JAPAN is having to hastily rewrite its entire pre-history after an archeologist known as "The Hands of God" was revealed to have systematically faked his fantastic discoveries.
For nearly 30 years, Shinichi Fujimura happened to be in exactly the right place at just the right time. He unearthed stone tools that offered a vast new treasure trove of data about Japan’s middle Palaeolithic age. Other finds were dated to 100,000 years ago.
But a full-scale investigation by the Japanese Archeological Association has confirmed the worst - that Mr Fujimura , 53, was committing fraud on a vast scale.
He entirely fabricated his astonishing finds at 159 of the 178 sites he worked on, it concluded.
Mr Fujimura’s career began to unravel after he was photographed by a Japanese newspaper journalist removing stone implements from a plastic bag and burying them at one set of ruins.
Admitting only that he was "tempted", he entered a hospital for treatment for stress, then subsequently admitted faking discoveries at 42 digs.
Even now the extent of the deception is unclear.
"Anything is possible," said Takashi Tateno, chief researcher at the Tokyo Metropolitan Archaeological Institute, and a longtime acquaintance of Mr Fujimura. "There is nothing to prove that he did not just fish a stone out of his pocket right before ‘finding’ it."
Publishers of school textbooks have had to delete passages that covered the discoveries of what were claimed to be ancient ruins that dated back to the Palaeolithic era.
Mr Fujimura’s discoveries at Zazaragi, in Miyagi prefecture, had supposedly opened up whole new avenues of research and increased knowledge of life in Japan more than 30,000 years ago. Mr Fujimura’s finds at the site were hailed as "stunning".
Zazaragi is now listed as having "no academic value", and has been removed from the archeological association’s list of historical sites.
New research showed that the layer from which Mr Fujimura’s finds were allegedly excavated was an accumulation of pyroclastic flow from a volcano, which would have made the area uninhabitable for humans.
Stone artefacts found at the disgraced archeologist’s home, meanwhile, were said to bear "unnatural cuts" that were not consistent with tools from the Palaeolithic period.
The scandal has caused controversy in Japan’s archeological circles.
"Young archaeologists do not challenge revered senior scholars," said Hisao Baba, an anthropologist at the National Science Museum. "It is extremely difficult to directly deny others’ work because it is taken as a grave personal and professional insult."