Ishisaji (stone spoon) (石匙)

Ishisaji is a kind of chipped stone tool made of obsidian, shale, chert, etc. It is a flake stone tool made from a fragment (flake) obtained by striking off from a core stone.

The flake is broken at both ends to form a handle-like projection. The name 'saji' (spoon) came from its shape, and began to be used by Sekitei KIUCHI who introduced a popular name, 'rice spoon of tengu (a mountain spirit, portrayed as winged and having a long nose),' to refer to this type of stone tool in his archaeological and epigraphical studies in the Edo period. In the Meiji period, Takahira KANDA used the term 'ishisaji' in his study, and Jiujiro NAKAYA conducted a systematic study of it. But it is obvious that it was not used as a spoon, therefore, some scholars insist the name 'ishisaji' should be changed.

Ishisaji is a type of stone tool made during the Jomon to Yayoi periods (from about 14,000BC to 300 AD), with the first appearance in the incipient Jomon period and it was widespread in the early Jomon period. Although most of the articles have been excavated in Tohoku region, some has been discovered in the Korean Peninsula. According to the traces of how they were used, ishisaji is thought to have been used as a kind of portable utility knife to process skin, meat, horns, bone and other animal parts as well as to treat plant materials such as trees and ivy. When excavated, some of the unearthed ishisaji retained a string or a clod of natural asphalt on its projected part, and some excavated bodies were wearing ishisaji. These facts suggest that people probably were carrying ishisaji around their neck or waist by tying the string around it, and Yoshiya UENO positions it as a manifestation of individual ownership.

The picture shows horizontally-long ishisaji, but there is also a vertical type which is longer in longitudinal direction.

[Original Japanese]