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Japanese Jomon Artifacts

5000-7000 BP

The Jomon period, which encompasses a great expanse of time, constitutes Japan's Neolithic period. Its name is derived from the "cord markings" that characterize the ceramics made during this time. Jomon people were semi-sedentary, living mostly in pit dwellings arranged around central open spaces, and obtained their food by gathering, fishing, and hunting. ((*))

((*)) http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jomo/hd_jomo.htm

The Jomon period in Japan started about 12,000 years ago as nomadic groups came via the lower sea levels in waves from Siberia. Some groups headed across the Aleutian path to North America, some headed south into Japan. The dating of Jomon sites is done by examining the rope patterns (Jomon) on the pottery which is found. About 2,500 years ago mass migrations came into Japan from China and Korea due to famines and warfare. With them came bronze and iron work, as well as an advanced process of rice cultivation. These waves gradually pushed back the resident Jomon until only Hokkaido Island has current populations which are now named Ainu. Thus the history of Jomon in Japan is very similar to American Indian. A technologically advanced immigration is able to push back the existing stone age culture. DNA shows that Jomon and Ainu are the same and links to American Indian groups such as Navaho are documented.

Read more about Jomon Archeology in this narrative by Mr. B

The following artifacts were sent to me by Herb Bastuscheck  (Mr. "B") from Misawa, Japan. I will do my best to convey their intended usage as it was conveyed to me. The following sketch conveys the area, or type of area where these artifacts were recovered. Following the plowing of the fields by local Japanese farmers, and with the help of frequent rains, numerous artifacts are able to be recovered in these representative locales. Many artifacts, such as clay pots and earthenware are destroyed by the plows, and fully intact specimens are a rarity. I feel blessed to be considered among Mr. B's friends, and to be among the recipients of his generous and sharing nature. Herb, Thank you...

(You may click on any of the images for a full size version, use your browser's back button to return to this page.)

As you can see, many Jomon villages were typically located atop bluffs adjacent to a body of water. The lake depicted would have been an Estuary during that time. Items unearthed in the kitchen "midden" (village dump) included deer teeth, bone fragments, and shellfish.


The Jomon culture made clay pots and articles without the aid of a "potters wheel", each piece being formed by hand to the desired shape by the artisan, larger pieces being decorated by pressing a length of twisted twine or rope into the wet clay as the following shards of pottery depict. Note: Early to middle Jomon pottery was unglazed, it wasn't until the later Jomon periods that glazed earthenware pottery became evident, in fact enamel ware pottery has been found at the Sannai Maruyama site in Aomori City which predates Chinese enamel ware by about 1,000 years. Before, it was thought that enamel ware came from China to Japan. Now evidence shows that the origin was in this area of Japan, and was imported to China.


Other smaller pieces bear no decoration at all as shown in the following example of a small bowl or cup. Note: To date Mr. B has only recovered eight intact pieces from this site. As we will see at a later date, one of the pieces recovered and preserved bears a single fingerprint of it's maker. This example is approximately 2 3/4" in diameter and 1" high.


Also note the base is concave, and there are crude tool marks about the rim of the base.

The following fragment may be part of a nose or ear ring. 

May also be a fragment of handle from a larger vessel or pot. 

Some of the more common artifacts found are stone tools used for woodworking. There would have been small wood handles to insert the shapers to use in a chopping motion. Then they could be removed to be hand-held.

Shaper, 1 7/16" x 2 7/16" x 3/4"


Shaper, 2 1/4" x 3/4' x 3/8"



Small shaper, 1 1/2" x 5/8" x 1/4" for finer detail work.


Large shaped stone, it's use is unclear to me. the anterior portion of the larger end bears a small notch. Some striations appear to be more recent damage from plows. 

1 1/4" x 2 3/4" x 3/8"

This piece is the carved stone handle of a large knife. The reverse side appears to be intentionally unfinished and flat. Purpose unknown. Note the damage from the plows.

Jomon fishermen fished with nets. Shaped stones were used to weight the nets as shown in the following example:

These are typically found on the beach below the village site where they may have separated from the nets. As the sketch above shows, this area would have been submerged during that period.

As did our ancestors all the way back to Paleolithic times, the Jomon culture utilized shaped stone projectile points to hunt with. The following artifacts are representative of those commonly found about the village site and in caches nearby. The style of points and the obvious differences in the knapping techniques would suggest a natural progression of the art through more than one generation of Jomon culture. Scrapers, gravers, points, and drills differ very little from those found in North America and other parts of the world for the same timeline.

Small scraper w/graver tip.



Uni-face Scraper

Reverse side

Uni-face Scraper, possibly a pre-form

Possible pre-form or spall.

Scraper w/graver tips, appears specialized.


Uni-face Scraper 


Front and reverse of a large knife, incomplete as the broken base shows. This piece is more than 2 1/4" across at the base x 2" x 5/16".

The following pictures demonstrate a more refined technique in the shape and style of knapping.


Two larger projectile points 2" and 1 1/2" long.


These two groups show progressive refinement. All points are 1" - 1 1/4" in length.

Collections of points in all the local museums show that the general size of Jomon points are much smaller as a group than collections of American Indian artifacts. The obsidian pieces below came from Hokkaido, but were collected in the field near Misawa. Jomon people brought obsidian pieces down from Hokkaido along well-established trading routes through Honshu Island.


Note these two points have broken tips 1" x 1/2".

Small bird point - 3/4 x 1/2"

In addition to projectile points, Jomon hunters also utilized the Bola to ensnare small game. These stones are believed to have been used for such a Bola.

Many thanks go out to Herb for providing the artifacts pictured above. It has been my pleasure to receive them and provide this pictorial.








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