The JōMON PERIOD (縄文時代, Jōmon jidai) is the time in
Japanese prehistory , traditionally dated between c. 14,000 –
, while recently revised until 1000 BCE, when
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 South
Ecuador ) because in these settings cultural complexity
developed within a primarily hunting-gathering context with limited
use of horticulture .
* 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/
* 5.1 Main periods
* 6 Foundation myths
* 7 Genetics
* 8 See also
* 9 Notes
* 10 References
* 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 (10,000-7000), Early (7000-5,450),
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 earliest
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
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 Japan
from around 30,000 BCE onwards. The earliest "Incipient Jōmon" phase
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.
Within the archipelago, the vegetation was transformed by the end of
the Ice Age. In southwestern
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
Ryukyu Islands .
Jōmon pottery (14th–8th millennium BCE ) Tokyo
National Museum ,
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
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 the 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 ca.
300 to 4
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 lifestyle 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
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. These studies also suggest that the Jōmon demographic
expansion may have reached America along a path following the Pacific
CHRONOLOGICAL CERAMIC TYPOLOGY
Incipient Jōmon (14,000–7500 BCE)
* Linear applique
* Nail impression
* Cord impression
* Muroya lower
Initial Jōmon (7500–4000 BCE)
* Lower Tado
* Upper Tado
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 (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/
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
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,
* Middle Jōmon (3000–2000 BCE):
* Katsusaka /Otamadai
* Kasori E1
* Kasori E2
* Late Jōmon (2000–1000 BCE):
* Kasori B2,
* Angyo 1
* Final Jōmon (1000–
* Tohoku District
* Oubora B
* Oubora BC (
Ōfunato , Iwate )
* Oubora C1
* Oubora C2
* Oubora A
* Oubora A'
* Kanto District
* Angyo 2 (Kawaguchi , Saitama )
* Angyo 3
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
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 (
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
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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
Japan over different routes at different times.
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
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 in
Tōhoku region estimates that the modern mainland
Japanese population probably inherited less than 20% of Jomon peoples'
Mark J. Hudson of
Nishikyushu University posits that
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
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
Stone statue, late Jomon period (1000 – 400 BCE), Tokyo National
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Understanding the impact of developmental stress on environmental
stability". American Journal of Human Biology. 20: 431–439. doi
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