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He thinks earlier archaeologists misrepresented the dynamism and diversity of Rebun and the larger neighboring island of Hokkaido.
They simplified the past, lumping the story of the northern islands in with that of Honshu to the south.
They were an inconvenient culture at a time when the government was steadfastly creating a national myth of homogeneity. The government is planning a new Ainu museum, meant to open in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
These recreational archaeologists sit cheerfully amidst the grit, cleaning debris from sea lion scapulas with toothbrushes, even as the bones fall apart in their hands.
He stands in the middle of a school gym that now serves as a makeshift archaeological lab on the northern Japanese island of Rebun.
The room is filled with smells: of earth, with an undertone of nail polish, overlaid with an aroma that takes a minute to decipher—the pungence of damp bone drying.
ato teaches at Hokkaido University’s Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies in Sapporo, more than 400 kilometers to the south.
But since 2011, he has directed an archaeological dig here at the site known as Hamanaka II.Archaeology is typically focused on “telephone booth” digs, and often archaeologists are merely swooping in for rescue projects, working quickly to record what’s there, save what’s worthwhile, and clear the way for construction to begin.