The Info List - Jōmon

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The Jōmon period
Jōmon period
(縄文時代, Jōmon jidai) is the time in Japanese prehistory, traditionally dated between c. 14,000–300 BCE,[1][2] recently refined to about 1000 BCE,[1][3][4] during which Japan
was inhabited by a hunter-gatherer culture, which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. The name "cord-marked" was first applied by the American scholar Edward S. Morse, who discovered sherds of pottery in 1877 and subsequently translated it into Japanese as jōmon.[5] The pottery style characteristic of the first phases of Jōmon culture was decorated by impressing cords into the surface of wet clay and is generally accepted to be among the oldest in East Asia and the world.[6] The Jomon period was rich in tools and jewelry made from bone, stone, shell, and antler; pottery figurines and vessels; and lacquerware.[7][8][9][10] It is often compared to pre-Columbian cultures of the North American Pacific Northwest and especially to the Valdivia culture
Valdivia culture
in Ecuador
because in these settings cultural complexity developed within a primarily hunting-gathering context with limited use of horticulture.[11][12][13][14]


1 Chronology 2 Incipient and Initial Jōmon (14000–4000 BCE)

2.1 Earliest pottery 2.2 Early agriculture 2.3 Population expansion 2.4 Chronological ceramic typology

3 Early Jōmon (4000–2500 BCE) 4 Middle Jōmon (2500–1500 BCE) 5 Late and Final Jōmon (1500–900/300 BCE)

5.1 Main periods

6 Foundation myths 7 Genetics 8 See also 9 Notes 10 References 11 External links

Chronology[edit] The very long—approximately 14,000 years— Jōmon period
Jōmon period
is conventionally divided into a number of phases: Incipient (16,500-10,000 years ago), Initial (10,000-7,000), Early (7,000-5,450), Middle 5,450-4,420), Late (4,420-3,220) and Final (3,220-2,350), with the phases getting progressively shorter.[2] The fact that this entire period is given the same name by archaeologists should not be taken to mean that there was not considerable regional and temporal diversity; the chronological distance between the earliest Jōmon pottery
Jōmon pottery
and that of the more well-known Middle Jōmon period is about twice as long as the span separating the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza
Great Pyramid of Giza
from the 21st century. Dating of the Jōmon sub-phases is based primarily upon ceramic typology, and to a lesser extent radiocarbon dating. Incipient and Initial Jōmon (14000–4000 BCE)[edit] Traces of Paleolithic
culture, mainly stone tools, occur in Japan
from around 30,000 BCE onwards. The earliest "Incipient Jōmon" phase began while Japan
was still linked to continental Asia as a narrow peninsula.[15] As the glaciers melted following the end of the last glacial period (approximately 12000 years ago), sea levels rose, separating the Japanese archipelago
Japanese archipelago
from the Asian mainland; the closest point (in Kyushu) about 190 kilometres (120 mi) from the Korean Peninsula
Korean Peninsula
is near enough to be intermittently influenced by continental developments but far enough removed for the peoples of the Japanese islands to develop their own ways. In addition, a continuous chain of islands encompasses Luzon, Taiwan, Ryukyu
and Kyushu, allowing for continuous contact between the Jomon and maritime Southeast Asia. Within the archipelago, the vegetation was transformed by the end of the Ice Age. In southwestern Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, broadleaf evergreen trees dominated the forests, whereas broadleaf deciduous trees and conifers were common in northeastern Honshu
and southern Hokkaido. Many native tree species, such as beeches, buckeyes, chestnuts, and oaks produced edible nuts and acorns. These provided abundant sources of food for humans and for animals. In the northeast, the plentiful marine life carried south by the Oyashio Current, especially salmon, was an additional major source of food. Settlements along both the Sea of Japan
and the Pacific Ocean subsisted on immense amounts of shellfish, leaving distinctive middens (mounds of discarded shells and other refuse) that are now prized sources of information for archaeologists. Other sources of food meriting special mention include Sika deer, wild boar (with possible wild-pig management[16]), yam-like tubers and other wild plants, and freshwater fish. Supported by the highly productive deciduous forests and an abundance of seafood, the population was concentrated in central and northern Honshu, but Jōmon sites range from Hokkaido
to the Ryukyu
Islands. Earliest pottery[edit]

Incipient Jōmon pottery
Jōmon pottery
(14th–8th millennium BCE) Tokyo National Museum, Japan

The earliest pottery in Japan
was made at or before the start of the Incipient Jōmon period. In 1998 small fragments were found at the Odai Yamamoto I site, which have been dated to 14,500 BCE; subsequently, pottery of roughly the same age was found at other sites such as Kamikuroiwa and Fukui Cave.[15][17][18] Archaeologist Junko Habu claims that "The majority of Japanese scholars believed, and still believe, that pottery production was first invented in mainland Asia and subsequently introduced into the Japanese archipelago."[18] This seems to be confirmed by recent archaeology. As of now, earliest pottery vessels in the world date back to 20,000 BP and were discovered in Xianren Cave
Xianren Cave
in Jiangxi, China.[19][20] The pottery may have been used as cookware.[19] Other early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave in southern China, dated from 16,000 BCE,[21] and at present it appears that pottery emerged at roughly the same time in Japan, and in the Amur River
Amur River
basin of the Russian Far East.[22][23] The first Jōmon pottery
Jōmon pottery
is characterized by the cord-marking that gives the period its name and has now been found in large numbers of sites.[24] The pottery of the period has been classified by archaeologists into some 70 styles, with many more local varieties of the styles.[5] The antiquity of Jōmon pottery
Jōmon pottery
was first identified after World War II, through radiocarbon dating methods.[8][25] The earliest vessels were mostly smallish round-bottomed bowls 10–50 cm high that are assumed to have been used for boiling food and, perhaps, storing it beforehand. They belonged to hunter-gatherers and the size of the vessels may have been limited by a need for portability. As later bowls increase in size, this is taken to be a sign of an increasingly settled pattern of living. These types continued to develop, with increasingly elaborate patterns of decoration, undulating rims, and flat bottoms so that they could stand on a surface.[26] The manufacture of pottery typically implies some form of sedentary life because pottery is heavy, bulky, and fragile and thus generally unusable for hunter-gatherers. However, this does not seem to have been the case with the first Jōmon people, who perhaps numbered 20,000 over the whole archipelago.[15] It seems that food sources were so abundant in the natural environment of the Japanese islands that it could support fairly large, semi-sedentary populations. The Jōmon people used chipped stone tools, ground stone tools, traps, and bows, and were evidently skillful coastal and deep-water fishermen. Early agriculture[edit] The degree to which horticulture or small-scale agriculture was practiced by Jōmon people is debated. The hunter-gatherer conceptualization of the Jomon period culture is part of scientific romanticized narratives.[16] There is evidence to suggest that arboriculture was practiced in the form of tending groves of lacquer (Toxicodendron verniciflua) and nut ( Castanea crenata
Castanea crenata
and Aesculus turbinata) producing trees,[27][28] as well soybean, bottle gourd, hemp, Perilla, adzuki among others. These characteristics place them somewhere in between hunting-gathering and agriculture.[16] An apparently domesticated variety of peach appeared very early at Jomon sites in 6700–6400 BP (4700–4400 BCE).[citation needed] This was already similar to modern cultivated forms. This domesticated type of peach was apparently brought into Japan
from China. Nevertheless, in China, itself, this variety is currently attested only at a later date of c. 5300 to 4300 BP.[29] Population expansion[edit]

This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (March 2017)

By the end of the Incipient Jōmon phase, around 8000 BCE, a semi-sedentary life-style apparently led to an increase in population density, so that the subsequent phase, the Initial Jōmon, exhibits some of the highest densities known for foraging populations.[30] Genetic mapping studies by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
have shown a pattern of genetic expansion from the area of the Sea of Japan
towards the rest of eastern Asia. This appears as the third principal component of genetic variation in Eurasia (after the "Great expansion" from the African continent, and a second expansion from the area of Northern Siberia), which suggests geographical expansion during the early Jōmon period.[31] These studies also suggest that the Jōmon demographic expansion may have reached America along a path following the Pacific coast.[32] Chronological ceramic typology[edit] Incipient Jōmon (14,000–7500 BCE)

Linear applique Nail impression Cord impression Muroya lower

Initial Jōmon (7500–4000 BCE)

Igusa Inaridai Mito Lower Tado Upper Tado Shiboguchi Kayama

Early Jōmon (4000–2500 BCE)[edit]

Reconstructed buildings in the Sannai-Maruyama site,[33] Aomori Prefecture

The Early and Middle Jōmon periods saw an explosion in population, as indicated by the number of settlements from this period. These two periods occurred during the Holocene climatic optimum
Holocene climatic optimum
(between 4000 and 2000 BCE), when the local climate became more humid.[34] Middle Jōmon (2500–1500 BCE)[edit] Highly ornate pottery dogū figurines and vessels, such as the so-called "flame style" vessels, and lacquered wood objects remain from that time. Interestingly, although the ornamentation of pottery increased over time, the ceramic fabric always remained quite coarse. This period saw a rise in complexity in the design of pit-houses, the most commonly used method of housing at the time,[35][36] with some even having stone paved floors.[37] Study in 2015 found that this form of dwelling continued up until the Satsumon culture.[36] Late and Final Jōmon (1500–900/300 BCE)[edit] After 1500 BCE, the climate cooled, and populations seem to have contracted dramatically. Comparatively few archaeological sites can be found after 1500 BCE. During the Final Jōmon period, a slow shift was taking place in western Japan: steadily increasing contact with the Korean Peninsula eventually led to the establishment of Korean-type settlements in western Kyushu, beginning around 900 BCE. The settlers brought with them new technologies such as wet rice farming and bronze and iron metallurgy, as well as new pottery styles similar to those of the Mumun pottery period. The settlements of these new arrivals seem to have coexisted with those of the Jōmon and Yayoi for around a thousand years. Outside Hokkaido, the Final Jōmon is succeeded by a new farming culture, the Yayoi (ca. 300 BCE-300 CE), named after an archaeological site near Tokyo.[8] Within Hokkaido, the Jōmon is succeeded by the Zoku-Jōmon (post-Jōmon) or Epi-Jōmon period, which is in turn succeeded by the Satsumon culture around the 7th century. Main periods[edit]

Middle Jomon vessel

A jar with spirals. Final Jomon, Kamegaoka style

Middle Jōmon (3000–2000 BCE):

Katsusaka/Otamadai Kasori E1 Kasori E2

Late Jōmon (2000–1000 BCE):

Horinouchi Kasori B2, Angyo 1

Final Jōmon (1000–300 BCE):

Tohoku District

Oubora B Oubora BC (Ōfunato, Iwate) Oubora C1 Oubora C2 Oubora A Oubora A'

Kanto District

Angyo 2 (Kawaguchi, Saitama) Angyo 3

Foundation myths[edit] The origin myths of Japanese civilization extend back to periods now regarded as part of the Jōmon period, though they show little or no relation to what we know archaeologically of Jōmon culture. 11 February 660 BCE is the traditional founding date of the Japanese nation by Emperor Jimmu. This version of Japanese history, however, comes from the country's first written records, the Kojiki
and Nihon Shoki, dating from the 6th to the 8th centuries, after Japan
had adopted Chinese characters
Chinese characters
(Go-on/Kan-on).[38] Some elements of modern Japanese culture may date from this period and reflect the influences of a mingled migration from the northern Asian continent and the southern Pacific areas and the Jōmon peoples. Among these elements are the precursors to Shinto, some marriage customs, architectural styles, and technological developments such as lacquerware, laminated yumi, metalworking, and glass making. Genetics[edit]

This section's factual accuracy is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on Talk:Jōmon period. Please help to ensure that disputed statements are reliably sourced. (April 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The relationship of Jōmon people to the modern Japanese (Yamato people), Ryukyuans and Ainu is diverse and not well clarified. Morphological studies of dental variation and genetic studies suggest that the Jomon people were of southern origin, while other studies about bacteria suggest that the Jomon people were of possible northern origin.[39][40] According to recent studies the contemporary Japanese people descended from a mixture of the ancient hunter-gatherer Jōmon and the Yayoi rice agriculturalists, and these two major ancestral groups came to Japan
over different routes at different times.[41][42][43][44][45][46] Recent Y chromosome
Y chromosome
haplotype testing has led to the hypothesis that male haplogroups D1b (major component) and C1a1 (minor component), which have been found in different percentages of samples of modern Japanese, Ryukyuan, and Ainu population, may reflect patrilineal descent from members of pre-Jōmon and Jōmon period
Jōmon period
of the Japanese Archipelago.[42] Analysis of the mitochondrial DNA ("mtDNA") of Jomon skeletons from Hokkaido, Okinawa Island
Okinawa Island
and Tōhoku region
Tōhoku region
indicates that haplogroups N9b and M7a may reflect maternal Jomon contribution to the modern Japanese mtDNA pool.[40][46][47][48][49][50] In another study of ancient DNA published by the same authors in 2011, both the control and coding regions of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) recovered from Jomon skeletons excavated from the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido, were analyzed in detail, and 54 mtDNA samples were confidently assigned to relevant haplogroups. Haplogroups N9b, D4h2, G1b, and M7a were observed in these individuals.[51] According to 2013 study, there was mtDNA sub-haplogroups inter-regional heterogeneity within the Jomon people, specifically between studied Kantō, Hokkaido and Tōhoku Jomon.[40] According to 2011 study all major East Asian mtDNA lineages expanded before 10,000 YBP, except for two Japanese lineages D4b2b1 and M7a1a which population expanded around 7000 YBP unequivocally during the Jōmon Period (14–2.3 kya), thousands of years before intensive agriculture which imply that the growth of population and depletion of food resources was the reason for population expansion and not agriculture.[52] A 2017 study on ancient Jomon aDNA from Sanganji shell mound
Sanganji shell mound
in Tōhoku region
Tōhoku region
estimates that the modern mainland Japanese population probably inherited less than 20% of Jomon peoples' genomes.[46] Mark J. Hudson of Nishikyushu University posits that Japan
was settled by a proto-Mongoloid population in the Pleistocene
who became the Jōmon, and that their features can be seen in the Ainu and Ryukyuan people.[17] The Jomon share some physical characteristics, such as relatively abundant body hair, with Caucasians, but anthropological genetics shows them to derive from a completely separate genetic lineage from that of Europeans.[53] Jomon shows closest genetic relationship to Southeast Asians rather than western Eurasian people.[54]

Late Jomon clay statue, Kazahari I, Aomori Prefecture, 1500–1000 BC.

Late Jomon clay head, Shidanai, Iwate Prefecture, 1500–1000 BCE.

A Middle Jomon jar. 2000 BCE.

Final Jomon jar, Kamegaoka style.

Clay statue, late Jomon period (1000 – 400 BCE), Tokyo National Museum

See also[edit]

Ancient Japan

Austronesian peoples Comb Ceramic Koshintō Prehistoric Asia Unofficial nengō system (私年号) Xu Fu Yayoi period


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External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jōmon period.

BBC audio file (15 minutes). Discussion of Jomon pots. A History of the World in 100 Objects. Department of Asian Art. "Jomon Culture (ca. 10,500–ca. 300 B.C.)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2002) Comprehensive Database of Archaeological Site Reports in Japan, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Memory of the Jomon Period by The University Museum, The University of Tokyo The Prehistoric Archaeology of Japan
by the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History Chronologies of the Jomon Period Jomon Culture by Professor Charles T Keally Yayoi Culture by Professor Charles T Keally

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Prehistoric technology


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founder crops New World crops

Ard / plough Celt Digging stick Domestication Goad Irrigation Secondary products Sickle Terracing

Food processing

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Granaries Grinding slab Ground stone Hearth

Aşıklı Höyük Qesem Cave

Manos Metate Mortar and pestle Pottery Quern-stone Storage pit


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throwing stick

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Nets Spear

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Earliest toolmaking

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analysis debitage flake

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culture Metallurgy Microblade technology Mining Prepared-core technique Solutrean
industry Striking platform Tool stone Uniface Yubetsu technique

Other tools

Adze Awl


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Bone tool Bow drill Burin Canoe

Oar Pesse canoe



Cleaver Denticulate tool Fire plough Fire-saw Hammerstone Knife Microlith Quern-stone Racloir Rope Scraper


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megalith row Stonehenge



architecture British megalith architecture Nordic megalith architecture Burdei Cave Cliff dwelling Dugout Hut

Quiggly hole

Jacal Longhouse Mud brick


long house Pit-house Pueblitos Pueblo Rock shelter

Blombos Cave Abri de la Madeleine Sibudu Cave

Stone roof Roundhouse Stilt house

Alp pile dwellings

Wattle and daub

Water management

Check dam Cistern Flush toilet Reservoir Water well

Other architecture

Archaeological features Broch Burnt mound

fulacht fiadh

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Oldest buildings Megalithic architectural elements Midden Timber circle Timber trackway

Sweet Track

Arts and culture

Material goods

Baskets Beadwork Beds Chalcolithic Clothing/textiles


Cosmetics Glue Hides

shoes Ötzi


amber use

Mirrors Pottery

Cardium Grooved ware Linear Jōmon Unstan ware

Sewing needle Weaving Wine

Winery wine press


Art of the Upper Paleolithic Art of the Middle Paleolithic

Blombos Cave

List of Stone Age
Stone Age
art Bird stone Bradshaw rock paintings Cairn Carved Stone Balls Cave

painting pigment

Cup and ring mark Geoglyph Golden hats Guardian stones Megalithic art Petroform Petroglyph Petrosomatoglyph Pictogram Rock art

Stone carving

Sculpture Statue menhir Stone circle

list British Isles and Brittany

Venus figurines


Burial mounds

Bowl barrow Round barrow

Mound Builders
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Clava cairn Court tomb Cremation Dolmen

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transepted wedge-shaped

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Prehistoric music

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