Jōmon period (縄文時代, Jōmon jidai) is the time in Japanese
prehistory, traditionally dated between c. 14,000–300
BCE, recently refined to about 1000 BCE, 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. 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.
The Jomon period was rich in tools and jewelry made from bone, stone,
shell, and antler; pottery figurines and vessels; and
lacquerware. It is often compared to pre-Columbian
cultures of the North American Pacific Northwest and especially to the
Valdivia culture in
Ecuador because in these settings cultural
complexity developed within a primarily hunting-gathering context with
limited use of horticulture.
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
8 See also
11 External links
The very long—approximately 14,000 years—
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. 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
Jōmon pottery and that of the more well-known Middle Jōmon
period is about twice as long as the span separating the building of
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)
Paleolithic culture, mainly stone tools, occur in
around 30,000 BCE onwards. The earliest "Incipient Jōmon" phase began
Japan was still linked to continental Asia as a narrow
peninsula. As the glaciers melted following the end of the last
glacial period (approximately 12000 years ago), sea levels rose,
Japanese archipelago from the Asian mainland; the
closest point (in Kyushu) about 190 kilometres (120 mi) from the
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
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), 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
Jōmon pottery (14th–8th millennium BCE) Tokyo National
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.
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." 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 in Jiangxi,
China. The pottery may have been used as cookware. Other
early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave
in southern China, dated from 16,000 BCE, and at present it
appears that pottery emerged at roughly the same time in Japan, and in
Amur River basin of the Russian Far East.
Jōmon pottery is characterized by the cord-marking that
gives the period its name and has now been found in large numbers of
sites. The pottery of the period has been classified by
archaeologists into some 70 styles, with many more local varieties of
the styles. The antiquity of
Jōmon pottery was first identified
after World War II, through radiocarbon dating methods. 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.
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. 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.
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. There is evidence to suggest that
arboriculture was practiced in the form of tending groves of lacquer
(Toxicodendron verniciflua) and nut (
Castanea crenata and Aesculus
turbinata) producing trees, as well soybean, bottle gourd,
hemp, Perilla, adzuki among others. These characteristics place them
somewhere in between hunting-gathering and agriculture.
An apparently domesticated variety of peach appeared very early at
Jomon sites in 6700–6400 BP (4700–4400 BCE). 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.
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.
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
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. These studies also suggest that the Jōmon
demographic expansion may have reached America along a path following
the Pacific coast.
Chronological ceramic typology
Incipient Jōmon (14,000–7500 BCE)
Initial Jōmon (7500–4000 BCE)
Early Jōmon (4000–2500 BCE)
Reconstructed buildings in the Sannai-Maruyama site, Aomori
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.
Middle Jōmon (2500–1500 BCE)
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, with some
even having stone paved floors. Study in 2015 found that this form
of dwelling continued up until the Satsumon culture.
Late and Final Jōmon (1500–900/300 BCE)
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
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.
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.
Middle Jomon vessel
A jar with spirals. Final Jomon, Kamegaoka style
Middle Jōmon (3000–2000 BCE):
Late Jōmon (2000–1000 BCE):
Final Jōmon (1000–300 BCE):
Oubora BC (Ōfunato, Iwate)
Angyo 2 (Kawaguchi, Saitama)
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
Chinese characters (Go-on/Kan-on).
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.
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
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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. 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
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 of the Japanese
Archipelago. Analysis of the mitochondrial DNA ("mtDNA") of Jomon
skeletons from Hokkaido,
Okinawa Island and
Tōhoku region indicates
that haplogroups N9b and M7a may reflect maternal Jomon contribution
to the modern Japanese mtDNA pool. 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. According to 2013
study, there was mtDNA sub-haplogroups inter-regional heterogeneity
within the Jomon people, specifically between studied Kantō, Hokkaido
and Tōhoku Jomon. 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. A 2017 study on ancient
Jomon aDNA from
Sanganji shell mound
Sanganji shell mound in
Tōhoku region estimates that
the modern mainland Japanese population probably inherited less than
20% of Jomon peoples' genomes.
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. 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. Jomon shows closest genetic
relationship to Southeast Asians rather than western Eurasian
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
Unofficial nengō system (私年号)
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Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
Memory of the Jomon Period by The University Museum, The University of
The Prehistoric Archaeology of
Japan by the Niigata Prefectural Museum
Chronologies of the Jomon Period
Jomon Culture by Professor Charles T Keally
Yayoi Culture by Professor Charles T Keally
Empire of Japan
House of Councillors
House of Representatives
Deputy Prime Minister
Agriculture, forestry, fishing
Anime / Manga
Onsen / Sentō
History of Asia
East Timor (Timor-Leste)
United Arab Emirates
British Indian Ocean Territory
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
New Stone Age
New World crops
Ard / plough
Mortar and pestle
Bow and arrow
Game drive system
Langdale axe industry
British megalith architecture
Nordic megalith architecture
Neolithic long house
Abri de la Madeleine
Alp pile dwellings
Wattle and daub
Megalithic architectural elements
Arts and culture
Art of the Upper Paleolithic
Art of the Middle Paleolithic
Stone Age art
Bradshaw rock paintings
Carved Stone Balls
Cup and ring mark
British Isles and Brittany
Mound Builders culture
Stone box grave
Unchambered long cairn
Origin of language
Divje Babe flute
Origin of religion
Spiritual drug use