Jomon revelations: what the prehistoric Japanese did for us

The people who lived in the Japanese archipelago in the millennia before the arrival of rice farming, long before the first historical records that refer to Japan were written, were among the first to experiment with a number of innovations that had a profound impact on the subsequent history of humanity. These include creating some of the earliest ceramic containers in the world; fostering close relationships with plants and plant products, in particular lacquer; and creating some of the first village communities.

This talk examines recent discoveries that illustrate the contribution of the prehistoric Japanese to world history and presents evidence that the Jomon archipelago was not as cut off from its surroundings as is often thought. Drawing on examples from fieldwork in the Shinano and Chikuma River system, central Honshu and elsewhere, we will also see how these Jomon foragers were remarkably resilient in the face of regular natural catastrophes, incorporating coping with very active environments and their unpredictability into Jomon cultural perceptions of the world.

The talk will conclude with a consideration of the ways in which the ancient Jomon past is now presented to contemporary audiences in Japan, especially in the light of the bid to have 19 Jomon sites inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage, with an overview of some new museum displays and ways in which archaeology appears in the Japanese media.

Date: Wednesday 22 May 2013, 6.45pm
Venue: The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

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