Satô Kenri: How Does the Archeological Record Help Us Understand Human Groupings: A Comparison of Ceramic Forms and the Design of Human Habitations

1:45-2:15 Satô Kenri, Meiji University

“How Does the Archeological Record Help Us Understand Human Groupings: A Comparison of Ceramic Forms and the Design of Human Habitations”

This paper approaches prehistoric human groups from archaeological records.  Japanese archaeologists have assumed that spatial distribution of pottery that was regionally distinctive and continuously changed was a representation of a human group. Behind this assumption is the large quantity of prehistoric pottery of various time periods that have been excavated all over Japan. Japanese archaeologists have classified the prehistoric pottery of Japan into numerous types representing different regional and chronological phases, based on the morphology, surface decoration, production techniques, and assemblages. In this presentation, I discuss the case of the southern Kantō region of eastern Japan during the Late Yayoi Period (first to third centuries A.D.).  In this region at that time, while the Kugahara type pottery characterized by cord-marked surface was distributed in the coastal region of the Tokyo Bay, the Chōkōjibara type pottery characterized by a comb pattern was distributed in heights to the west of the Tokyo Bay region.  It is noteworthy that the Chōkōjibara type pottery is always found in association with the Kugahara type pottery.  In order to account for this interesting phenomenon, several hypotheses have been proposed, the most convincing of which is that two human groups originating from different regions resided together in a single settlement. I consider this hypothesis problematic because the evidence for it is nothing more than pottery.  I argue that semi-subterranean houses should be taken into consideration when studying this phenomenon.

In my analysis, I have classified semi-subterranean houses into different types based on the floor area and structure, and I have investigated the spatial and temporal distributions of each type of semi-subterranean houses.  As a result, a type of semi-subterranean houses with multiple fireplaces correlates closely with to the types of pottery bearing a comb pattern, including the Chōkōjibara type.  This suggests to me the possibility that the construction plan of semi-subterranean houses is also evidence for distinguishing human groups, along with pottery types.  If this is indeed the case, it is possible to speculate the nature of human groups in the absence of pottery.  Correlations between pottery types and types of semi-subterranean houses should be tested against more data in other regions and time periods.