Photo/IllutrationThese chestnuts are believed to be the oldest in Japan. Small holes were bored through both chestnuts. (Provided by Agematsu town government)

AGEMATSU, Nagano Prefecture--Old chestnuts have probably never rustled up so much interest in Japan as ones recently found in ancient ruins here.

Two nuts, the oldest found in Japan, were used for unspecified purposes in the Jomon period's early years (16,000 to 11,000 years ago), researchers said.

Radiocarbon dating and other analyses put their age at between 12,900 and 12,700 years old.

Holes bored in each one suggest that people might have dried the nuts by threading needles through them.

“We can confirm that they are highly important chestnuts, being the oldest in (Japanese) archaeology," said Agematsu Mayor Makoto Oya in announcing the find Dec. 25.

He called the discovery one that "is full of the Jomon period’s romance, showing that people made their living here using chestnuts.”

Until now, the oldest chestnuts found in Japan came from Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and were dated at between 11,000 and 7,000 years old.

The Agematsu chestnuts were originally unearthed in a pit dwelling site in 1992 during road construction for National Route No. 19. Two whole chestnuts were found, as well as 870 or so fragments.