Scientists have determined that the Jomon (and Ryukyuan and Ainu) people carry a genetic marker called the ab3st haplotype or blood marker that is shared by Mongoloid populations, found today among the Korean, Tibetan, Tungus, Eskimo and Yakut peoples, and that marker is commonest among the Buryat people living around Lake Baikal.
Furthermore, scientists have recently extracted the mitochondrial DNA extracted from some human bones (some of the oldest) about 2,500 years ago from the Jomon era. Their recent research showed the mitochondrial DNA of 30 Jomon bodies was close to that of the Buryat population of southern Siberia, while DNA of only three bodies was close to that of the Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese populations. This particular mitochondrial DNA pattern can also be found today in many other Japanese women, at a ratio of one out of 10 women.
Experts have followed the trail of this mitochondrial DNA pattern even further back in time, and deep into Tibetan borders and Siberia. Experts now conclude that the prehistoric Japanese people and ancestors of the Jomon people originated from somewhere around Lake Baikal area in Russia (currently called Buryatia which is known to have been inhabited as long ago as 23,000 years ago).
Back then during the ice ages, only small tribes of paleo-asiatic stone tool using hunters had been able to survive the harsh climate of the glacial ages up to 25,000 years by living in warm pockets along Lake Baikal and other bodies of water in Siberia, India, China, as well as in the Altai mountains. When the global climate started to warm up some of these hunters started moving south in pursuit of large animals such as mammoths, and further to Japan (while others may have crossed the Bering strait to reach the North American continent). Scientists identify these Buryat tribes from the Baikal area who migrated into Southeast Asia, southwards into the Korean peninsula and into Eurasia, the Mongoloid tribes.
At a certain stage during the glacial age, the land of Paleolithic Japan was connected to the mainland at two points: Korean peninsula-Kyushu land bridge where the Tsushima strait is today, and the Tsugaru Strait between the current Hokkaido Island and the Honshu Island froze in winter, so that people from the northeastern continent were able to travel further south into Japan. The oldest evidence of this crossing is found in the Chitose Shukubai Remains with its cluster of stone tools in Hokkaido which date between 23,000 and 20,000 years ago. Based on this evidence, Palaeolithic Mongoloid hunting people must have arrived at one point in Hokkaido from Siberia via Sakhalin which used to connect Hokkaido to mainland Asia.
DNA research shows that the modern day populations in Okinawa and Ryukyu islands and the Ainu people in Hokkaido are genetically connected to the Jomon people. They share the same genetic markers, features in their body anatomy as well as similarity as ATL virus-carriers. This leads scholars to conclude that, apart from the Mongoloid group that had made their way into Hokkaido, there must have been a second Mongoloid group (also originating from the ancestral Baikal Buryat people) who must have made their way from Siberia and into the southern Ryukyan part of the Japanese archipelago (and later Kyushu) via the other land bridge across the Tsushima Strait from the Korean peninsula. (See “Faces of Ainu” for more about the Ainu people.)
The first Mongoloid group is thought to have made their way through a corridor North of the Tibetan massif while the second Mongoloid group took the corridor South of the Himalayas heading in southerly direction into Kyushu or southeast Asia, then into Ryukyu islands.
The oldest evidence of the early colonization of southern Japan may be found in the remains of a 6-year old human child at Yamashita-cho cave (Central Ryukyu) and Minatogawa finds of 6 humans dated to around 32,000 years ago as well as human remains at the Pinzabu site dated to 26,800. Evidence of the earliest settlement on Kyushu Island, come from remains from the Ishinomoto site in Kumamoto prefectures dating to 33,720 years ago, the Ushiromuta and Kawahara sites in Miyazaki and Kumamoto prefecture dating to 29,520 and 29,370 years ago respectively, and three sites in Kagoshima prefecture, all dated to between 24,000 and 25,000 years old. On Kyushu Island, the Fukui cave remains from Nagsaki prefecture contained pottery as well as microblade lithics, dating between 14,000 and 10,700 years or so. However, one of the most important sites is thought to be the one on Shikoku Island because the remains at Kamikuroiwa Shelter showed that the area was continuously inhabited from Palaeolithic to Jomon times. From examining all of these remains, it is thought by some (Hanihara and Turner) that the Southern and Central Ryukyu was populated by people migrating from the south, perhaps Southeast Asia. But others (Omoto and Saitou) say that their study clearly shows that Ryukyan, Jomon and Ainu populations have no southeast Asian origin but are found instead to be genetically related to the populations of northeast Asia.
Skull remains of the Epi-Jomon period were also intensively studied and compared with the skeletal proportions of modern-day Ainu. The studies found a close resemblance in the skeletal morphology between the prehistoric Jomon and modern Ainu. To confirm that the Ainu are actually descended from the Jomon, all available skulls of the Epi-Jomon period in Hokkaido, roughly (ca. 300 BC-700 AD), were intensively investigated for the cranial variations. Based upon the scientists’ analyses, they concluded that the Jomon, Epi-Jomon and Ainu are closely related with each other; and that the epi-Jomon were transitional stage and had evolved from the Jomon in eastern Japan to the Hokkaido Ainu.
Scientists (studying blood or gene markers, and skulls and teeth) have however distinguished the past Jomon and today’s Ryukyan and Ainu populations from the populations of southern China and Pacific. The Jomon (and Ryukyuan and Ainu) people carry a genetic marker called the ab3st haplotype or blood marker that is shared by Mongoloid populations, found today among the Korean, Tibetan, Eskimo and Yakut peoples, but the marker is commonest among the Baikal Buryats living around Lake Baikal. This northern group of ab3st gene-carrying peoples can be distinguished however from a second group of southern Mongoloid peoples who were or are carriers of the afb1b3 gene, which is shared by populations in Guangxi and Yunnan area of southwest China (and who are rarely found to carry the ab3st gene).
The scientists have also concluded that the gene pool of later Yayoi immigrants who had arrived 2,400 years ago had limited influence (if any) on the people of the Epi-Jomon inhabitants in Hokkaido. As such, they conclude the lineage of the epi-Jomon and Ainu people is far removed from that of the mainland Japanese and that of the northern Kyushu Yayoi people who were derived of continental lineage. Other studies (such as studies of Y chromosome SNP paternal lineages, of distributions of populations with different earwax types and of virus-carrying populations) confirm these conclusions.
The earliest figurine-making tradition is thought to have originated from Upper Palaeolithic figurines from Eurasia and Siberia. The figurine developed into the mother goddess figure in the North Pacific area. Originating from the Lake Baikal area, was the ancestral mother goddess figurine figurine. That figurine probably influenced the development of the Amur River and Japanese types.
In addition to the mother goddess figurines, the snake motif on pottery designs on Katsusaka pottery from the Yatsugatake mountain area, may be another indication of influence from people living in the Amur River area. Snake motifs are most widely used by all Tungus tribes in the lower Amur region where the cosmic serpent is considered the Creator of their Universe.
There were possibly early connections with the Paleolithic peoples from the Korean peninsula. Remains from the earliest settlements in Kyushu showed many knife-type stone tools, which are similar to finds on the Korean Peninsula of the same age. The earliest art found in Japan were stone figurines. Archaeologists have found at the Seokjang-ri locality 1 dwelling site dating to 20,000 years ago, human hairs of Mongoloid origin with limonitic and manganese pigments near and around a hearth, as well as animal figurines such as a dog, tortoise and bear made of stone. The hairs, found with yellow-brown iron ore and manganese pigments near a hearth, were shown to have belonged to people of Mongoloid stock. The living floor of compact clay was hollowed out in the shape of a whale.
Although the earliest pottery in the world is found at the Odai Yamamoto site on northern Honshu Island and on Kyushu and Shikoku island sites, many scientists and scholars think that the pottery culture may have been introduced into the Japanese archipelago via a northerly route from the Eurasian continent. Archaeologists have uncovered five sites in Amur River basin in Eastern Russia with early pottery shards as well as stone tools (lithics) that are similar to those of the Odai Yamamoto site. However, scientists also suspect that because the Amur River pottery were fairly sophisticated, the origin of this pottery production tradition could probably be traced back to an earlier time in South China.
From around 10,000 BCE, some aspects of the Jomon pottery culture showed similarities with that of Jeulmun pottery in Korea. The respective pottery samples were extremely similar in shape, form and technique. Other aspects of the people who made the Jeulman pottery such as the shellmound culture indicating a shellfish diet, were similar to the Jomon culture of the time too.
The connection of Jomon pottery with mainland sites in China is also evident. Sites in central and southern Japan yield a lithic industry similar to southern China with pebble-flaking, chipping, pecking and polishing as the same basic techniques. Far east in the north on the continent, and reaching far to the south was a culture with axes or round or oval section. On the other hand, shouldered-axe culture was to be found in the south and in the coastal region from Nanjing to Tongjing, Yunnan to Fujian and that reached the coasts of Korea and Japan.
Jomon people were influenced by the sea since they lived surrounded by the sea on the Japanese archipelago. The sea routes would have made it possible for successive waves of migrations of human groups from the continent to enter the archipelago and come into contact with Jomon people. People probably came to live or to trade. Among the important sea routes or “sea bridges” of the Jomon, were the migratory paths from the South China coast (particularly Fujian) and Southeast Asia.
In particular, the rice culture of the Yangtze people in the Hemudu period through the Liangzhu period, is thought to have been transmitted to the Japanese archipelago via the Fujian people and the Taiwan sea bridge. The influence of the culture from the Yangtze basin can be seen in the artefacts such as jade, stone, perforated axes, perforated stand vessels and others, many of which are found in the Fujian region too.
From around 5,300 years till 3,600 years ago (the Early Period) the Jomon culture showed some similarities to South China coastal and Southeast Asian cultures from Fujian to Malaysia, such as in the shouldered and tooth-shaped stone axes, ornaments decorated with large spiral patterns or a mixture of cord and shell prints or eye forms, pottery with widening stands and bulged middle line, among other artefacts. Typical artefacts such as pebble axes, pointed picks, short axes, waisted axes, shouldered axes and others were unearthed at Kozanji, Kutobo, Ubayama and the southern Japanese islands, all of which were also common in South China and Indochina.
Hence, some scholars think migrations from the South China coastal areas and Indochina from the Middle Period onwards were important in the formation of Jomon people and culture from the Middle period. They see, for example, close similarities between the shouldered stone axes, rectangular axes with triangular blades, round stones with deepening in the middle, as well as the phallic shaped stone hoes, found in various parts of the Jomon world from around 4,500 to 3,200 years ago and those found in Indochina.
Stones circles found in eastern and northwest Japan, can also be seen on the Korean Peninsula and in southern part of Northeastern China. Dolmens and stone circles are thus thought to be a shared megalithic culture by Japan and other regions in East Asia and that the dolmen culture originated in Manchuria or on the Liaotung Peninsula (as dolmens are most numerous along the Northeast Asian geographical corridor — Liaoning, to Shandong, and Zhejiang in China).
However, dolmens are also found all along the coast of Vietnam (particularly the Dong Nai Province) as well as in parts of Island Southeast Asia (the island of Sumba and Nias in Indonesia where living megalithic traditions still exist) Liaoning, Shandong, and Zhejiang in China, Dong Nai province in Vietnam and parts of India, and the megalithic culture or technology may equally have been brought from Southeast Asia. Vietnamese researcher (Lam, 2008) while acknowledging other theories about megaliths originating from the
Austronesian region at least from the first millennium BC (Bellwood) and from Nias, Borneo (Heine Geldern) offers a new and unusual view in a study on Vietnamese and SEA megaliths, that the “megalith sites in Vietnam might have belonged to the megalith complex in western Pacific, spreading from Japan to Korean peninsula to all over Southeast Asia”.
The picture from recent DNA studies
A rather recently published study in 2005 on 81 sets of Y chromosomes of six populations across Japan showed:
Japanese have at least two very deep Y chromosome lineages (D-P37.1 and C-M8) that descend from Paleolithic founders who had diverged from the mainland and that were then isolated from those populations on the mainland for a very long time. Scientists thought these D lineages to mean the Jomon populations in Japan once upon a time the same ancestors as Tibetans from central Asia who are found with the highest frequency of continental D lineages is found in central Asia. Scientists hypothesized that the area between Tibet and the Altai Mountains in northwestern China is the most likely geographic source of Paleolithic Japanese founding Y chromosomes. ( Historical records suggest that Tibetan populations were derived from ancient tribes of northwestern China that subsequently moved to the south and mixed with the southern natives in the last 3,000 years.)
The same study also concluded that Jomon genes have survived till today showing up at high frequencies in Japanese populations today (34.7%) The scientists having charted the Haplogroup D chromosome-carrying populations who were found to exist at frequencies distributed in an inverted U-shaped pattern across the archipelago, with the highest frequencies occurring in the southern Ryukyuans (Okinawa) and the northern Ainu (Hokkaido). The results suggested to scientists that not only the distinct genetic contribution of Paleolithic ancestors but that they had intermarried (admixed) with the later income Yayoi migrant populations who were of a separate and different haplotype O lineage.
The strongest evidence for a southern genetic component in the Jomon is the M7 (mtDNA) haplogroup that comes from a recent research paper defining the East Asian mtDNA Tree (Toomas Kivisild). The paper notes the “characteristically southern distribution of haplogroup M7 in East Asia, whereas its daughter-groups, M7a and M7b2, speciﬁc for Japanese and Korean populations, testify to a presumably (pre-)Jomon contribution to the modern mtDNA pool of Japan”. The haplogroup M “branch of the mtDNA Tree” is regarded as unequivocally Indian-derived and of southern origin, because it is found in Eastern Eurasia but is virtually absent in Europe. Other research on mtDNA on Indian subcontinent adheres to the “Southern Coastal Route” hypothesis, as “suggested by the phylogeography of mtDNA haplogroup M, the virtual absence of which in the Near East and Southwest Asia undermines the likelihood of the initial colonization of Eurasia taking a route north around the Red Sea. Map of Eurasia and northeastern Africa depicting the peopling of Eurasia as inferred from the extant mtDNA phylogeny”.
The bold black arrow on the map above indicates the possible “coastal” route of colonization of Eurasia by anatomically modern humans (ca. 60,000 – 80,000 ybp). Therefore, the initial split between West and East Eurasian mtDNAs is postulated between the Indus Valley and Southwest Asia. Spheres depict expansion zones where, after the initial coastal peopling of the continent, local branches of the mtDNA tree (haplogroups given in the spheres) arose (ca. 40,000 – 60,000 ybp), including M7, from where they where further carried into the interior of the continent (thinner black arrows).
Michael F. Hammer, Tatiana M. Karafet, Hwayong Park, Keiichi Omoto, Shinji Harihara, Mark Stoneking and Satoshi Horai, Dual origins of the Japanese: common ground for hunter-gatherer and farmer Y chromosomes, Journal of Human Genetics / © The Japan Society of Human Genetics and Springer-Verlag 2005 / 10.1007/s10038-005-0322-0
Yali Xue et al., “Male Demography in East Asia: A North-South Contrast in Human Population Expansion Times,” Genetics 172: 2431-2439 (April 2006) The study notes that Manchu-Liaoning populations display the N1*-LLY22g haplogrpup (xN1a-M128, N1b-P43, and N1c-Tat) at 5.7% frequencies.
Lam Thi My Dzung, “Studies on Megaliths in Vietnam“, Social Sciences Information Review Vol 2. No. 3 Sept 2008. The paper (at p. 36) suggested that the megalithic site at Ta Van Giay “must have a certain relation to the ancient stone fields in Sapa and their counterparts that have just found in the area (possible references are some Asian sites such as complexes of megalith sites at Yoshinogari, Ashiziri Cape (Japan), the field of jars at Xiem Khoang (Laos), Sunda (Indonesia)… and other similar sites located along Vietnamese – Chinese border”
Kivisild, T, Tolk, HV, Parik, J, Wang, Y, Papiha, SS, Bandelt, HJ, Villems, R. (2002). The emerging limbs and twigs of the East Asian mtDNA tree. Mol Biol Evol. 19: 1737-1751. Read full paper here
Takehiro Sato et al. Polymorphisms and allele frequencies of the ABO blood group gene among the Jomon, Epi-Jomon and Okhotsk people in Hokkaido, northern Japan, revealed by ancient DNA analysis | Journal of Human Genetics 12 Aug 2010 55, 691-696 | doi:10.1038/jhg.2010.90
To investigate the genetic characteristics of the ancient populations of Hokkaido, northern Japan, polymorphisms of the ABO blood group gene were analyzed for 17 Jomon/Epi-Jomon specimens and 15 Okhotsk specimens using amplified product-length polymorphism and restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses. Five ABO alleles were identified from the Jomon/ Epi-Jomon and Okhotsk people.
Allele frequencies of the Jomon/Epi-Jomon and Okhotsk people were compared with those of the modern Asian, European and Oceanic populations. The genetic relationships inferred from principal component analyses indicated that both Jomon/Epi-Jomon and Okhotsk people are included in the same group as modern Asian populations. However, the genetic characteristics of these ancient populations in Hokkaido were significantly different from each other, which is in agreement with the conclusions from mitochondrial DNA and ABCC11 gene analyses that were previously reported.
Y-chromosomal Binary Haplogroups in the Japanese Population and their Relationship to 16 Y-STR Polymorphisms
Nonaka et al 2007
We investigated Y chromosomal binary and STR polymorphisms in 263 unrelated male individuals from the Japanese population and further examined the relationships between the two separate types of data. Using 47 biallelic markers we distinguished 20 haplogroups, four of which (D2b1/-022457, O3/-002611*, O3/-LINE1 del, and O3/-021354*) were newly defined in this study. Most haplogroups in the Japanese population are found in one of the three major clades, C, D, or O. Among these, two major lineages, D2b and O2b, account for 66% of Japanese Y chromosomes. Haplotype diversity of binary markers was calculated at 86.3%. The addition of 16 Y-STR markers increased the number of haplotypes to 225, yielding a haplotype diversity of 99.40%. A comparison of binary haplogroups and Y-STR type revealed a close association between certain binary haplogroups and Y-STR allelic or conformational differences, such as those at the DXYS156Y, DYS390m, DYS392, DYS437, DYS438 and DYS388 loci. Based on our data on the relationships between binary and STR polymorphisms, we estimated the binary haplogroups of individuals from STR haplotypes and frequencies of binary haplogroups in other Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese Han populations. The present data will enable researchers to connect data from binary haplogrouping in anthropological studies and Y-STR typing in forensic studies in East Asian populations, especially those in and around Japan.