Point (Sentoki) (尖頭器)

Point ('sentoki' in Japanese) is a sharp-pointed chipped stone tool.
It appeared in the Paleolithic period


The archaeological term "point" has a broad meaning and in foreign countries, it is generally used to refer to sharp-pointed stone tools; in Japan, however, the term for "point" (sentoki) is not used to refer to stone tools with one edge blunted by the removal of tiny flakes (these are instead called 'knife-like stone tools').

In addition, these stone tools are often called by different names considering the difference of the time when these stone tools were made or used, such as those made more than 30 thousand yeas ago called simply 'point,' those appeared soon after the coldest period of the Last Glacial Maximum called 'lanceolate-shaped point,' those of the Jomon period called 'stone spear.'

Along with the progress of the study of the Paleolithic period, many of the stone spears of the Jomon period have classified as 'point' (sentoki), and specifically the lanceolate stone tools of the ages between upper Paleolithic period and the Jomon period are called 'point' (the 2nd and 3rd examples mentioned above).

The lanceolate-shaped point first appeared when the people began attaching a point to a wooden-shaft and using it as a javelin to hunt large-size animals, and it brought about a great development to hunting.

The appearance and development of the lanceolate-shaped point

In Japan the point (lanceolate-shaped point) appeared when the knife-like stone tool was at the peak (from about 20 thousand years to 15 thousand years ago) during the Paleolithic period. It is said to have been developed and evolved from the knife-like stone tools or brought from the Eurasian Continent, but its origin is not still unknown. While the knife-like stone tools went fading at the end of upper Paleolithic period, the lanceolate-shaped point remarkably developed with a big production increase. The use of lanceolate-shaped point decreased temporarily during the period in which the microlith was widely used, but it reached its peaked around the time when the Jomon were began to be developed. Therefore, the point before the appearance of microlith is called 'early point' and the one after microlith is called 'point in developing period,' and the difference between these styles is considerably remarkable. While most of the former were relatively small in size and processed using diverse ways of achieving further reductions (such as retouching of the surrounding part of the tool or on one or both of the tool's faces), the latter included large, heavyweight types of points, most of which were formed in such a way as to allow them to be retouched on both sides. And the style of hafted (stemmed) point was added to the latter type. The lanceolate-shaped point used in the Jomon period corresponds to the latter generation of the point in developing period mentioned above.

Classification and chronology of the point

The articles of lanceolate-shaped point are classified according to the forms (leaf-shaped, half-moon-shaped, hafted, shouldered) and the parts retouched (retouch on the surrounding part, one face and both faces), however, the categorical classification has not been established yet. Chosuke SERIZAWA once classified the hafted point into four groups focusing on their morphological differences and presented a theory on their transition (1966). Even though the chronology proposed by SERIZAWA is believed to need revision as a result of the increased number of materials unearthed since then, his general line of argument that the form underwent a change from being an elongated point with a primitive lingual barb to being one with a sharp bottom barb is widely accepted.

Evolution of fauna and the prevalence and disappearance of the point

Not only in Japan but also in the North American continent and the Asian continent, the point achieved a remarkable development from the end of the diluvial epoch (Pleistocene epoch) to the early alluvial epoch (Holocene epoch). In these areas people needed the tools for hunting large-size animals such as mammoth and bison that were well adjusted in the cool climate of the diluvial epoch, and various forms of points came to be used as the head of javelins. Also in Japan, the point developed as a tool for hunting large-size animals at first, but owing to the specific conditions that Japan was isolated from the mainland through the Jomon transgression at the end of the diluvial epoch and large-sized animals died out earlier, hogs and Japanese dears became the main game animals. A javelin was considered more suitable than a spear as a tool for hunting these sharp-nosed and nimble animals, and probably the particularly rapid increase of the hafted point can be explained by these reasons. Later, when the bow and arrows was invented, small animals such as raccoon dogs and hares also became game animals. With the widespread use of bow and arrow, javelins (lanceolate-shaped point), which functioned as a transit tool between the bow and arrows and the spear, ceased to exist. On the other hand, since after the early Jomon period, the development of foraging and fish catching as well as the advancement of the settled way of life lead to the increase of ambush hunting with pitfalls.