dating back to about 5,500 years to the early Jomon period. The pigment was unearthed at an excavation site in the Sakitari cave in a popular sightseeing facility “Gangara Valley” in Nanjo City. It’s the oldest confirmed red pigment ever discovered in Okinawa.

The early Jomon period is considered the term when skills such as the use of shipped stone tools and breeding of dogs was passed down to Okinawa from culture in Kyushu culture, Masayuki Dana, the director at the museum explained, “It’s very likely that the use of red pigment in Okinawa started as an import from Kyushu.”

The red pigment called “Bengara” was excavated at the site in 2011. The about nine-centimeter wide blot of the pigment was on a piece of sandstone. A staff member at the museum explained, “It’s possible that the pigment was mashed on the surface of some earthenware made of sandstone.”

However, the purpose of using the red pigment is unknown, but the staff speculates that, “We suspect that the red pigment was applied on earthenware and also used for body painting.”