Jomon Period, the roots of Japan
September / 2011
UNKNOWN WORLD in Northern Tohoku
The Jomon Period – Japan’s early Holocene period of hunter-gatherers – is believed to begin 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, which continued for about 10,000 years. Ruins and relics of the Jomon have been found throughout Japan, including Hokkaido as well as Northern Tohoku regions, which contain a particularly large number of ruins, including the Sannai-Maruyama Ruins (the largest of the Jomon Period).
In 2009, the “Jomon Archaeological Sites in Hokkaido, Northern Tohoku, and other regions” were added to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage. Today, prefectural governments promote activities to raise awareness for the importance of those ruins. Japan is a country of distinctive history and culture which date back thousands of years; the foundation of which is the Jomon Culture, known for its earthenware. The oldest earthenware in the world, they have been preserved in eastern Japan where the Jomon Culture survived the longest. The more you learn about the Jomon, the more you will be familiar with the roots of Japan’s cultures and peoples.
What’s Jomon Culture
Jomon Culture, the longest and the earliest recorded culture in Japanese history, lasted about 10,000 years when the earth’s temperature got warmer and the ice began to melt. Current Japanese Islands were formed during this time of rising sea levels. This was a time when deciduous broadleaved forests – including beech and acorn trees – spread throughout eastern Japan, as did temperate deciduous forests in western Japan.
The Jomon were hunter-gatherers during the early Jomon Period, and due to both human activity and climate change, some animals became scarce. Meat and fish were dried, smoked and roasted during this period. It is interesting to note that these methods are still applied to preserve some kinds of food today. The invention of earthenware was a notable turning point in the development of the Jomon Culture, which caused a change in their diet, as indicated by the remains.
Apart from improving the use of bows and arrows and fishing techniques, the Jomon Culture was also known for utilising trees: they created wooden crafts such as canoes, buckets, combs, bangles, and ignition tools, which were sometimes lacquered. As time went by, the Jomon started to develop more permanent settlements, becoming more sedentary as they worked together. The Jomon subsistence now consisted of hunting, gathering and horticulture. Small villages gradually became bigger, with evidence of trade among villages, as well as the holding of ceremonies.
To put Japan’s Jomon Period in the perspective of world history, rice cultivation began approximately 8,000 years ago in China. Mid-Jomon Period when the Sannai- Maruyama Ruins flourished, was also the period when the civilisations of the Yellow River, Indus Valley, Egypt and Mesopotamia thrived around the world.
September / 2011