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Other research product . 2011

Fishing and Early Jomon Foodways at Sannai Maruyama, Japan

Katayama, Mio;
Open Access
Published: 01 Jan 2011
Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
Country: United States

This thesis examines the economic vs. social and symbolic importance of fish in the foodways of the prehistoric Jomon culture (16,000-2300 cal BP) of Japan. To achieve this goal, quantitative analyses of fish remains excavated from a water-logged midden of the Sannai Maruyama site (Aomori Prefecture, Japan) are conducted. Dated to the Lower Ento-a phase (ca. 5900-5650 cal BP) of the Early Jomon Period, the midden was associated with large amounts of organic remains, including fish bones. The perspective employed in this dissertation, foodways, emphasizes the importance of social and cultural roles of food. Rather than focus on bio-ecological aspects and nutritional values of food, this thesis regards food as one of the central elements of individual cultures. In Japanese archaeology, food of the Jomon Period has been a central them to the discussion reconstructing the lifeways of prehistoric people of the Japanese archipelago. Large amounts of data, including faunal and floral materials, have been accumulated from numerous rescue excavations of Jomon sites that took place between the 1970s and late 1990s. These archaeological data allowed the development of detailed culture historical studies of the Jomon Period that span over 10,000 years. Within the tradition of Japanese archaeology, however, virtually no scholar has adopted the study of foodways as a theoretical approach. This thesis is one of the few attempts to examine Jomon data from this perspective. In this thesis, the relations between Jomon people and fish as their food are examined through zooarchaeological and ethnoarchaeological analyses. Soil samples from the "Northern Valley" midden of the Sannai Maruyama site were obtained, and fish remains in these samples were separated, identified, and quantified. The results indicate that two taxa were particularly important in the diet of the Sannai Maruyama residents: Cobitidae (loaches) and Seriola (yellowtails). These results are used to address the question of why certain fish taxa were selected when the environment provided a great variety of other animals and fish. Energy investments and returns related to fishing and consumption of these two taxa are calculated, and the results are discussed in the context of energy efficiency, the assumption that lies behind the diet breadth model, one of the optimal foraging models .The results indicate that Cobitidae fishing can be explained by cost-benefit calculation, while an abundance of Seriola in the assemblage requires another explanation .The results of these analyses are discussed in the context of the study of prehistoric foodways.


Archaeology, Asian history, Fish, Food, Foodways, Hunter-gatherers, Jomon, Sannai Maruyama

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