Tribes, Chiefdoms and early states in late prehistoric Japan

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

This session presents the results of recent research into the archaeology of chiefdoms and early states in late prehistoric Japan. The time period under consideration spans from ca. 500 B.C. to 600 A.D. During this time period, local societies evolved from tribal-level to chiefdom-level, and eventually from the third to fifth centuries A.D. several regional societies were united to form the central polity at an early-state level. The social and cultural evolution during this time period is characterized by strong regional differentiation in the speed and process of evolution and patterns of interaction with other regions, although the major subsistence base was wet rice agriculture. Moreover, interaction with the Chinese continent and Korean peninsula played the major role in the development of social complexity. In the middle third century, highly standardized keyhole-shaped burial mounds appeared in many regions of Japan, but strong regional differences remained. In this session, we want to emphasize this interplay between autonomous local polities and the central polity in the process toward more complex soiety.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-10 of 10)

  • Documents (10)

  • Background to Drastic Increase in Yayoi Period Sites in Japan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Atsushi UEMINE.

    This paper intends to explain how a small number of small-scale Jomon societies in western Japan evolved to large-scale agricultural societies that characterized the Yayoi Period. Traditionally, Japanese archaeologists have approached this issue from the standpoint of settlement archaeology. This paper contributes to understanding this phenomenon based on lithics and their contexts of discoveries. By analyzing the assemblages of chipped stone tools and debitage, it becomes possible to approach...

  • Beginning of Agriculture and Immigrants from the Korean Peninsula in Prehistoric Japan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kazunori Misaka.

    In Japan a transition from the hunting-gathering Jomon economy to the food producing Yayoi economy took place at some point in the first millennium B.C., and this transition resulted in considerable cultural change. It is widely accepted among Japanese archaeologists that this transition was greatly facilitated by immigration from the southern Korean peninsula who had already practiced agriculture, including wet rice cultivation. In order to approach relationships between the Korean immigrants...

  • History of Research into the Jomon-Yayoi Transition (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Masaki SHIBATA.

    This paper reviews the history of research and archaeological investigations into the transition from the Jomon to Yayoi Periods. This transition signifies a transition from a hunting-gathering economy to food-producing economy. Traditionally, Japanese archaeology has been characterized by building up relative chronologies of various regions based on pottery. From the 1930’s to 1970’s, the Yayoi Period was defined as a time period when the Yayoi pottery was used. However, rice paddies were...

  • Introduction of a Practice of Horse-Riding in Fifth-Century Japan and its Political Significance (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ken-ichi Sasaki.

    A practice of horse-riding was introduced to Japan from the late fourth century and after. Since horses were not native to Japan, Korean specialists of raising and producing hoses were invited. Recently, fifth century evidence for raising horses has been excavated at various places in Japan. In the central Osaka Prefecture near where the central polity was located, horses were carefully buried at the foot of small fifth- and sixth-century circular burial mounds, and Korean ceramics were...

  • The Role of Iron Weaponry and Martial Ideology in the Political Consolidation of Early Japan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Joseph Ryan.

    In addition to their functional role as military implements, weapons can also serve as material representations of martial ideology. Research on weapons burials must therefore take into consideration the multifaceted nature of weaponry within a society. During the majority of Japan's Kofun period (mid-3rd century to early-7th century), the archipelago relied on the importation of finished iron products and raw iron materials from the Korean Peninsula. This formed an intimate connection between...

  • Spread of Digging Tools and the Social Change in Kofun Period Japan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Masanori Kawano.

    This paper discusses an aspect of the social change that took place in Kofun Period western Japan as a result of evolution of digging tools. The iron blades of such digging tools changes from rectangular plates with bent edges to U-shaped edges in the fifth century A.D. This change was not merely morphological but technological as well. Background to this change was the introduction of highly advanced smith technique from the Korean peninsula. This technological innovation diffused to all...

  • State Formation Process in Seventh Century A.D. Japan from a Religious Perspective (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tetsuo Hishida.

    Religion played an essential role in the state formation process in seventh century Japan. After Buddhism was introduced from Korea in the sixth century, more than 600 Buddhist temples were erected by the middle eighth century. There are some distinctive layouts of temple complexes, and the central authority greatly contributed to temporal change in the layouts. A considerable change took place in the middle seventh century, which marks the beginning of the national policy to adopt Buddhism as a...

  • Transition from the Yayoi to Kofun Periods in Third Century A.D. Japan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Gen Miyoshi.

    The beginning of the Kofun Period in the middle third century A.D. in Japan is often explained in terms of the class distinction of chiefs from ordinary members of the society. This explanation is widely accepted because of the appearance of giant keyhole-shaped burial mounds of more than 270 meters and of "elite mansion." Japanese archaeologists discuss the social complexity of the Kofun Period with reference to social stratification with the chief at the top. In this paper, I apply...

  • Wars and battles as cultural phenomena in Bronze and Early Iron Age of Japan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kunihiko Wakabayashi.

    Several lines of archaeological evidence indicate that numerous battles took place during the Yayoi Period or Japanese Bronze and Early Iron Age. So far, Japanese archaeologists have argued that these battles occurred as results of competition for agricultural lands or taking initiatives over exchange system. Many of the Japanese archeologists have speculated that wars were a part of the social process for evolving toward an early state society. However, archaeological evidence for wars, such...

  • Wide-Range Regional Interaction prior to State Formation in Late Prehistoric Eastern Japan (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Yutaka Tanaka.

    In Japan, pottery of various regions was transported for long distances in different directions at the same time and was incorporated into local pottery assemblages from the late second to third centuries A.D. This happened prior to the appearance of the highly-standardized keyhole-shaped burial mounds all over Japan and, in western Japan, local adoption of the type of pottery typical of the Kinki region where the central polity emerged. In eastern Japan, the type of pottery under the influence...