Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Read the book now! Don't wait for the movie!

'Jomon' is the term used for the people who inhabited Japan from the end of the Paleolithic period to the beginning of the Yayoi period - roughly 16,500 years ago to 2,000 years ago. It is characterized primarily by the fantastic pots that have survived like this one from Niigata Prefecture on the cover of Junko Habu's book about them.

Ancient Jomon of Japan by Junko Habu - cover
[Ancient Jomon of Japan by Junko Habu]

In her book the author claims that the Jomon people were "the first in the world to have mastered the technology of transforming pliable clay into hard and durable containers." And what containers! They are huge and imaginatively shaped like no others you have seen!

The author is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley according to the blurb in the book. Not only does she discuss the details of ancient society, she also writes deftly about the politics of modern-day archaeology in Japan. While discussing many fascinating aspects of ancient Jomon society she comments on current issues such as the lack of gender studies in Japanese archaeology.

Tohoku contains some of the premier sites for appreciating Jomon culture - including the Sannai Maruyama site in Aomori. As for Iwate she discusses five sites including the Final Jomon Kunenbashi site in Kitakami City. A large number of clay masks and "stone swords" were found there. She devotes one entire page to illustrating some of these items!

Ancient Jomon of Japan by Junko Habu - p.150
[Ritual artifacts from the Kunenbashi site (Final Jomon; Iwate Prefecture]

A half page diagram of the Monzen site in Rikuzen Takata is given on page 187 and another full page is given to an illustration of the burial pattern at the Middle Jomon Nishida site on page 164. Of the 262 pages of text there are 11 pages that discuss Iwate Prefecture by name.

While there probably won't be a movie out anytime soon this is a good read for anyone interested in the details of archaeology in Japan. It is not too technical for the average layman and she discusses enough issues to keep you involved. You can buy it from for $29.99 USDollars + shipping for the paperback or at your local neighborhood book store no doubt!

It was published by Cambridge University Press on July 29, 2004 - two years ago today! Happy reading.


Post a Comment

<< Home