A long-term comparative perspective between prehistoric Japan and Britain

The most distinct characteristic of human beings is our ability to create various cultures. While genetic studies have confirmed that modern humans are biologically a species which emerged a relatively recent 200,000 years ago and which has a high level of genetic homogeneity, humans have developed amazing cultural diversity. We see this in the rich variety of languages, material cultures, values and life styles around the world. Furthermore, studies in archaeology and history have revealed that throughout our history these cultures have continuously been changing.

On the other hand, it is also true that, considered from a long-term historical perspective, significant similarities can be found in different cultures which are geographically distant from each other. Prehistoric Britain and Japan after the Last Glacial Period (11,000 to 3,000 years ago) would be a representative example. Both include stratified social structures, complex hunting-gathering-based economy, and stone monuments such as Stonehenge and stone circles. Historical parallel phenomena like these must offer clues to understanding how people develop their own cultures in the context of their environment.

In this paper, focusing on cultural similarities in prehistoric Britain and Japan, Uchiyama will first discuss the reasons why human beings have changed their lifeways throughout the history, creating cultural diversity. He will then turn to the modern world and the tendency for societies to become inward-looking, which results in an increasing intolerance to different cultures. He will consider why such a tendency could be potentially dangerous to our future and what actions we could take from a long-term historical perspective.

Date: Monday 21 January 2019, 6.45pm
Venue: The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

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