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  • Subsistence-Settlement Systems and Intersite Variability in the Moroiso Phase of the Early Jomon Period of Japan
  • Kobayashi Ken'ichi
    Translated by Ken'ichi Sasaki
Subsistence-Settlement Systems and Intersite Variability in the Moroiso Phase of the Early Jomon Period of Japan. Habu Junko. Ann Arbor: International Monographs in Prehistory, 2001. xii + 207 pp., 73 figs., maps, graphs, 33 tables, bibliography. Cloth bound. $65.00. ISBN 1-879621-33-9.

This book is a revision of Habu Junko's Ph.D. dissertation submitted to McGill University in 1996. Before her move to Canada, she had conducted archaeological [End Page 181] investigations in Japan. Even in Canada and presently in the United States, she continues her investigations into Jomon archaeology, and has made considerable contributions to Japanese archaeology as a whole.

Prior to reviewing this important work, I considered it necessary to put Habu's scholarly contributions into the broader framework of Japanese archaeology. The past twenty years has witnessed English-language publications of Japanese authors dealing with Jomon archaeology (e.g., Akazawa 1986; Imamura 1996; Mizoguchi 2002). Yet, even though the number of publications on Jomon archaeology is high each year, these comprehensive syntheses do not cover the diverse trends and research directions in Japanese archaeology.

The advances in Jomon archaeology are a reflection of its evolution from emphasizing chronology building to studies of new problem orientations. Owing to large-scale, full excavations of settlement sites as a result of rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, settlement archaeology has become an important branch of Jomon archaeology (e.g., Kobayashi 1973). The excavation of numerous shell middens has led to active discussion on subsistence and paleoenvironments during the Jomon period. Yet, very few attempts have been made to integrate the different branches of Jomon archaeology into the study of Jomon society. In this sense, Habu's present work successfully combines the studies of settlement patterns and subsistence. To achieve her goal, she adopted theoretical frameworks proposed by Lewis Binford. She should be congratulated for her success in presenting a new, fresh perspective on Jomon studies in Japan.

Habu's contributions to Jomon archaeology are twofold. One is her model of intersite interaction dating to the Moroiso phase (about 4000 cal B.C.) of the Early Jomon period (5000-3500 cal B.C.). This work is backed by her further-refined pottery chronology of the Moroiso phase. Her chronological framework is unique because she not only relies on traditional methods of pottery typology and stratigraphy, but also adopts frequency seriation of different types of pottery discovered in individual semisubterranean residences. She also adopts Longacre's ceramic approach to prehistoric social organization, which is quite new to Jomon archaeologists in Japan. These all serve as the background to her present monograph.

Her second contribution to Jomon archaeology is the subject matter of this monograph, sedentism and subsistence of the Moroiso phase. In eastern Japan, many settlement sites of the Early and Middle Jomon period that have been excavated contain hundreds of semisubterranean residences with pottery of several chronologically distinct types. Among Japanese archaeologists, debates continue on whether such large settlement sites represent the continuous occupation of more than one hundred habitations for a few thousand years or the intermittent occupation of a small number of residences each season, every few years, or every few decades. As Habu points out in Chapter 3 of this monograph, Japanese archaeologists primarily support the former position. In recent years, the latter position has gradually gained support from young archaeologists, including Habu and myself. However, I disagree with her on the type of intermittent settlement characterizing these sites.

In this monograph, Habu argues for seasonal occupation of camps and settlements. I tend to disagree with her view because I contend that even small, temporary settlements were occupied throughout the year, based on the archaeological evidence of modified semisubterranean pit dwellings (Kobayashi 1999). The focus of my investigation is the Middle Jomon period, which shows cultural phenomena similar to the Moroiso phase of the Early Jomon period. I propose that similar subsistence-settlement systems were maintained during both the Moroiso phase and the Middle Jomon period and argue that the size and duration...