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The Jomon period (Japanese: 縄文時代 jōmon jidai) is the time in Japanese history from about 10,000 BC to 300 BC.

On the basis of archaeological finds, it has been postulated that hominid activity in Japan may date as early as 200,000 BC, and maybe even 500,000 BC, when the islands were connected to the Asian mainland. Although some scholars doubt this early date for habitation, most agree that by around 40,000 BC glaciation had reconnected the islands with the mainland.

Based on archaeological evidence, they also agree that by between 35,000 BC and 30,000 BC Homo sapiens had migrated to the islands from eastern and southeastern Asia and had well-established patterns of hunting and gathering and stone toolmaking. Stone tools, inhabitation sites, and human fossils from this period have been found throughout all the islands of Japan. Additionally, a 1988 genetic study points to a Northern Mongoloid base for the Japanese peoples[1] (

The term "Jomon" is a translation into Japanese of the English term "cord-marked." This refers to the markings made on clay vessels and figures using sticks with cords wrapped around them.


Incipient and Initial Jomon (10000 - 4000 BC)

Missing image
Characters for Jōmon ("Cord marks").
Missing image
Incipient Jomon pottery (10,000-8,000 BC), the earliest pottery type in the world, Tokyo National Museum, Japan.

More stable living patterns gave rise by around 10,000 BC to a Mesolithic or, as some scholars argue, Neolithic culture. Possibly distant ancestors of the Ainu aboriginal people of modern Japan, members of the heterogeneous Jomon culture (c. 10,000-300 BC) left the clearest archaeological record.

According to archeological evidence, the Jomon people created the earliest pottery in the world, dated to the 11th millennium BC, as well as the earliest ground stone tools (Imamura). The Jomon people were making clay figures and vessels decorated with patterns made by impressing the wet clay with braided or unbraided cord and sticks with a growing sophistication.

The manufacture of pottery typically implies some form of sedentary life, since pottery is highly breakable and therefore is useless to hunter-gatherers who are constantly on the move. Therefore the Jomon probably were some of the earliest sedentary or at least semi-sedentary people in the world. They used chipped stone tools, ground stone tools, traps, and bows and were probably semi-sedentary hunters-gatherers, and skillful coastal and deep-water fishermen. They practised a rudimentary form of agriculture and lived in caves and later in groups of either temporary shallow pit dwellings or above-ground houses, leaving rich kitchen middens for modern anthropological study. Because of this, the earliest forms of farming are sometimes attributed to Japan (Ingpen & Wilkinson) in 10,000 BC, two thousand years before their widespread appearance in the Middle East.

Early to Final Jomon (4000 - 400 BC)

Missing image
A Middle Jomon vessel (3000-2000 BC), Tokyo National Museum, Japan.

The Early and Middle Jomon periods saw an explosion in population, as indicated by the number of excavations from this period. These two periods correspond to the prehistoric thermal optimum (between 4000 and 2000 BC), when temperatures reached several degrees Celsius higher than the present, and the seas were higher by 5 to 6 meters. Beautiful artistic realizations, such as highly decorated flamed vessels remain from that time. After 1500 BC, the climate cooled, and populations seem to have contracted dramatically. Comparatively few archeological sites can be found after 1500 BC.

Missing image
A Final Jomon statuette (1000-400 BC), Tokyo National Museum, Japan.

By the late Jomon period, a dramatic shift had taken place according to archaeological studies. Incipient cultivation had evolved into sophisticated rice-paddy farming and government control. Many other elements of Japanese culture also may date from this period and reflect a mingled migration from the northern Asian continent and the southern Pacific areas. Among these elements are Shinto mythology, marriage customs, architectural styles, and technological developments, such as lacquerware, textiles, metalworking, and glass making.

The literature of Shinto (Way of the Gods) employs much mythology to describe the supposed historical origins of Japan. According to the creation story found in the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, dating from AD 712) and the Nihongi or Nihon-shoki (Chronicle of Japan, from AD 720), the Japanese islands were created by the gods, two of whom--the male Izanagi and the female Izanami--descended from heaven to carry out the task. They also brought into being other kami (deities or supernatural forces), such as those influencing the sea, rivers, wind, woods, and mountains. Two of these deities, the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, and her brother, the storm god Susanoo, warred against each other, with Amaterasu emerging victorious.

List of Jomon periods

Incipient Jomon (10000 - 7500 BC):

Initial Jomon (7500 - 4000 BC):

Early Jomon (4000 - 3000 BC):

Middle Jomon (3000 - 2000 BC):

Late Jomon (2000 - 1000 BC):

Final Jomon (1000 - 400 BC):



  • Template:Loc - Japan (
  • Prehistoric Japan, by Keiji Imamura, University of Hawai Press, 1996, ISBN 0824818520
  • Subsitence-Settlement systems in intersite variability in the Moroiso Phase of the Early Jomon Period of Japan, Junko Habu, 2001, ISBN 1879621320
  • Encyclopedia of Ideas that changed the World, Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson, 1993, ISBN 0670846422

External Link

< Paleolithic | History of Japan | Yayoi >

ar:فترة جمون

et:Jōmoni periood fr:Priode Jomon is:Jomon ja:縄文時代 nl:Jomon pl:Jōmon pt:Jomon ru:Период Дзёмон sv:Jomon


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