Study of Yayoi-period stone rods shows continuity of Jomon lineage in their morphology suggesting a Jomon-Yayoi transition that saw very rapid fusion and co-existence of two different Jomon and Yayoi groups

Stone Rods of the Yayoi Period by AKIYAMA Kozo

Magical or ritual objects which had a long history of intimate connections with the spiritual life of the Jomon period have traditionally been studied as so-called ‘secondary tools’ within Jomon archaeology. Within this category, sekibo or ‘stone rods’ occupy an important position. These ‘rods’ include stone swords, daggers and phallic-shaped objects. Stone rods can be seen as artifacts that are representative of the Jomon period.

Stone rods have mainly been discovered from the eastern half of the archipelago and so far most research has also been conducted in that area. Recently, however, research on Jomon stone rods has been increasing in western Japan. In particular, Seiji Kobayashi and Yutaka Nakamura have compiled and published an exhaustive list of related materials. However, some of the stone rods contained in Kawachi Heiya Isekigun no Dotai [The Evolution of the Kawachi Plain Site Complex] (Osaka Maizo Bunkazai Center, eds. 1987-2000) were unfortunately omitted from their work due to the unsatisfactory level of publication in that site report. This article, therefore, attempts to supplement these published materials by a preliminary re-examination of the stone rods excavated from the various sites around the southern shore of the Paleo-Kawachi Lake, the central part of present-day Osaka Prefecture. As a result, it is shown that in this region there are relatively many finds from Yayoi-period features and thus we can confirm the existence of “Yayoi-period stone rods” which are different from those of the Jomon period. Furthermore, if we look at related data from neighboring areas, we can confirm the same phenomenon across the whole Kinki region.

In this region at the beginning of the Yayoi period, a Yayoi group with the new technology of wet rice cultivation and new Ongagawa-type domestic pottery moved into an area settled by existing Jomon groups and for a certain while these two groups coexisted together. Later, the new Yayoi culture became established over the whole region. Against this background, this article shows that most of the “Yayoi-period stone rods” discussed here date from a limited time span from the beginning of the Yayoi, when Jomon-type groups and Yayoi-type groups were coexisting, through until the start of the Middle Yayoi phase. This phenomenon is quite conspicuous in the Osaka Bay area and is especially noticeable around the periphery of the area that produced the oldest ditched Yayoi settlements in the Kinki.

In existing research, stone rods that possibly belong to the Yayoi period have usually been interpreted as objects of a different genealogy that were produced through principles that differed from those behind the Jomon rods. There has not been detailed discussion of those examples that appear to show a Jomon inheritance. The stone rods discussed in this article, however, also show their Jomon lineage in their morphology. If we reanalyze the contexts in which these ceremonial objects were maintained by each group, then the following facts become clear.

We can suggest that, at the beginning of the Yayoi period, in the dramatic process of encounter, co-existence and fusion between Jomon and Yayoi groups, very close individual and social contacts were probably achieved between both groups from first contact. This was the required prerequisite for two different groups to coexist in the same place. In the next stage when Yayoi culture became universally established, stone rods did not disappear but continued to be firmly rooted, suggesting that important elements of the new Yayoi culture derived from existing Jomon groups. This constitutes proof that the arrival of Yayoi groups was not a sort of invasion in which the existing Jomon people were conquered and exterminated, but that rather the Jomon-Yayoi transition saw the very rapid fusion of two different groups without major friction or conflict.

Source: Stone Rods of the Yayoi Period NIHON KÔKOGAKU No.14, November 2002, 159p; ISSN 1340-8488, ISBN 4-642-09089-4

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