One of the reasons why Jomon figurines capture the attention of historians and lay people alike, is that they portray what are believed to the earliest known representations of tattooed faces.
The earliest tattoo faced figurine is said to be dated to ca 5000 B.C. It is commonly called the Kassaka figurine as it was unearthed from the Kassaka site in Sagamihara city, Kanagawa prefecture, see below:
Kassaka Jomon clay figurine
The above photo (photo credit: Harry’s blog) of the Kassaka figurine is currently displayed at the Kanagawa Prefectural History Museum. (Harry’s blog article also mentions the other similar figurines unearthed from Kudencho, Yokohama city, Kanagawa.)
These tattooed faced figurines are now considered typical of Jomon ceramic figurines found in Kanagawa, they are called Kassaka Jomon as seen in the poster of a past exhibition by the Kanagawa Prefectural History Museum, you can see it displayed online at the museum’s webpage itself .
More Kassaka Jomon pieces have appeared according to the
Ceramic fragments unearthed from the Kassaka site, photo credit: Kanagawa Prefectural History Museum 勝坂遺跡から初めて出土した獣面を模した把手
The figurines are rather intriguing. as well as whimsical, sometimes appearing perched as ornaments on the edge of pots. Do they represent the spirit of a birthing deity or fire deity or both? Perhaps, hearkening back to the connected and very ancient idea of humans being formed from clay?