The J?mon period (, J?mon jidai) is the time in Japanese prehistory, traditionally dated between c. 14,000-300 BCE, recently refined to about 1000 BCE, during which Japan was inhabited by a hunter-gatherer culture, which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. The name "cord-marked" was first applied by the American zoologist and orientalist Edward S. Morse, who discovered sherds of pottery in 1877 and subsequently translated it into Japanese as J?mon. The pottery style characteristic of the first phases of J?mon culture was decorated by impressing cords into the surface of wet clay and is generally accepted to be among the oldest in the world.
The J?mon period was rich in tools and jewelery made from bone, stone, shell and antler; pottery figurines and vessels; and lacquerware. It is often compared to pre-Columbian cultures of the North American Pacific Northwest and especially to the Valdivia culture in Ecuador because in these settings cultural complexity developed within a primarily hunting-gathering context with limited use of horticulture.
The approximately 14,000 year J?mon period is conventionally divided into several phases: Incipient (13,750-8,500 years ago), Initial (8,500-5,000), Early (5,000-3,520), Middle (3,520-2,470), Late (2,470-1,250), and Final (1,250-500), with each phase progressively shorter than the prior phase. The fact that this entire period is given the same name by archaeologists should not be taken to mean that there was not considerable regional and temporal diversity; the time between the earliest J?mon pottery and that of the more well-known Middle J?mon period is about twice as long as the span separating the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza from the 21st century.
The earliest pottery in Japan was made at or before the start of the Incipient J?mon period. Small fragments, dated to were found at the Odai Yamamoto I site in 1998. Pottery of roughly the same age was subsequently found at other sites such as Kamikuroiwa and Fukui Cave.
Archaeologist Junko Habu claims "[t]he majority of Japanese scholars believed, and still believe, that pottery production was first invented in mainland Asia and subsequently introduced into the Japanese archipelago." This seems to be confirmed by recent archaeology. As of now, the earliest pottery vessels in the world date back to and were discovered in Xianren Cave in Jiangxi, China. The pottery may have been used as cookware. Other early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave in southern China, dated from , and at present it appears that pottery emerged at roughly the same time in Japan, and in the Amur River basin of the Russian Far East.
The first J?mon pottery is characterized by the cord-marking that gives the period its name and has now been found in large numbers of sites. The pottery of the period has been classified by archaeologists into some 70 styles, with many more local varieties of the styles. The antiquity of J?mon pottery was first identified after World War II, through radiocarbon dating methods.[a] The earliest vessels were mostly smallish round-bottomed bowls 10-50 cm high that are assumed to have been used for boiling food and, perhaps, storing it beforehand. They belonged to hunter-gatherers and the size of the vessels may have been limited by a need for portability. As later bowls increase in size, this is taken to be a sign of an increasingly settled pattern of living. These types continued to develop, with increasingly elaborate patterns of decoration, undulating rims, and flat bottoms so that they could stand on a surface.
The manufacture of pottery typically implies some form of sedentary life because pottery is heavy, bulky, and fragile and thus generally unusable for hunter-gatherers. However, this does not seem to have been the case with the first J?mon people, who perhaps numbered over the whole archipelago. It seems that food sources were so abundant in the natural environment of the Japanese islands that it could support fairly large, semi-sedentary populations. The J?mon people used chipped stone tools, ground stone tools, traps, and bows, and were evidently skillful coastal and deep-water fishermen.
Initial J?mon (7500-4000 BCE)
Traces of Paleolithic culture, mainly stone tools, occur in Japan from around onwards. The earliest "Incipient J?mon" phase began while Japan was still linked to continental Asia as a narrow peninsula. As the glaciers melted following the end of the last glacial period (approximately ), sea levels rose, separating the Japanese archipelago from the Asian mainland; the closest point (in Kyushu) about 190 kilometres (120 mi) from the Korean Peninsula is near enough to be intermittently influenced by continental developments, but far enough removed for the peoples of the Japanese islands to develop independently. In addition, Luzon, Taiwan, Ryukyu, and Kyushu constitute a continuous chain of islands, connecting the J?mon with maritime Southeast Asia.
Within the archipelago, the vegetation was transformed by the end of the Ice Age. In southwestern Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, broadleaf evergreen trees dominated the forests, whereas broadleaf deciduous trees and conifers were common in northeastern Honshu and southern Hokkaido. Many native tree species, such as beeches, buckeyes, chestnuts, and oaks produced edible nuts and acorns. These provided substantial sources of food for both humans and animals.
In the northeast, the plentiful marine life carried south by the Oyashio Current, especially salmon, was another major food source. Settlements along both the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean subsisted on immense amounts of shellfish, leaving distinctive middens (mounds of discarded shells and other refuse) that are now prized sources of information for archaeologists. Other food sources meriting special mention include Sika deer, wild boar (with possible wild-pig management), wild plants such as yam-like tubers, and freshwater fish. Supported by the highly productive deciduous forests and an abundance of seafood, the population was concentrated in central and northern Honshu, but J?mon sites range from Hokkaido to the Ryukyu Islands.
The Early J?mon period saw an explosion in population, as indicated by the number of larger aggregated villages from this period. This period occurred during the Holocene climatic optimum, when the local climate became warmer and more humid.
The degree to which horticulture or small-scale agriculture was practiced by J?mon people is debated. The hunter-gatherer conceptualization of the J?mon period culture is part of scientific romanticized narratives. There is evidence to suggest that arboriculture was practiced in the form of tending groves of lacquer (Toxicodendron verniciflua) and nut (Castanea crenata and Aesculus turbinata) producing trees, as well as soybean, bottle gourd, hemp, Perilla, adzuki, among others. These characteristics place them somewhere in between hunting-gathering and agriculture.
An apparently domesticated variety of peach appeared very early at J?mon sites in 6700-6400 BP (4700-4400 BCE). This was already similar to modern cultivated forms. This domesticated type of peach was apparently brought into Japan from China. Nevertheless, in China, itself, this variety is currently attested only at a later date of c. 5300-4300 BP.
Highly ornate pottery dog? figurines and vessels, such as the so-called "flame style" vessels, and lacquered wood objects remain from that time. Although the ornamentation of pottery increased over time, the ceramic fabric always remained quite coarse. During this time Magatama stone beads make a transition from being a common jewelry item found in homes into serving as a grave good. This is a period where there are large burial mounds and monuments.
This period saw a rise in complexity in the design of pit-houses, the most commonly used method of housing at the time, with some even having stone paved floors. A study in 2015 found that this form of dwelling continued up until the Satsumon culture. Using archaeological data on pollen count, this phase is the warmest of all the phases. By the end of this phase the warm climate starts to enter a cooling trend.
Castanea crenata becomes essential, not only as a nut bearing tree, but also because it was extremely durable in wet conditions and became the most used timber for building houses during the Late J?mon phase.
During the Final J?mon period, a slow shift was taking place in western Japan: steadily increasing contact with the Korean Peninsula eventually led to the establishment of Korean-type settlements in western Kyushu, beginning around 900 BCE. The settlers brought with them new technologies such as wet rice farming and bronze and iron metallurgy, as well as new pottery styles similar to those of the Mumun pottery period. The settlements of these new arrivals seem to have coexisted with those of the J?mon and Yayoi for around a thousand years.
At the end of the J?mon period the local population declined sharply. Scientists suggest that this was possibly caused because of food shortages and other environmental problems. They concluded that not all J?mon groups suffered under these circumstances but the overall population declined. Examining the remains of the people who lived throughout the J?mon period, there is evidence that these deaths were not inflicted by warfare or violence on a large enough scale to cause these deaths.
The origin myths of Japanese civilization extend back to periods now regarded as part of the J?mon period, though they show little or no relation to the current archaeological understanding of J?mon culture. 11 February 660 BCE is the traditional founding date of the Japanese nation by Emperor Jimmu. This version of Japanese history, however, comes from the country's first written records, the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, dating from the 6th to the 8th centuries, after Japan had adopted Chinese characters (Go-on/Kan-on).
Some elements of modern Japanese culture may date from this period and reflect the influences of a mingled migration from the northern Asian continent and the southern Pacific areas and the J?mon peoples. Among these elements are the precursors to Shinto, some marriage customs, architectural styles, and technological developments such as lacquerware, laminated yumi, metalworking, and glass making.
Note that the J?mon people were not one homogeneous population but consisted of multiple heterogeneous ethnic groups which coexisted and or intermixed with each other until being largely replaced by the Japonic Yayoi people.
The relationship of J?mon people to the modern Japanese (Yamato people), Ryukyuans, and Ainu is diverse and not well clarified. Morphological studies of dental variation and genetic studies suggest that the J?mon people were of southern origin, while other studies of bacteria suggest that the J?mon people were of possible northern origin. According to recent studies the contemporary Japanese people descended from a mixture of the ancient hunter-gatherer J?mon and the Yayoi rice agriculturalists, and these two major ancestral groups came to Japan over different routes at different times. Recent studies however support a predominantly Yayoi ancestry for contemporary Japanese people.
The J?mon people were not one homogenous ethnic group. According to Mitsuru Sakitani the J?mon people are an admixture of two distinct haplogroups: A more ancient group from Central Asia (carriers of Y chromosome D1a), that were present since more than in Japan and a more recent group from East Asia (carriers of Y chromosome type C1a) that migrated to Japan about ago.Mark J. Hudson of Nishikyushu University posits that Japan was settled by a proto-Mongoloid population in the Pleistocene who became the J?mon, and that their features can be seen in the Ainu and Ryukyuan people. The J?mon share several physical characteristics, such as relatively abundant body hair, with Europeans, but they derive from a separate lineage than modern Europeans.
According to Schmidt & Seguchi (2013) the prehistoric J?mon people descended from a paleolithic populations of Siberia (Altai mountains region). Other cited scholars point out similarities between the J?mon and various paleolithic and Bronze Age Siberians. There were likely multiple migrations into ancient Japan.
A study by Lee and Hasegawa of the Waseda University, concluded that the J?mon period population consisted largely of a distinctive Paleolithic population from Central Asia and an ancient Northeast Asian population (Okhotsk people), with both arriving at different times during the J?mon period in Japan. According to them, the direct ancestors of the later Ainu people formed from the combination of these two distinct populations during the J?mon period in northern Hokkaido, long before the arrival of contemporary Japanese people. From their the ancestors of the Ainu-speakers expanded into large parts of Honshu and the Kurils. Lee and Hasegawa presented evidence that the Ainu language originated from the Northeast Asian/Okhotsk population, which established themselves in northern Hokkaido and had significant impact on the formation of the J?mon culture and ethnicities. They further concluded that the "dual structure theory" regarding the population history of Japan must be revised and that the J?mon people had more diversity than originally suggested.
Recent full genome analyses in 2020 by Boer et al. 2020 and Yang et al. 2020, reveals some further information regarding the origin of the J?mon peoples. They were found to have largely formed from a Paleolithic Siberian/Central Asian population and an East Asian-related population.
One study, published in the Cambridge University Press in 2020, suggests that the J?mon people were rather heterogeneous, and that there was also an "Altaic-like" pre-Yayoi population (close to modern Northeast Asians) in J?mon period Japan, which established itself over the local hunter gatherers. This "Altaic-like" population migrated from Northeast Asia in about 6000BC, before the actual Yayoi migration. The authors additionally note that Austronesian peoples were possibly present in southernmost Japan (Sakishima) before the arrival of the Yayoi people.
Recent Y chromosome haplotype testing has led to the hypothesis that male haplogroups D-M55 and C1a1, which have been found in different percentages of samples of modern Japanese, Ryukyuan, and Ainu population, may reflect patrilineal descent from members of pre-J?mon and J?mon period of the Japanese Archipelago. Analysis of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of J?mon skeletons from Hokkaido, Okinawa Island and T?hoku region indicates that haplogroups N9b and M7a may reflect maternal J?mon contribution to the modern Japanese mtDNA pool. In another study of ancient DNA published by the same authors in 2011, both the control and coding regions of mtDNA recovered from J?mon skeletons excavated from the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido, were analyzed in detail, and 54 mtDNA samples were confidently assigned to relevant haplogroups. Haplogroups N9b, D4h2, G1b, and M7a were observed in these individuals. According to 2013 study, there was mtDNA sub-haplogroups inter-regional heterogeneity within the J?mon people, specifically between studied Kant?, Hokkaido and T?hoku J?mon. According to 2011 study all major East Asian mtDNA lineages expanded before 10,000 YBP, except for two Japanese lineages D4b2b1 and M7a1a which population expanded around 7000 YBP unequivocally during the J?mon Period (14-2.3 kya), thousands of years before intensive agriculture which imply that the use of abundant uncultivated food resources was the reason for population expansion and not agriculture.
A study about ancient Jomon aDNA from Sanganji shell mound in T?hoku region in 2017, estimates that the modern mainland Japanese population probably inherit less than 20% of their DNA from J?mon peoples' genomes. A genome research (Takahashi et al. 2019) shows that modern Japanese (Yamato) do not have much J?mon ancestry at all. Nuclear genome analysis of J?mon samples and modern Japanese samples show strong differences. Another recent estimate (Gakuhari et al. 2019) suggests about 9.8% J?mon ancestry in modern Japanese, and about 79.3% Jomon ancestry in the Ainu people. A study by Kanazawa-Kiriyama et al. (2019) suggests 9-13% Jomon ancestry in the modern Japanese and 27% in Ryukyuans (with the remainder in both being from the Yayoi people) and about 66% Jomon ancestry in the Ainu.
Late Jomon clay statue, Kazahari I, Aomori Prefecture, 1500-1000 BCE.
Late Jomon clay head, Shidanai, Iwate Prefecture, 1500-1000 BCE.
In this paper, we reconstructed spatiotemporal evolution of 19 Ainu language varieties, and the results are in strong agreement with the hypothesis that a recent population expansion of the Okhotsk people played a critical role in shaping the Ainu people and their culture. Together with the recent archaeological, biological and cultural evidence, our phylogeographic reconstruction of the Ainu language strongly suggests that the conventional dual-structure model must be refined to explain these new bodies of evidence. The case of the Ainu language origin we report here also contributes additional detail to the global pattern of language evolution, and our language phylogeny might also provide a basis for making further inferences about the cultural dynamics of the Ainu speakers [44,45].