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exploring the monuments of Jomon Japan



he Jomon peoples of northern Japan were unusual among foraging societies for being great monument-builders.

They constructed a range of such sites, including stone circles, settings of wooden pillars, shell middens, and bank-enclosed cemeteries or embankments containing large quantities of material remains, all of which represented an ability to undertake significant investments in labour and probably also a high degree of forward-planning. Both of these abilities are more often associated with agricultural societies than hunter-gatherers. The Jomon monuments suggest an emphasis on ritual and ceremonialism, too, as well as a strong sense of engagement with particular locations in their landscapes. Examining such monuments and the range of activities that could be carried out in their shadow, as well as Jomon settlements, helps shed light on activity in the longest time-period in Japanese archaeology (spanning c.14,500-300 BC, with the stone circles mostly dating to the later phases of c.2500-300 BC). Its importance is reflected in 17 Jomon sites from northern Japan achieving World Heritage status in the summer of 2021.
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