The soldier-archeologist

Among other things, the Japanese empire was an empire of science. Conquest led to (or was proceeded by) masses of geographers, anthropologists, geologists etc. This is not a new thing in the literature of imperialism. I did find a nice example of it yesterday, however.

The Asahi Shimbun dated December 16, 1943, carried a two-column article titled, “Well done, soldier-scholar.”

Special dispatch from Nanjing on the 14′”: In the midst of battling anti-Japanese forces, a single soldier by chance dug up a nearly intact jar-shaped vessel from 3,000 years ago, providing an artifact valuable to the study of culture in Central China in the Neolithic Age. Private Teruya Esaka from the Central China XX Unit (from I 042 Akatsutsumi­cho, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo) studied archaeology under the guidance of his teacher, Ichiro Yawata at the Department of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tokyo. Furthermore, after working as a junior assistant at the Department of Earth Science at Bunri University, he is now con­ducting research in archaeology at the Department of History, Faculty of Letters, Keio University. He is a young and energetic student who came to the battlefront after being drafted, and participated in XX military opera­tions at the end of this past November. While marching near Matsuryoseki in the Jiangning District approx. 25 km south of Nanjing, he keenly spotted a piece of a jar along a loess cliff facing northwest in the suburb of Shoshyanteo. He dug it out, carried it home, and researched literature to find that this jar dates from around the late Neolithic Age to the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, and is at least 3,000 years old.

The young soldier-archeologist was encouraged to publish his find, although he does not seem to have ever dated it very well. In a later article he would explain the importance of archeology.

Imperial Army stations in the Greater East Asian War are located nearly over the entire Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The majority of these places are uneducated.” The text concludes, “Just as we cannot be neglectful of military service in the current battlefront, we stu­dents of archaeology stationed on the battle lines hope to carry out our duty of aiding the ethnic policy in the Greater East Asia War by being vigilant at all times in our endeavor to gather artifacts.” This communicated the thoughts of an archaeology researcher who found himself on the battlefield. Of course, this was Esaka ‘s impression, but it goes without saying that his profound daily thoughts compelled the discovery of the Shoshyanteo ruins. Esaka said, “There are museums of varying sizes in cities in each area of the Co-Prosperity Sphere. The archaeological artifacts from the areas housed in these museums were roughly organized and reported on by Western scholars in the past.” However, he points out that, “If we who live in East Asia and are researching the ancient culture of this region can view them, we may dis­cover many research aspects not comprehended by Western scholars.”

I assume there are people out there who know a lot more than I do about the history of archeology in Asia, but I found this to be a fun story to discuss in class about the connections between war and knowledge and science and looting.

I found this in the article “The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and Archaeology in Japan” by Hideichi Sakazume, published in The Rissho International Journal of Academic Research in Culture and Society 2: The Academic Canon of Arts and Humanities and Science 2019This volume was sent to me (and possibly to you too) by Reisho University, and I am glad to get some use out of it.

2 Comments

  1. Well, the Japanese followed the example of the British and French well, inculcating their colonial bureaucrats with antiquarian hobbies to keep them engaged and help them rewrite the pre-contact histories of their subject territories. Interesting stuff.

  2. Indonesia also has diverse traditions and cultural values. In East Java, one of them is the story and tradition of Panji, German archaeological researcher Dr. Lidya Kieven was presented as a speaker,
    According to Dr. Lidya, the embodiment of the Panji tradition in East Java and Indonesia is very rich. For example, in the form of oral and written literature. There are also ancient art forms on Hindu Buddhist sites and performing arts such as wayang beber and gedog, I include this link from the explanation of Dr. Lidya http://news.unair.ac.id/2018/07/31/dr-lidya-kieven-arkeolog-jerman-yang-bicara-tradisi-panji-di-fib-unair/

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