Example of one of the Fugoppe cave’s more than 200 prehistoric engravings. The engravings include shaman-like humans with horns or wings, as well as boats, fish, whales and four-legged beasts
Photo courtesy of the Yochi Town Board of Education, Hokkaido
Writing in The Japan Times on Sunday, 17 August 2003, Mark Hudson reports that –

Art is part of what makes us human. Primitive or otherwise, though, it is not only about painting pretty pictures, but also about the complex use of symbols and forms of language.

An Australian archaeologist once told me that he had listened to an Aboriginal man talk for three hours about the meaning of a bark painting he had made. What to the uninitiated may have appeared to be no more than an attractive but random series of dots and lines was, the awed archaeologist admitted, in fact part of a complex web of stories and ideas.

Despite the centrality of art to the human experience, however, the archaeological record of prehistoric art is rather patchy. While the renowned paleolithic cave paintings of southwestern France or the rock art of Australia are outstanding examples of prehistoric art, there are many areas of the world where the remains of such early art don’t exist — or haven’t yet been discovered.

Japan is one such region: Here, evidence of early prehistoric art is sparse. This is despite the fact that more than 5,000 paleolithic sites have been found to date in Japan — a huge number compared with many other parts of the world. Where Japan really comes into its own, of course, is with the ceramic arts of the Jomon Period that followed the Paleolithic Age, dating from around 8,000 B.C. through to the dawn of the Yayoi Period around 400 B.C.

Full article here.