Jōmon culture


Jōmon culture
(с 7500–с 250 BC) Mesolithic culture characterized by pottery decorated with cord patterns (jōmon).

Jōmon artifacts have been found from Hokkaido to the Ryukyu Islands. The Jōmon people lived in sunken pit dwellings and subsisted primarily by hunting, fishing, and gathering. They used chipped-stone and later polished-stone tools and made clothing of bark. Though their pottery was technically primitive, it demonstrated diverse forms and imaginative designs and decorations. Many contemporary Ainu believe themselves to be descended from the Jōmon people. See also Yayoi culture.

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▪ ancient culture, Japan
      (5th or 4th millennium BC–c. 250 BC), earliest major culture of prehistoric Japan, characterized by pottery decorated with cord-pattern (jōmon) impressions or reliefs. The artifacts of this Neolithic culture have been uncovered in numerous sites from the northern island of Hokkaidō to the southern Ryukyus, but they appear most commonly in eastern Japan where the culture survived longest. The Jōmon people lived in small communities comprised mainly of sunken pit dwellings situated near inland rivers or along the seacoast, and subsisted primarily by hunting, fishing, and gathering. Recent excavations suggest that a primitive form of agriculture may also have been practiced by the end of the period.

      The distinctive Jōmon pottery was made of unrefined, low-fired clay. Because the potter's wheel was unknown, manual methods were relied upon, particularly the coiling method—that is, preparing the clay in the shape of a rope and coiling it spirally upward. Vessels were simply heaped up and baked in open fires. Early forms were limited to simple jars and bowls, but later Jōmon pottery, including figurines that probably represented fertility symbols, were more varied in style and function and demonstrated increasing technical and artistic skill, often surpassing the craftsmanship of other Stone Age cultures. Stone and bone tools as well as wooden bows have also been found in Jōmon sites. The origins of Jōmon culture remain uncertain, although similarities with early cultures of northeast Asia and even America are often cited.

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Universalium. 2010.

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