Archaeologists and historians worldwide are fascinated with thousands of artefacts that have been dug up all over Japan that belonged to and that tell us about the prehistoric people we call the Jomon people.
Skeleton unearthed in Oya is possibly Jomon era’s earliest
TOCHIGI PREFECTURAL MUSEUM PHOTO
Who were the Jomon people and where did they live?
The Jomon people were hunter-gathers who lived in pit dwellings and who lived roughly in the area that we call Japan today. The Jomon culture is noted for having produced the earliest (or at least among the earliest) pottery in the world.
When did they live?
The Jomon people lived during postglacial times from 13,680 BC to 410 BC. They were a hunting-gathering-fishing tribal culture that existed roughly around the times of ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, the Nile and the Indus Valley.
What was so amazing about the Jomon culture?
#1. One thing amazing about the Jomon culture is how long the Jomon way of life lasted … over 13,000 thousand years as well as the early date of the beginning of the period.
#2. The Jomon people are thought to have produced the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world.
#3. Jomon people achieved sedentism which means they settled down in one place to live as early as 9,000 years ago and maintained a high level of craft production…all very unusual for hunter-gatherers in early postglacial times.
#4. Archaeologists think the Jomon hunting-gathering culture was unusual because although it was a stone age culture (historians call prehistoric people who used stone tools a Mesolithic culture), it also had some highly complex characteristics of Neolithic cultures which usually refer to people who:
made many clay vessels,
had an organized and sophisticated lifestyle of collecting and foraging for food and practiced a simple kind of agriculture by cultivating a small number of plants.
“That end of the Ice Age was accompanied by the first of the two most decisive changes in the Japanese history: the invention of pottery. In the usual experience of archeologists, inventions flow from mainlands to islands, and small peripheral societies aren’t supposed to contribute revolutionary advances to the rest of the world. It therefore astonished archeologists to discover that the world’s oldest known pottery was made in Japan 12,700 years ago,” said Jared Diamond, a non-fiction science author.
What is the Jomon culture famous for?
Jomon culture is most famous for its pottery — Jomon pottery pieces are possibly the earliest existing pottery artefacts, or at least among the earliest pottery discoveries in the world. Jomon culture is also well known for the expressiveness of its ceramic art, for the variety of surface textures, decorations, shapes and styles.
The most elaborate forms of pottery made in the deep central mountainous areas are especially admired. In fact, the Jomon culture takes its name from a typical form of decoration of its pots, cord marking which is called Jomon 縄文 in Japanese.
The different periods of the Jomon era are divided according to the different characteristics of pottery of each period, see this Chronology here.
The Jomon culture is also renowned for the fishing technology. The fishhooks and togglehead harpoons that the Jomon hunters used to catch fish and sea mammals with, were state-of-the-art technology, for prehistoric times that is.
[Photos of pottery and figurines from Sagamihara City Museum and harpoon heads from Kawasaki City Museum are copyright of A. Kawagoe.]