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Reconstruction of Jomon Period roundhouses at the Yayoi-Kan Museum in Fukuoka, Japan
Image credit and © Winifred Bird
Writing in the Japan Times, Winifred Bird reports that –
Back in the late 1970s, the city planners of Karatsu, a fishing community on the northern coast of Kyushu, decided to build a new road. This provided a rare opportunity for local archaeologists. One day, they mixed a scoop of soil with water to separate out the pollen, and something unexpected floated to the top: a handful of tiny black discs. It turned out to be carbonized millennia-old rice that would soon lead them to the oldest paddy fields ever discovered in Japan. [See our earlier feature here].
Wild rice does not grow in Japan; the tall wetland plant that eventually became the squatter Japonica variety farmers grow today was first domesticated in China 8,000 or more years ago. Over the course of several millennia, the techniques evolved and spread — eventually to the Japanese islands, although the route and timing of their arrival remains controversial.
Kazuo Miyamoto, a professor of archaeology who studies that complex question at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, says immigrant farmers from the Korean Peninsula most likely arrived by boat around the eighth century B.C., making landfall somewhere around present-day Karatsu, and then on the broad plain where Fukuoka is now. They established rice paddies and probably shared their techniques with local hunter-gatherer communities, who already grew some vegetables, grains and beans in dry fields. Population grew, leaders emerged, conflict arose — and Japan was on its way toward “modernity.”
Full article here.
Yayoi Period rice grains unearthed from the Akitsu archaeological site in Japan. Image courtesy of the Nara Prefectural Archaeological Institute of Kashihara
The Yomiuri Shimbun reports on 21 January 2014 that –
Eleven grains of brown rice believed to date back to the early Yayoi period, around 2,600 to 2,400 years ago, were found at the location of a former paddy in the Akitsu archaeological site in Goze, Nara Prefecture. Due to the well-preserved condition of the grains, they were expected to provide clues about the rice cultivated by ancient people of the period, according to experts. Kyoto University Prof. Tatsuya Inamura, an expert on plant production systems, revealed the discovery at a research meeting of Nara Prefecture’s Archaeological Institute of Kashihara on 12 January 2014.

2600 2400年前に、背中の早期弥生時代にさかのぼると考えられて玄米奈良-イレブン粒は、瞽女にある秋津遺跡、奈良県旧水田の場所で発見された。により粒の保存状態の良い条件に、それらは専門家によると、期間の古代の人々が培ってきたお米についての手がかりを提供することが期待された。京都大学教授達也哲也、植物生産システムの専門家は、1月12日に橿原市の奈良県の考古学研究所の研究会での発見を明らかにした。

Full article here.


David Russell Harris (1930 – 2013) geographer and archaeologist
Martin Jones, writing in The Guardian on Friday, 17 January 2014, reports on the death of David Russell Harris, geographer and archaeologist –
The beginnings of farming, 10,000 or more years ago, have often been discussed in relation to a few discrete “centres of origin”, for example the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, and Central America. That we are now aware of a far richer, deeper, more diverse history of plant and animal exploitation right across the globe is thanks, in large part, to the contribution of David Harris, who has died aged 83.
Five decades of academic life took David through departments of geography, anthropology, botany and archaeology, and his fieldwork took him to each of the world’s inhabited continents. A seminal moment in his career came during a journey through the Venezuelan rainforest in early 1968. While travelling in a dugout canoe to a particularly remote part of the upper Orinoco, he was able to observe and record the sophisticated forest management practised by the Waika Indians.
Root crops and fruit trees were inter-planted within clearings that merged with the forest ecosystem, in a way of life that integrated cropping, fishing and hunting with the use of the forest resources. That experience led David to question the conventional idea of a simple split between hunter-gatherers and farmers, and to challenge it in a series of publications.
In the following decade, he continued his explorations of tropical ecosystem management, in the Torres Strait Islands to the north of Australia. The work of David and his colleagues in these islands identified one of the most ancient locations of complex plant management in the world, with a history of several millennia of taro cultivation in drained and managed plots.
Throughout his career, he highlighted the diversity of the world’s ecosystems, and the corresponding diversity and complexity of human management and its history.
Full obituary here.


February 2023
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