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Jomon Era Pottery
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| Words: 867 | Submitted: 30-Nov-2012
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DescriptionOverview of the Jomon people in Neolithic Japan with a focus on their pottery.
Although there is still much debate, it currently appears that the earliest pottery in the world may have been made in Japan in a broad era called the J?mon period. Although dates vary by source and definition, the J?mon period dates from between 13,500 and 10,500 BC to 300 BC, encompassing a period of over 10,000 years. Pottery shards discovered in a cave on the coast of modern day Kyushu date back to as far as 12,700 BC as measured by radiometric dating and in 1998 a number of pottery fragments were found in an archaeological dig in northern Japan which have tentatively been dated to the 14th Millennium BC. Before these discoveries it was commonly thought that pottery was first invented in mainland Asia and then introduced into the Japanese islands, but that no longer seems to have been the case.
All J?mon pots were hand-built utilizing a coil technique and, as in most early cultures, were produced by women. The clay was mixed with a variety of materials, including mica, lead, fibers, and crushed shells. After the vessels were formed by hand, tools were employed to smooth and texture the surfaces. After air-drying, they were fired in an open bonfire at a temperature of no more than about 1600° F. Although the surfaces of the pieces were sometimes colored with natural pigments, all J?mon pottery is unglazed. Many colors were obtained through variation of the clay body and some pieces show varying amounts of reduction blackening caused by firing variables but these do not appear, at least initially, to have been intentional design elements.
The pottery of the entire period has been classified by archaeologists into approximately 70 styles, with additional local varieties of these styles. The earliest vessels were mostly round-bottomed bowls and pots from between 10-50 cm high that are assumed to have been used for storing and cooking food. This early J?mon pottery is characterized by the cord markings that give the period its name, a style which has been found in large numbers of sites. They belonged to stone-age hunter-gatherers and the need for portability initially limited their size. As later bowls increase in size, this is taken to be a sign of an increasingly settled pattern of living. As the style continued to develop, increasingly elaborate patterns of decoration and undulating rims evolved, as well as flat bottoms allowing the pieces to stand unsupported.
Somewhere between 5000 - 2500 BC figurines started to be made. Early pieces featured a very stylized head and upper body, but the lower body was often a single legless extension, sometimes clearly resembling a phallus. The scholarly jury is still out on whether these were merely totemic or possibly ...
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