Author: Elisha Kayne
The Jomon culture is unique among other ancient Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples. Their isolation from the Asian continent provided them an exceptional opportunity to cultivate a distinct lifestyle of semi-sedentary hunting and gathering. Rather than suffering through the hardships of widespread nomadic movements consistent with other groups in Mesopotamia and Central Asia, the Jomon could hunt animas, fish in the abundant ocean waters and collect fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts without the need to leave their settlements. Archeologists and anthropologists find the Jomon period to be one of the most fascinating aspects of ancient human history, and tourists are also finding ways to learn more about these interesting people. Over the years, as important discoveries have been made, certain archeological sites have allowed visitors a rare glimpse into the past. If you’re interested in coming face to face with the Jomon yourself, here are the top four archeological sites to tour.
In 1992, the site of Sannai-Maruyama was discovered while attempting to build a baseball stadium. Since then, it has become one of the most important Jomon period sites. The area first became settled around 3,900 BC and evidence showed that a population was sustained on the land until 2,300 BC, showing that the Jomon people flourished in the region for more than 1,600 years. What had possibly begun as a seasonal camp, developed into a large settled village of hunter gatherers. The area became protected as a National Historic Site in 2000, and it has become a popular place for tourists and visitors who come to enjoy the museum and village reconstructions.
Kamegaoka is one of the oldest discovered Jomon period sites in Japan, having been unearthed in the Sawane area in the late 19th century. The land excavated at this historic site has yielded some of the most well-known Jomon artifacts, including the Shakoki Dogu clay figurine. Kamegaoka is situated in the wetlands of the Iwaki River in the western Aomori Prefecture. And, it is in this rich landscape that a group of ancient villagers chose to dwell during the Final Jomon period, from around 1,000 to 300 BC. Along with distinct pottery and art work, archeologists have also found excellent examples of mound and pit graves and insights into the rituals and religious beliefs of the time.
The Hamanasuno Project site is located in southwestern Hokkaiddo, where an Early Jomon period village has been discovered. In the small, 36 square meter area, archeologists have found 8 pit houses and a few hundred thousand fragments of ceramic and stone items. One of the most significant excavations of the site have shown possible evidence of domestic plant cultivation through evidence of fossilized seeds.
In Chitose City in Hokkaido, Japan lies a buried Late Jomon period site that was populated sometime around 1,200 BC. Significant findings of the area include a network of eight earthwork burial circles including some with exceptionally large diameters and standing stones.
Other Archeological Sites to Discover
While these are the four most popular and well known excavation sites, many more exist throughout Japan. Fukui Cave, Usujiri, Ohyu and Ocharasenai all boast important historical findings in the area. As more artifacts continue to become uncovered, the people of Japan are offered another unique opportunity to reconnect with their ancient ancestors.