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Middle Jomon Period rope pottery 5000-4000BC

A type of Jōmon Pottery.

Jomon vessel 3000-2000BC

Another type of Jōmon Pottery.

The Jōmon Pottery (縄文式土器 Jōmon-shiki Doki?) is an ancient pottery which was made during Jōmon period in Japan. The term "Jōmon" (縄文) means "the pattern of rope" in Japanese, and the pottery is also known for its patterns of rope.


Oldest Pottery in the World[]

The pottery vessels crafted in Ancient Japan during the Jōmon period are generally accepted to be the oldest pottery vessels in the world. This is not to be mistaken for the oldest ceramic objects, which are figurines discovered in Eastern Europe, in what is today the Czech Republic [1].


Bits of pottery discovered in a cave in the northwest coast of modern day Kyushu date back to as far as 12,700 BCE in radiocarbon dating tests [2]. It is believed by many that Jōmon pottery was probably made even farther back than this date. However, due to the ambiguity and multiple sources claiming different dates based on different dating techniques, it is difficult to say for sure how far back Jōmon Pottery was made. Some sources claim archaeological discoveries as far back as the 14 millennium BCE [3].

Jōmon Chronology[]

The Jōmon Period in Ancient Japan actually lasted until roughly 300 BCE. From there, it is divided into six periods: Incipient Jōmon, from 10,500-8,000 BCE, Earliest Jōmon, from 8,000-5,000 BCE, Early Jōmon, from 5,000-2,500 BCE, Middle Jōmon, from 2,500- 1,500 BCE, Late Jōmon, from 1,500-1,000 BCE, and Final Jōmon, from 1,000-300 BCE [4]. There are over 80 sites in Japan where Incipient Jōmon pottery vessels have been found [3], but the majority of Jōmon pottery remains come from the later periods.


The majority of Jōmon pottery has rounded bottoms and the vessels are typically small. This shows how it would be used to boil food, perhaps fitting into a bonfire [5]. Later Jōmon pottery pieces are more elaborate, especially during the Middle Jōmon period, where the rims of pots became much more complex and decorated [2].

The name Jōmon itself means “twisted cord” or “cord-marked”. This refers to the impressions on the surface of the pottery which was created by pressing cords into the clay before it was heated to approximately 600-900 degrees Celsius. [2].


  1. Alt, Kurt W. and Sandra Pinchler. “Twenty-five-thousand-year-old triple burial from Dolni Vestonice: An ice-age family?” American Journal of Physical Anthropology Vol. 102 Issue 1. Database on-line. EBSCOhost; accessed October 3, 2007.
  2. 2,0 2,1 2,2 Rice, Prudence M. “On the Origins of Pottery.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 6, no. 1 (1999): 1-54. Database on-line. Springerlink; accessed October 3, 2007.
  3. 3,0 3,1 Kuzmin, Yaroslav V. “Chronology of the earliest pottery in East Asia: progress and pitfalls.” Antiquity 80, (2006): 362-371. Database on-line. EBSCOhost; accessed October 3, 2007.
  4. Hall, M. E. “Pottery Styles during the Early Jomon Period: Geochemical Perspectives on the Moroiso and Ukishima Pottery Styles.” Archaeometry 43, no. 1 (2001): 59-75. Database on-line. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost; accessed October 5, 2007.
  5. Pearson, Richard. “Debating Jomon Social Complexity.” Asian Perspectives 46, no.2 (2007): 361-388. Database on-line. Project Muse; accessed October 5, 2007.

External links[]