Late Jomon Cultigens in Northeastern Japan

By D'Andrea, A. C.; Crawford, G. W. et al. | Antiquity, March 1995 | Go to article overview

Late Jomon Cultigens in Northeastern Japan


D'Andrea, A. C., Crawford, G. W., Yoshizaki, M., Kudo, T., Antiquity


The subsistence basis for Japanese civilization has always been intensive rice cultivation. What was grown there before the introduction of paddy technology? A glimpse of the plant cultigens in the later Jomon begins to tell.

Investigations of the possible role horticulture played in Jomon cultures, despite discussion over several decades (e.g. Crawford 1983, 1992b; Kotani 1981; Nakao 1966; Sasaki 1971; Tsukada et al. 1986; Ueyama 1969), have been hindered by a lack of radiocarbon-dated cultigen remains. Sporadic occurrences of domesticated plants are reported from sites inhabited as early as the Initial Jomon (TABLE 1) (see Crawford 1992a for a review). At the very least, small-scale horticultural activities appear to have been practised by some Jomon groups. Before the nature and economic importance of these activities can be evaluated, the cultigens must be placed in a proper cultural context. Until now, none of these remains has been directly dated. Atomic Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dating of two rice grains (Oryza sativa var. japonica) from the floor of a Late Jomon pithouse at the Kazahari site in northeastern Honshu [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED] are the first such dates obtained on cultigens that confirm their Jomon association. From the same floor, two other crops, foxtail (Setaria italica ssp. italica) and broomcorn millet (Panicum miliaceum) have been identified (TABLE 2).

The conservative view holds that, following the initial introduction of rice to Kyushu at the beginning of the Early Yayoi (c. 2300 BP), rice cultivation moved slowly northeastwards after a rapid spread into southwestern Honshu, not reaching northern Tohoku until the Late Yayoi (c. 1900 BP) (Akazawa 1982; 1986). This model has been revised since the recovery of several Early Yayoi rice paddy fields in northern Tohoku (e.g. Murakoshi 1988; Suto 1988), which indicate the swift dispersal of rice paddy field technology to Tohoku from its initial adoption in Kyushu (Barnes 1993; Crawford 1992b; Suto 1988). In southwestern Japan, non-paddy rice growing may have been practised many centuries before paddy production. Lack of adequate archaeobotanical studies in Tohoku, however, has hindered our understanding of prehistoric human-ecological issues there. Study of the samples reported here, the first to be recovered in Tohoku systematically by flotation, supports not only the hypothesis for a more rapid northeastward spread of rice and its presence as a non-paddy product of Jomon horticultural activities in Tohoku, but confirms the hypothesis of a pre-Yayoi introduction of rice to Japan.

TABLE 1. General cultural chronology for Japan (BP) (after Barnes
1988; Ikawa-Smith 1980).

Historical                                         1250-present

Kofun                 Final                        1300-1250
                      Late                         1500-1300
                      Middle                       1600-1500
                      Early                        1700-1600

Yayoi                 Late                         1900-1700
                      Middle                       2100-1900
                      Early                        2300-2100

Jomon                 Final                        3000-2300
                      Late                         4500-3000
                      Middle                       5600-4500
                      Early                        7500-5600
                      Initial                      9500-7500
                      Incipient                  13,000-9500

Late Palaeolithic                                32,000-13,000

The Kazahari site

The Kazahari site is located near Hachinohe City, on the southern edge of the Sanbongi Uplands in southeastern Aomori Prefecture [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. Occupations began during the Late Jomon and continue into the Historical period (TABLE 1). …

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