The Jomon of Japan, 15,000 BC to 300 BC.


 A modern day Ainu man, descended from the Jomon. Every DNA study of these people groups thm with Asians, even though they have a very Caucasian skull shape. It seems that the Jomon made it into the Americas (Spirit Cave man and Kennewick man). Their skin is somewhat lighter than the Yayoi Japanese, they have a lot more body hair, and sometimes they are described as having blue or grey eyes, and lighter hair than is normal in Japan. Many of them lack the oriental eye fold. That’s defiinitely one for a DNA population study to sort out. According to Cavalli -Sforza, the current DNA profile of Japan is about 10-20% Jomon. A modern study of Samurai skulls suggests that this was higher in the ruling classes. To me, that suggests the Korean Yayoi didn’t invade and take over, but they moved in with them relatively amicably. The standard invasion/genocide pattern you see in population DNA is the native DNA being in the underclass, with little of the Y chromosome surviving. It seems the Jomon didn’t get wiped out, they intermarried.

The morphology of the Jomon teeth does suggest that Jomons followed the coastal route up into Japan, and are descended from the same ancestral line as Melanesians and Aboriniges, not of Mongoloid descent. The first stone tools are found in Japan from about 35,000 years ago. Studies of thier teeth also suggest the were farming some sort of starchy plant like taro, as they had too high a level of dental caries to be accounted for by hunter gathering.


Early twentieth century picture of the Ainu.


Japanese polished hand axes from 30,000BC, Tokyo museum. 


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. While the many excavations of Jomon sites have added to our knowledge of specific artifacts, they have not helped to resolve certain fundamental questions concerning the people of the protoliterate era, such as their ethnic classification and the origin of their language.All Jomon pots were made by hand, without the aid of a wheel, the potter building up the vessel from the bottom with coil upon coil of soft clay. As in all other Neolithic cultures, women produced these early potteries. The clay was mixed with a variety of adhesive materials, including mica, lead, fibers, and crushed shells. After the vessel was formed, tools were employed to smooth both the outer and interior surfaces. When completely dry, it was fired in an outdoor bonfire at a temperature of no more than about 900¡ C.Because the Jomon period lasted so long and is so culturally diverse, historians and archaeologists often divide it into the following phases:

Incipient Jomon (ca. 13,000–8000 B.C.). This period marks the transition between Paleolithic and Neolithic ways of life. Archaeological findings indicate that people lived in simple surface dwellings and fed themselves through hunting and gathering. They produced deep pottery cooking containers with pointed bottoms and rudimentary cord markings—among the oldest examples of pottery known in the world.


Incipient Jomon pot.

Initial Jomon (ca. 8000–5000 B.C.).By this period, the gradual climatic warming that had begun around 10,000 B.C. sufficiently raised sea levels, so that the southern islands of Shikoku and Kyushu were separated from the main island of Honshu. The rise in temperature also increased the food supply, which was derived from the sea as well as by hunting animals and gathering plants, fruits, and seeds. Evidence of this diet is found in shell mounds, or ancient refuse heaps. Food and other necessities of life were acquired and processed with the use of stone tools such as grinding rocks, knives, and axes.

 Early Jomon (ca. 5000–2500 B.C.).The contents of huge shell mounds show that a high percentage of people’s daily diet continued to come from the oceans. Similarities between pottery produced in Kyushu and contemporary Korea suggest that regular commerce existed between the Japanese islands and Korean peninsula. The inhabitants of the Japanese islands lived in square-shaped pithouses that were clustered in small villages. A variety of handicrafts, including cord-marked earthenware cooking and storage vessels, woven baskets, bone needles, and stone tools, were produced for daily use.

Middle Jomon (ca. 2500–1500 B.C.). This period marked the high point of the Jomon culture in terms of increased population and production of handicrafts. The warming climate peaked in temperature during this era, causing a movement of communities into the mountain regions. Refuse heaps indicate that the people were sedentary for longer periods and lived in larger communities; they fished, hunted animals such as deer, bear, rabbit, and duck, and gathered nuts, berries, mushrooms, and parsley. Early attempts at plant cultivation may date to this period. The increased production of female figurines and phallic images of stone, as well as the practice of burying the deceased in shell mounds, suggest a rise in ritual practices.jomon-pot.jpg

Deep bowl with sculptural rim, late Middle Jomon period (ca. 2500–1500 B.C.), ca. 1500 B.C.
  Late Jomon (ca. 1500–1000 B.C.).
As the climate began to cool, the population migrated out of the mountains and settled closer to the coast, especially along Honshu’s eastern shores. Greater reliance on seafood inspired innovations in fishing technology, such as the development of the toggle harpoon and deep-sea fishing techniques. This process brought communities into closer contact, as indicated by greater similarity among artifacts. Circular ceremonial sites comprised of assembled stones, in some cases numbering in the thousands, and larger numbers of figurines show a continued increase in the importance and enactment of rituals.

Final Jomon (ca. 1000–300 B.C.).As the climate cooled and food became less abundant, the population declined dramatically. Because people were assembled in smaller groups, regional differences became more pronounced. As part of the transition to the Yayoi culture, it is believed that domesticated rice, grown in dry beds or swamps, was introduced into Japan at this time.




Jomon skulls from Hokkaido




 A recreation of a Jomon house.

Just some storage for Jomon stuff.


The Jomon culture of Japan (14,000-2500 bp) is characterized by exceptionally dense and sedentary populations of hunters, fishers and gatherers. Various arguments have been put forward in favour of Jomon agriculture; it is argued here that such arguments are persuasive only if they are based on actual remains of the plants themselves. Recent excavations of wetland sites such as Awazu and Torihama have produced a range of herbaceous plants that were most probably cultivated, and the arboriculture of chestnut and other tree species is also likely. However, many archaeologists think that this cultivation remained on a small scale throughout the Jomon period, and that it was integrated into the predominantly foraging economy rather than precipitating a change to a socioeconomic system based on agriculture. Only in the Yayoi period after c . 2500 bp did agriculture become economically predominant, probably as the result of major immigration of wet-rice-cultivating groups from the Korean peninsula or China.
Keywords: Jomon; paleoethnobotany; plant remains; cultivation; wetland archaeology; yam

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1080/00438240600708295

Affiliations: 1: Environmental Archaeology, Kyoto University, Japan 2: Environmental Archaeology, University of Education, Japan
Dental anthropological indications of agriculture among the Jomon people of central Japan. X. Peopling of the Pacific
Christy G. Turner II
Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85281
This paper is the tenth of a planned series on dental anthropology of the Pacific basin and adjoining areas. The purpose of the series is to develop the use of dental polymorphisms as aids to understanding Pacific, New World, and Asian population origins, formation, and micro-evolution. Most previous papers in this series are identified in Turner and Swindler (’78).

Dentition • Dental anthropology • Asian agriculture • Oral pathology • Japanese
The high rate of crown caries (8.6%; 119/1,377 teeth) and other oral pathologies in 101 central Japan Middle to Late Jomon Period (ca. 1000 B.C.) crania indicate a level of carbohydrate consumption consistent with an agriculture hypothesis. Because Jomon dental crown and root morphology shows strong resemblances with past and present Southeast Asians, but not with ancient Chinese or modern Japanese, Jomon agriculture could be of great antiquity in the isolated Japanese islands. These dental data and other assembled facts suggest that ancestral Jomonese might have carried to Japan a cariogenic cultigen such as taro before the end of the Pleistocene from tropical Sundaland by way of the now-submerged east Asian continental shelf.

17 responses to “The Jomon of Japan, 15,000 BC to 300 BC.

  1. Al fin encontre algo realmente interesante en un blog.

  2. I have only seen it on exhibit in the Birmingham, Alabama Museum of Art back in 1979. Back then there was speculation that Jomon had also found its way to South America. A controversial though inexplicable argument.

  3. …jomon(J)=gate;family crest;coiled pottery.
    what is hidden at the moment si the jomon
    heavy involvement with trees as source of
    clothing and line/rope.
    early jomon, 5k-2.5k, coincides with the
    early sea age, a time when jomon commersed
    with korea. my idea that ainu made rope for
    the early sea age is correct. it’s not entirely
    impossible that during this time they did
    make their way to the americas, e.g.,
    the wordstring:
    maitl(N)=hand/mate, maite(basque),
    aite(J)=mate/wife, ai(N)=love;blue,
    matlatl(N)=net, matlalli(N)=blue(netland).
    middle jomon(2.5k-1.5k), the lower date
    is when i place the japanese with the rain
    olmecs as their majordomos/calpixqui(N),
    beating the mayans at popocatepetl and
    sending them back to the cuexteca and
    later, the yucatan/yuhcatla(N)=desert,
    tlan(N)=land, which, if i am right that the
    mayans came from the gulf of ormuz as
    the 2nd coming of quetzalcoatl, whose
    mother was ehecatl/hecate, whose father,
    perseus(gk myth)from that area also.
    this happening at a time when jomon
    in decline, always the time for large
    migration of workers/calpixqui(N).

  4. Here is an Ainu fellow who looks like a cross between Johnny Carson and George Bush.

    I’ve always though the Japanese acted more “white”. They certainly adopted modern Western ideas before other East Asians. Their language sounds less alien to the Western ear, quite pleasant, in fact.

    I’m not saying the Ainu are Caucasoid since DNA testing proves that they are not, though they must be mixed with Yayoi.

    They are perhaps more a proto-Eurasian that contains a mix of traits that later separated out. And some of those traits were Caucasoid.

    Strange that modern Ainu are looked down upon today when the upper classes owe some of their genes to them. But it was probably the mixing that produced the superior breed. Just as when Asians and Caucasians cross today you usually get a higher average IQ than either one separately.

  5. I don’t know about “very” Caucasian. Having spent a lifetime among Europeans and European-Americans, the only folks I’ve known of that type, if it is representative, are marginal cases of non-white admixture.

  6. tellllll me more……….where is jomon from where did u find it immmm curiouse

  7. WOW!! this is some great information here… love your blog

  8. I always think of Jomon people as sort of the Eastern Cro-Magnon, and they likely developed some characteristics in common with Europeans (fairer skin, a reddish-tint to the hair, wavy hair, light eyes, higher nose bridge, more boxy look to the skull), completely free of any mixture with Europeans. I have seen the Ainu being upheld as example of “lost white tribes” on nonsense racialist sites, but this is completely inaccurate. They do not have European ancestry. They happened to develop a few European-like physical characteristics independently. Though these characteristics have been diluted over time and aren’t dominant physical characteristics in Japanese society, they exist as a sort of undercurrent giving the Japanese a distinct look compared to mainland East Asians.

    Search “Ainu” on flickr and you’ll find many pictures of them, old and modern.


    In old images they do not appear European but rather Polynesian or maybe even South Indian. Here are some modern photos of Ainu:

    Ainu Whitesnake Matsuri at Shikaribetsuko

    Note the long-haired man, he looks fully “Caucasian”:

    The best beards in Japan!

    Knife beat

    Indeed the Ainu can have green eyes:
    Last of the Ainu

    I’ve always supposed the Ainu had a connection to Pacific Northwest Native tribes. In any case Ainu are a beautiful, fascinating but sadly fading, indigenous culture.

  9. There is no way I believe that these people do not have european and probably some middle eastern mixed in with their culture. Even though that hasn’t shown up in the genetic tests it would still be totally possible if all they tested was the mtdna and th ydna. For instance, my father would show up as having the mtdna of a person of native sailish canadian, but I would not, as my mother would have passed her mtdna to me. I could then have children with a man who’s mother was sailish and who’s father was half sailish form his mothers side and scottish from his dads side. Our children would show up as coming from eurpean descent on both maternal and paternal sides, yet they would have more sailish in them and that would probably show that in their features. If our children continued to have children with others of that background you would end up with sailish tribe that tested out to be european.

  10. Hi there Mathilda. I just wanted to say you have some great info and insight on your blog. Im a New Zealand girl, who has a Samoan mother and a Japanese father. Only last year when my beloved grandma passed away did we as a family discover that she was a full Ainu blooded lady. At this point I had never known what Ainu was, I had barely had much to do with either cultures (sad but true). I was beyond beleif at the reaction of my dad and his family when this was revealed in my Nans will. It was almost as if they wanted to sweep it under the carpet and never talk about it again. But, I think they had missed the point of her revelation, and that was to not be ashamed of who you are, and where you come from no matter what. This month marks the 1year anniversary of her sunset, but I perfer to see it as the 1st year of me fully embracing my culture now, and being proud that I have the bloodline of one of the most rare cultures on this earth now, and hope my family eventually come around to accepting it too.

  11. Laurentiu Enache

    Dr. Napoleon Savescu has one of the most interesting theories in what regards the origins of Ainu population. They could be the late descendants of so called Pelasgic people who’s origins are placed in the center of Europe. Just type “Napoleon Savescu” in the Google Search Bar and you may get some interesting information on this matter. I understood the pictures in question have been taken at so called “White Snake Festival”(or something like that) ,which is one of the oldest cults in the world – clearly, an old and wide spreaded cult in Central Europe and around Mediterranean Sea in the ancient times. Interesting , isn’t it …?

  12. Bornean Highlander

    I’m a full-blooded North Bornean native known commonly as Dusun. However, our clan is quite different from the other Dusun tribes and clans as we display characteristics such as high-bridged nose, round eyes (as opposed to epicanthic eyes posessed by some east coasters), light eye pupils and fair skin. There is a theory that we originally hailed from Mongolia but some of us don’t look Mongolian at all but rather display an admixture of Mongoloid and ‘other’ races. Some of our tribes mistake me for having European admixture and some mistake me for a Pakistani. I’m still wondering what makes our tribe or clan this way. And I compare our clan to the Ainu, some of them look remarkably like us but I think it’s just a mutation incident.

    • Older ‘types’ of East Asian often seem to have lighter skin, round eyes and non brown eyes/lighter hair, and kind of look like a mix of normal east Asian with European or Indian. My guess is that this was pretty common all over Asia before the Mongoloid-type people expanded across the continent. You see it in the Hmong too…

      I’m not really familiar with your people, thanks for the comment.

  13. I agree with the person that called them proto-Eurasian. They are very likely remnants of the first modern humans that would later split off in two branches–forming the Asian and Caucasian races respectively.

    The climate they evolved in didn’t require as much specialisation, and so they didn’t evolve in to a distinct Asian or Caucasian type of human. instead they retained their archaic traits.

    Bear in mind, these Ainu are not pure (free of Yayoi ancestry); the older Ainu were more distinctly intermediate in appearance.

  14. Knife beat

    – You sure that’s not a white guy dressed as an Ainu?

    Very nice article. I enjoyed reading it… It’s true that Japanese thought they were a Caucasian race until DNA testings.. I can see why with the green eye and the hair. Although that 10-20% Ainu blood gave me the hair as well.

    But the majority of Japanese are Yayoi Japanese decent so it’s hard to have Ainu characteristics even my wavy hair is seen as a bit of an outcast in Japan. They will make fun of it and try to discriminate. But that’s how a collectivist society works.. If you’re not part of the majority, it’s a little more difficult. I think that’s where the New Zealand girl’s father’s family is coming from. It’s also a bit historic.
    The Yamato tribe warred with the Ezo people who, probably, were the ancestors of the Ainu people during the era before the first Shogunate was established. So it’s not like we were living together happily all the time.

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