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History of Japan

  • Paleolithic 35000–14000 BC
  • Jōmon period 14000–400 BC
  • Yayoi period 400 BC – AD 250
  • Kofun period 250–538
  • Asuka period 538–710
  • Nara period 710–794
  • Heian period 794–1185
  • Kamakura period 1185–1333
    • Kemmu restoration 1333–1336
  • Muromachi period 1336–1573
    • Nanboku-chō period 1336–1392
    • Sengoku period
  • Azuchi-Momoyama period 1568–1603
    • Nanban trade
  • Edo period 1603–1868
    • Bakumatsu
  • Meiji period 1868–1912
    • Meiji Restoration
  • Taishō period 1912–1926
    • Japan in WWI
  • Shōwa period 1926–1989
    • Japanese militarism
    • Occupation of Japan
    • Post-Occupation Japan
  • Heisei period 1989–present
  • Economic history
  • Educational history
  • Military history
  • Naval history
Archivo:Jomon text.svg

Characters for Jōmon (meaning "cord marks" or "cord patterned").

The Jōmon period (縄文時代 Jōmon-jidai?) is the time in Japanese prehistory from about 14,000 BC[1] to 400 BC.

The term "Jōmon" means "cord-patterned" in Japanese. This refers to the markings made on clay vessels and figures using sticks with cords wrapped around them as well as to the pottery techniques of the Jomon-jin.[2]

Incipient and initial Jōmon (14,000 – 4000 BC)[]

More stable living patterns gave rise by around 14,000 BC to a Mesolithic or, as some scholars argue, Neolithic culture, but with some characteristics of both. Possibly distant ancestors of the Ainu aboriginal peb of the heterogeneous Jōmon culture (c. 14,000-4,000 BC) left the clearest archaeological record. They were related to the nearby Jeulmun culture of Korea.[citation needed]

Early pottery[]


Incipient Jōmon Pottery (14,000-8000 BC) Tokyo National Museum, Japan.

According to archaeological evidence, the Jōmon people created amongst the first known pottery vessels in the world, known as Jōmon Pottery, dated to the 14th millennium BC [2] [2] [3], as well as the earliest ground stone tools. The antiquity of this pottery was first identified after the Second World War, through radiocarbon dating methods.[3]

Archaeologist Junko Habu claims that "The majority of Japanese scholars believed, and still believe, that pottery production was first invented in mainland Asia and subsequently introduced into the Japanese archipelago." and explains that "A series of excavations in the Amur River Basin in the 1980s and 1990s revealed that pottery in this region may be as old as, if not older than, Fukui Cave pottery".[2]

The Jomon era pottery was called Jomon doki. Jomon means patterns of rope, and most earthware resembled designs made by rope. First they wet the soil and made a rope out of it (wring it into a rope). Then they gave it the desired shape with their hands. Mostly they ate or stored their food in the pots they made.The Jōmon people were also making clay figures and vessels decorated with patterns of a growing sophistication made by impressing the wet clay with braided or unbraided cord and sticks.[2]

Neolithic traits[]

The manufacturing of pottery typically implies some form of sedentary life due to the fact that pottery is highly breakable and thus generally useless to hunter-gatherers who are constantly on the move. Therefore, the Jōmon people were probably some of the earliest sedentary or at least semi-sedentary people in the world. They used chipped stone tools, ground stone tools, traps, and bows, and were probably semi-sedentary hunters-gatherers and skillful coastal and deep-water fishermen. They practiced a rudimentary form of agriculture and lived in caves and later in groups of either shallow pit dwellings or above-ground houses, leaving rich middens for modern archaeological study.

Population expansion[]

This semi-sedentary culture led to important population increases, so that the Jōmon exhibit some of the highest densities known for foraging populations [4]. Genetic mapping studies by Cavalli-Sforza have shown a pattern of genetic expansion from the area of the Sea of Japan towards the rest of eastern Asia. This appears as the third most important genetic movement in Eastern Asia (after the "Great expansion" from the African continent, and a second expansion from the area of Northern Siberia), which suggests geographical expansion during the early Jōmon period [5]. These studies also suggest that the Jōmon demographic expansion may have reached America along a path following the Pacific coast [6].

Main periods[]

Incipient Jōmon (14000 BC - 7500 BC):

  • Linear applique,
  • Nail impression,
  • Cord impression,
  • Muroya lower.

Initial Jōmon (7500 BC - 4000 BC):

  • Igusa,
  • Inaridai,
  • Mito,
  • Lower Tado,
  • Upper Tado,
  • Shiboguchi,
  • Kayama.

Early to Final Jōmon (4000 – 400 BC)[]


A Middle Jōmon vessel (3000 BC-2000 BC) called Kaen doki(火焔土器 "flame-formed earthenware vessel"), Tokyo National Museum, Japan.


A Final Jōmon statuette called dogū (土偶 "earthenware figure") (1000 BC-400 BC), Tokyo National Museum, Japan.


A jar with spirals. Final Jomon, Kamegaoka style.

The Early and Middle Jōmon periods saw an explosion in population, as indicated by the number of excavations from this period. These two periods occurred during the prehistoric Holocene Climatic Optimum (between 4000 BC and 2000 BC), when temperatures reached several degrees Celsius higher than the present, and the seas were higher by 5 to 6 metres.[7] Beautiful artistic realisations, such as highly decorated "flamed" vessels, remain from that time. After 1500 BC, the climate cooled, and populations seem to have contracted dramatically. Comparatively few archaeological sites can be found after 1500 BC.

According to archaeological studies, a dramatic shift had taken place near the end of the Jōmon period. Incipient cultivation was replaced by sophisticated rice-paddy farming and government control. Many other elements of Japanese culture also may date from this period. This change may reflect a mingled migration from the northern Asian continent and the southern Pacific areas. Among these elements are Shinto mythology, marriage customs, architectural styles, and technological developments, such as lacquerware, textiles, laminated bows, metalworking, and glass making.

Main periods[]

Early Jōmon (4000 BC - 3000 BC):

  • Lower Hanazumi,
  • Sekiyama,
  • Kurohama,
  • Moroiso A,B,C
  • Juusanbodai.

Middle Jōmon (3000 BC - 2000 BC):

  • Katsusaka/Otamadai,
  • Kasori E1,
  • Kasori E2.

Late Jōmon (2000 BC - 1000 BC):

  • Shyomyouji,
  • Horinouchi,
  • Kasori B1,
  • Kasori B2,
  • Angyo 1.

Final Jōmon (1000 BC - 400 BC):

  • Angyo 2,
  • Angyo 3.


  1. [1]"Ancient Jomon of Japan", Habu Junko, Cambridge Press, 2004
  2. 2,0 2,1 2,2 2,3 Habu, Junko (2004). Ancient Jomon of Japan. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 78-0521776707. 
  3. Radiocarbon measures of carbonized material from pottery artifacts (uncalibrated): Fukui Cave 12500 +/-350 BP and 12500 +/-500 BP (Kamaki&Serizawa 1967), Kamikuroiwa rockshelter 12, 165 +/-350 years BP in Shikoku (Esaka et al. 1967), from "Prehistoric Japan", Keiji Imamura, p46
  4. "Jōmon population densities are among the highest recorded for a foraging population, although in some areas of the Pacific Coast of North America, comparable and even higher figures of population densities have been observed (Hassan, 1975)" "The History and Geography of Human Genes" p249, Cavalli-Sforza ISBN 0-691-08750-4.
  5. "The third synthetic map shows a peak in Japan, with rapidly falling concentric gradients... Taken at face value, one would assume a center of demographic expansion in an area located around the Sea of Japan." "The History and Geography of Human Genes" p249, Cavalli-Sforza ISBN 0-691-08750-4
  6. "The synthetic maps suggest a previously unsuspected center of expansion from the Sea of Japan but cannot indicate dates. This development could be tied to the Jōmon period, but one cannot entirely exclude the pre-Jōmon period and that it might be responsible for a migration to the Americas. A major source of food in those pre-agricultural times came from fishing, then as now, and this would have limited for ecological reasons the area of expansion to the coastline, perhaps that of the Sea of Japan, but also father along the Pacific Coast" "The History and Geography of Human Genes" p253, Cavalli-Sforza ISBN 0-691-08750-4
  7. "Prehistoric Japan", Imamura


  • Aikens, C. Melvin, and Takayasu Higuchi. (1982). Prehistory of Japan. Studies in Archaeology. New York: Academic Press. (main text 337 pages; Jomon text 92 pages)
  • Habu, Junko, "Ancient Jomon of Japan", Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-77213-3
  • Habu, Junko, "Subsistence-Settlement systems in intersite variability in the Moroiso Phase of the Early Jomon Period of Japan"
  • Imamura, Keiji, "Prehistoric Japan", University of Hawai Press, 1996, ISBN 0-8248-1852-0
  • Kobayashi, Tatsuo. (2004). Jomon Reflections: Forager Life and Culture in the Prehistoric Japanese Archipelago. Ed. Simon Kaner with Oki Nakamura. Oxford, England: Oxbow Books. (main text 186 pages, all on Jomon)
  • Koyama, Shuzo, and David Hurst Thomas (eds.). (1979). Affluent Foragers: Pacific Coasts East and West. Senri Ethnological Studies No. 9. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology. (main text 295 pages; Jomon text [3 good articles] 72 pages)
  • Michael, Henry N., The Neolithic Age in Eastern Siberia. Henry N. Michael. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser., Vol. 48, No. 2 (1958), pp. 1–108. (laminated bow from Korekawa, Aomori)
  • Pearson, Richard J., Gina Lee Barnes, and Karl L. Hutterer (eds.). (1986). Windows on the Japanese Past: Studies in Archaeology and Prehistory. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan. (main text 496 pages; Jomon text 92 pages)

See also[]

  • dogu
  • Japanese era name#Unofficial nengō system (私年号)
  • Jeulmun pottery
  • Jōmon Era count
  • Jōmon Pottery
  • Ainu people
  • Ko-shinto (Jomon-jin)

External links[]