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Reviewed by:
  • Bulletin of the International Jomon Culture Conference, Vol. 1 2004
  • Oki Nakamura
Bulletin of the International Jomon Culture Conference, Vol. 1 2004. Richard Pearson, ed. Tokyo: International Jomon Culture Congress (nonprofit organization). 163 pp.

What is the Jomon? It is a group of cultures that occupied the Japanese archipelago during the Jomon period, which is dated from about 16,000 to 3000 years ago, a long time span that Japanese archaeologists divide into six subperiods: Incipient, Initial, Early, Middle, Late, and Final. "Affluent" Jomon foragers in Japan utilized a wide range of foodstuffs, including nuts, mountain vegetables, fish, shellfish, and mammals. Key features of the Jomon include a highly developed storage economy, large-scale settlements with planned spatial organization, permanent buildings displaying a diversity of architectural types, sophisticated craft works including fine pottery and lacquer products, and extensive exchange networks of prestige objects such as jadeite ornaments. During the past decades, Japanese archaeologists have investigated and documented the very rich archaeological record of the Jomon period. There are probably more archaeological investigations undertaken in Japan than in any other country in the world. In the mid-1990s, permits were issued for over ten thousand investigations a year. It is quite difficult, however, for non-Japanese-speaking audiences to read through the mountains of excavation reports, articles, and books. This makes it difficult for the development of international Jomon studies in a worldwide context.

The Bulletin of the International Jomon Culture Conference aims to provide up-to-date information about Jomon archaeology for audiences both within Japan and overseas. In this volume, ten contributors deal with various topics concerning Jomon cultures. All articles are written in both English and Japanese. Three reviews provide detailed and high-quality outlines of Jomon archaeology. Richard Pearson discusses recent discoveries and studies including settlement pattern, social organization, the building of stone monuments, and lacquer production. Pearson concludes that the Jomon shares a number of features in common with other cultures of the North Pacific region and also with the East Asian continent, but that it also has a number of special qualities, including the domestication of some plants, gathering techniques that approach the level of domestication, a highly developed storage economy, and wide exchange networks for the circulation of prestige objects. Jomon was a complex forager society that achieved sedentism with large-scale settlements and permanent buildings and maintained a high level of craft production. Tatsuo Kobayashi describes the history of Jomon archaeology with a focus on Sugao Yamanouchi (1902– 1970), the great pioneer of Jomon studies. Kobayashi stresses the importance of Yamanouchi's achievement—the establishment [End Page 290] of a detailed chronology for Jomon pottery—which provides the foundation for all new approaches after Yamanouchi, such as the reconstruction of subsistence patterns and the analysis of social structure. He also explores the nature of the "Jomon revolution" in terms of new technologies, villages, landscape, and cosmology and its influence on later Japanese culture. Simon Kaner considers some notable excavations and innovative approaches to the study of Jomon settlements and suggests that the reconstruction of the occupational histories of settlements is important for addressing the development of social complexity in the Japanese archipelago.

Various case studies encourage a better and deeper understanding of Jomon life and society. C. Melvin Aikens investigated the Godo site located on the coast of Paleo-Tokyo Bay in the Early Jomon. The bay was created by raised sea levels during the Jomon Transgression caused by global warming in the Early Jomon, and it covered a great deal of what is now metropolitan Tokyo. A wide diversity of food remains, including fish, shells, and mammals, was excavated from well-preserved deposits. Circular clusters of fire-broken rocks probably used for cooking and processing activities were found, although there is no evidence for any actual dwellings. Aikens suggests that people might have come to Godo to obtain and prepare food and returned to their homes elsewhere in the vicinity of Godo at night. They commuted varying distances on a daily basis for collecting, hunting, fishing, and processing. He suggests that the concept of a "commuter economy" from studies of Native American people might be useful for interpreting the lifestyle...


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