Dead men tell no tales … what were the Yayoi people like?

Dead men tell no tales, so the saying goes … only it’s not really correct anymore in our modern day of CSI forensic science. In fact, a thousand Yayoi skeletons in North Kyushu have quite a lot to say about who the Yayoi people were.

About a thousand Yayoi skeletons found in North Kyushu (southwest Japan) from the Early to Middle Yayoi periods revealed that Early Yayoi people in the north were taller than the earlier Jomon people by an average of 2 cm, but that the Yayoi people of the Northwest and South Kyushu were similar to the Tsugamo people of the Late Jomon period.

Why these facts are important, is because they are the key to solving a central question hotly debated among historians: whether the Yayoi people who migrated into the Japanese islands wiped out (i.e. displaced) the Jomon people who lived in Japan in the earlier period or whether they integrated with or were absorbed into the native populations in Japan.

And the skeletons indicate that no population displacement had occurred.

At the end of the Yayoi period, the Yayoi skeletons revealed that Yayoi people were better fed and changing features were caused by the new genetic types entering the population pool of Japan.

The skeletons tell scientists that Yayoi faces became flatter over time and that during the early Yayoi period, the males grew slightly taller to an average of 162 cm and tended to live a little longer (only by a year or so). The Yayoi skeletons also told of regional differences: The Yayoi skeletons of Kyushu (southwest Japan) were larger, taller with larger feet (25-27 cm) compared to those from central Japan (23 – 25 cm). In the southwest, the Yayoi people also had longer skulls while those of the east were rounder.

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