Below are a few sample closeup photos of tattooed faces of the Jomon mostly of clay figurines (called dogu) or of pottery relief:
The most common type of tattoo appears to a simple double line running in a curve or straight line from the eye across the cheek to the side of the face. Other figurines feature crow’s feet lines from the corner of each eye (pictured below).
Eyes and lips may also have completely been surrounded by scarification or needle punctures creating the famous goggle-eyed and thick-lipped look of many figurines.
Eyelids may have been tattooed as well.
Why did the Jomon tattoo their faces?
Local fishing folk believe that tattoos are done for protection against predators like shark. This practice may have been handed down from Jomon times.
Some of the tattoos such as the double lines from eye across cheek appear to have been fairly stable features, lasting from around 3,300 BC through the final phase of the Jomon period in the Kanto region. They may have been rites of passage or cultural traits intended to have been cultural/tribe identifiers.
Ainu women were known (until fairly recent times) to have tattooed their lips. According to Ainu tradition, they attributed tattooing to a gift from the “Ancestral Mother” of the Ainu Okikurumi (Turesh) Machi, the younger sister of the creator god, Okikurumi, and the tattoos were a prerequisite for Ainu women to getting married(source: Lars Krutak). Other Ainus have attributed a healing or protective function to tattoos that are believed to repel evil spirits(source: Lars Krutak). As the Ainu have been established to be genetically partially of Jomon stock, we can postulate that the practice may have been part of the goddess culture of the Jomon people as well (other cultures like Inuit, Eskimo Imooyok (see photo below) and Maoris women also tattooed their lips. Facial tattoos are especially sacred for the Maoris, a moko on the face is the ultimate statement of one’s identity as a Māori, and the head is believed to be the most sacred part of the body).
Later periods also showed up more ornamental and varied types of tattoos, where perhaps they became fashion or artistic adornments as well.
Jomon tattoos were unlikely to have had warpaint uses, i.e. they were probably not intended to scare off their enemies. Internecine warfare was unknown until the arrival of the Yayoi immigrants
Sources and References
縄文の力 THE POWER OF JOMON (別冊太陽 日本のこころ) Author 小林 達雄 ISBN9784582922127
土偶・コスモス(Published by MIHO MUSEUM) ISBN9784904702376
列島の考古学 縄文時代 (by 能登) ISBN9784309714424
縄文人の道具 古代史復元 (3) (Author 達雄, 小林) ISBN4061864238
Tattoo History: The Tattooed Ainu Women of Japan by Minerva
Tattooing among Japan’s Ainu people by Lars Krutak
Ta moko: The significance of Maori tattoos
Between the Lines:
Tracing the controversial history and recent revival of Inuit facial tattoos Sep 20, Ashleigh Gaul
‘This is so powerful:’ Kitikmeot women revive traditional Inuit tattoos CBC News,May 3, 2016