Yayoi period

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History of Japan

Yoshinogari reconstruction

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The Yayoi period (弥生時代 Yayoi jidai?) is an Iron Age era in the history of Japan traditionally dated 300 BC to 300 AD.[1] It is named after the neighbourhood of Tokyo where archaeologists first uncovered artifacts and features from that era. Distinguishing characteristics of the Yayoi period include the appearance of new pottery styles and the start of an intensive rice agriculture in paddy fields. The Yayoi followed the Jōmon period (14,000–300 BCE) and Yayoi culture flourished in a geographic area from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū.

A new study used the Accelerator mass spectrometry method to analyze carbonized remains on pottery and wooden stakes, and discovered that these were dated back to 900–800 BCE, 500 years earlier than previously believed.[2]


[edit] Features of Yayoi culture

A Yayoi jar, 1st-3rd century, excavated in Kugahara, Ōta, Tokyo, Tokyo National Museum.

The earliest archaeological evidence of the Yayoi is found on northern Kyūshū,[3] though this is still debated. Yayoi culture quickly spread to the main island of Honshū mixing with native Jōmon culture.[4] Yayoi pottery was simply decorated, and produced on a potter's wheel[citation needed], as opposed to Jōmon pottery, which was produced by hand. Yayoi craft specialists made bronze ceremonial bells (Dōtaku), mirrors, and weapons. By the 1st century CE, Yayoi farmers began using iron agricultural tools, and weapons.

The Yayoi population increased and became richer, and their society became more complex. They wove cloth textiles, lived in permanent farming villages and constructed buildings of wood and stone. They also accumulated wealth through land ownership and the storage of grain. These factors in turn promoted the development of distinct social classes. Yayoi chiefs in some parts of Kyūshū appear to have sponsored, and politically manipulated, trade in bronze and other prestige objects.[5] This was possible due to the introduction of an irrigated, wet-rice culture from the Yangtze estuary in southern China via the Ryukyu Islands or Korean Peninsula.[1][6] Wet-rice agriculture led to the development and growth of a sedentary, agrarian society in Japan. Local political and social developments in Japan were more important than the activities of the central authority within a stratified society.[citation needed]

Direct comparisons between Jōmon and Yayoi skeletons show that the two peoples are noticeably distinguishable.[7] The Jōmon tended to be shorter, with relatively longer forearms and lower legs, more wide-set eyes, shorter and wider faces, and much more pronounced facial topography. They also have strikingly raised browridges, noses, and nose bridges. Yayoi people, on the other hand, averaged an inch or two taller, with close-set eyes, high and narrow faces, and flat browridges and noses. By the Kofun period, almost all skeletons excavated in Japan, except those of the Ainu and prehistoric Okinawans,[8] resemble those of modern day Japanese.[9]

[edit] History

[edit] Origin of the Yayoi people

Bronze mirror excavated in Tsubai-otsukayama kofun, Yamashiro, Kyoto.

The earliest archaeological sites are Itazuke site or Nabata site in the northern part of Kyūshū. The origin of Yayoi culture has long been debated. Chinese influence was obvious in the bronze and copper weapons, dōkyō, dōtaku, as well as irrigated paddy rice cultivation. Three major symbols of the Yayoi Culture are the bronze mirror, the bronze sword, and the royal seal stone.

In recent years, more archaeological and genetic evidence has been found in both eastern China and western Japan to lend credibility to this argument. Between 1996 and 1999, a team led by Satoshi Yamaguchi, a researcher at Japan's National Science Museum, compared Yayoi remains found in Japan's Yamaguchi and Fukuoka prefectures with those from early Han Dynasty (202 BC-8) in China's coastal Jiangsu province, and found many similarities between the skulls and limbs of Yayoi people and the Jiangsu remains.[10] Two Jiangsu skulls showed spots where the front teeth had been pulled, a practice common in Japan in the Yayoi and preceding Jōmon period. The genetic samples from three of the 36 Jiangsu skeletons also matched part of the DNA base arrangements of samples from the Yayoi remains.

A Yayoi period Dōtaku bell, 3rd century AD.

Some scholars also concluded that Korean influence existed. These include "bunded paddy fields, new types of polished stone tools, wooden farming implements, iron tools, weaving technology, ceramic storage jars, exterior bonding of clay coils in pottery fabrication, ditched settlements, domesticated pigs and jawbone rituals."[11] This assumption also gains strength due to the fact that Yayoi culture began on the north coast of Kyūshū, where Japan is closest to Korea. Yayoi pottery, burial mounds, and food preservation were discovered to be very similar to the pottery of southern Korea.[12]

However, some scholars argue that the rapid increase of roughly four million people in Japan between the Jōmon and Yayoi periods cannot be explained by migration alone. They attribute the increase primarily to a shift from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural diet on the islands, with the introduction of rice. It is quite likely that rice cultivation and its subsequent deification allowed for mass population increase.[citation needed] Regardless, there is archaeological evidence that supports the idea that there was an influx of farmers from the continent to Japan that absorbed or overwhelmed the native hunter-gatherer population.[12]

Some pieces of Yayoi pottery clearly show the influence of Jōmon ceramics. In addition, the Yayoi lived in the same kind of pit-type or circular dwellings as that of the Jōmon. Other examples of commonality are chipped stone tools for hunting, bone tools for fishing, bracelets made from shells, and lacquer skills for vessels and accessories.

[edit] Emergence of Wa in Chinese history texts

The golden Imperial Seal of China said to have been granted to the "King of Wa" by Emperor Guangwu of Han in 57 CE. It is inscribed King of Na of Wa in Han Dynasty (漢委奴國王)

The earliest written records about people in Japan are from Chinese sources from this period. Wa, the Japanese pronunciation of an early Chinese name for Japan, was mentioned in 57 CE; the Na state of Wa received a golden seal from the Emperor Guangwu of the Later Han Dynasty. This event was recorded in the Hou Han Shu compiled by Fan Ye in the 5th century. The seal itself was discovered in northern Kyūshū in the 18th century.[13] Wa was also mentioned in 257 in the Wei zhi, a section of the San Guo Zhi compiled by the 3rd century scholar Chen Shou.[14]

Early Chinese historians described Wa as a land of hundreds of scattered tribal communities, not the unified land with a 700-year tradition as laid out in the 8th-century work Nihon Shoki, a part-mythical, part-historical account of Japan which dates the foundation of the country at 660 BC. Archaeological evidence also suggests that frequent conflicts between settlements or statelets broke out in the period. Many excavated settlements were moated or built at the tops of hills. Headless buried human bones[15] discovered in Yoshinogari site are regarded as typical examples. In the coastal area of the Inland Sea, stone tips of arrows are often found among funerary objects.

Third century Chinese sources reported that the Wa people lived on raw fish, vegetables, and rice served on bamboo and wooden trays, clapped their hands in worship (something still done in Shinto shrines today), and built earthen grave mounds. They also maintained vassal-master relations, collected taxes, had provincial granaries and markets, and observed mourning. Society was characterized by violent struggles.

[edit] Yamataikoku

Hashihaka kofun, Sakurai, Nara

The Wei Zhi, which is part of the San Guo Zhi, first mentions Yamataikoku and Queen Himiko in the 3rd century. According to the record, Himiko assumed the throne of Wa, as a spiritual leader, after a major civil war. Her younger brother was in charge of the affairs of state, including diplomatic relations with the Chinese court Kingdom of Wei.[16] When asked about their origins by the Wei embassy, the people of Wa claimed to be descendants of the Grand Count Tàibó of Wu, a historic figure of the Wu Kingdom around the Yangtze Delta of China.

For many years, the location of Yamataikoku and the identity of Queen Himiko have been subject of research. Two possible sites, Yoshinogari in Saga Prefecture and Makimuku in Nara Prefecture have been suggested. Recent archaeological research in Makimuku suggests that Yamataikoku was located in the area.[17][18] Some scholars assume that the Hashihaka kofun in Makimuku was the tomb of Himiko. Its relation to the origin of the Yamato polity in the following Kofun period is also under debate.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Keally, Charles T. (2006-06-03). "Yayoi Culture". Japanese Archaeology. Charles T. Keally. http://www.t-net.ne.jp/~keally/yayoi.html. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  2. ^ Shōda Shinya (March 2007). Bulletin of the Society for East Asian Archaeology. 1. Society for East Asian Archaeology. http://www.seaa-web.org/bul-essay-01.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  3. ^ The Origin of the Farming in the Yayoi Period and East Asia: Establishment of High-Precision Chronology by Carbon 14 Age Analysis, National Museum of Japanese History
  5. ^ Pearson, Richard J. Chiefly Exchange Between Kyushu and Okinawa, Japan, in the Yayoi Period. Antiquity 64(245)912-922, 1990.
  6. ^ Earlier Start for Japanese Rice Cultivation, Dennis Normile, Science, 2003
  7. ^ 縄文人の顔と骨格-骨格の比較, Information-technology Promotion Agency
  8. ^ 南西諸島出土人骨の形質人類学的・人類遺伝学的研究, Doi, Naomi, University of the Ryukyus
  9. ^ Jared Diamond (June 1998). "Japanese Roots". Discover 19 (6). http://cwis.livjm.ac.uk/lng/teaching/japanese/japanroo.htm. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  10. ^ "Long Journey to Prehistorical Japan" (in Japanese). National Science Museum of Japan. http://www.kahaku.go.jp/special/past/japanese/ipix/5/5-14.html. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  11. ^ Mark J. Hudson (1999). Ruins of Identity Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands. University Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-2156-4. 
  12. ^ a b Diamond, Jared (1998-06-01). "Japanese Roots". Discover Magazine (June 1998). http://discovermagazine.com/1998/jun/japaneseroots1455/. Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  13. ^ "Gold Seal (Kin-in)". Fukuoka City Museum. http://museum.city.fukuoka.jp/jb/jb_fr2.html. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  14. ^ 魏志倭人伝, Chinese texts and its Japanese translation
  15. ^ 首なしの人骨, Niigata Prefectural Education Center
  16. ^ 魏志倭人伝, Chinese texts of the Wei Zhi, Wikisource
  17. ^ 古墳2タイプ、同時に出現か・奈良の古墳群で判明, Nikkei Net, March 6, 2008
  18. ^ 最古級の奈良・桜井“3兄弟古墳”、形状ほぼ判明 卑弥呼の時代に相次いで築造, Sankei Shimbun, March 6, 2008

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