The Info List - Jōmon Period

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The JōMON PERIOD (縄文時代, Jōmon jidai) is the time in Japanese prehistory , traditionally dated between c. 14,000 – 300
BCE , 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 because in both regions 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/ 300

* 5.1 Main periods

* 6 Foundation myths * 7 Genetic make-up * 8 See also * 9 Notes * 10 References * 11 External links


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. 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 .


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. As the glaciers melted following the end of the last glacial period (approximately 12000 years ago), sea levels rose, separating the 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 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 archeologists. Other sources of food meriting special mention include Sika deer , wild boar , 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 .


Incipient 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
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,

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 .

The first 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. There is evidence to suggest that arboriculture was practiced in the form of tending groves of nut- and lacquer-producing trees.

Early agricultural techniques were clearly used, and there was a wide variety of crops,

From many sites (including Torihama , Sannai Maruyama and Mawaki ) of the Early Jomon and Middle Jomon period, scientists have studied pollen and many seeds and grains under their powerful scanning electron microscopes and identified many of them. They now know that the Jomon people cultivated these plants: boehmeria nettle, hemp , egoma and shiso mint (Perilla), bottle gourd (Lagenaria), buckwheat (Fagopyrum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), barnyard millet (Echinocloa ), bean (Leguminosae), green gram (Vigna radiata), soybean , burdock ( Arctium lappa ), and rice (Oryza sativa). Yamaimo or mountain potato and the taro potato were also likely cultivated root plants .

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. 5 300
to 4 300


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 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 coast.


Incipient Jōmon (14,000–7,500 BCE)

* Linear applique * Nail impression * Cord impression * Muroya lower

Initial Jōmon (7,500–4,000 BCE)

* Igusa * Inaridai * Mito * Lower Tado * Upper Tado * Shiboguchi * Kayama

EARLY JōMON (4000–2500 BCE)

Reconstructed buildings in the Sannai-Maruyama site
Sannai-Maruyama site
, 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 (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

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.

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
7th century


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

* 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 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 ).

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
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. The research indicate inter-regional heterogeneity of the ancient populations. According to recent studies the contemporary Japanese people
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.

Recent 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. Analysis of the mitochondrial DNA ("mtDNA") of Jomon skeletons from Hokkaido
, Okinawa Island and Tōhoku region indicates that haplogroups N9b (found at high frequencies among the Udege people , at over 30% ) and M7a (most frequent in Ryukyuans) 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 mtDNAs 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(Yamato) 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 people.


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

Late Jomon clay head, Shidanai, Iwate Prefecture
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 *

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


* Ancient Japan

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


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* Aikens, C. Melvin, and Takayasu Higuchi. (1982). Prehistory
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