4,300-Year-Old First Face Offers a Glimpse of Ancient Japanese Culture

4,300-Year-Old First Face Offers a Glimpse of Ancient Japanese Culture

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Archaeologists in Japan have discovered what appears to be the first piece of stone painted that depicts a human face dating from the mid-Jomon Pottery Culture (2500–1500 BC). Experts describe the discovery as extremely important and unique.

Curious Paintings on the Stone

The Hokkaido Archaeological Operations Center announced on the 29 th of November that the stone fragment from the latter half of the mid-Jomon period, was discovered on October 19 and is around 4,300 years-old. The site where the excavation of the find took place is part of the Koren five archaeological sites in Kikonai, a town located in Oshima Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan.

As Asahi reported , archaeologists spotted the piece of stone at around fifty centimeters beneath the ground where a pit house used to stand. It measures about twelve to thirteen centimeters per side and is about 1.4 centimeters thick. Experts immediately noticed that it is flattened – possibly with a whetstone or other tools – and is shaped like an inverted triangle. Furthermore, Asahi reports that a horizontal line is drawn near the top side with a black pigment. An ellipse depicting an eye and lines shaping eyebrows and the nose are also painted on it.

A stone piece bearing the painting of a human face and found in Kikonai, Hokkaido (Image: Yoshinori Toyomane)

Usage of Stone Remains Unknown

The bad news, however, is that the stone’s use remains unknown at the moment, even though some experts have suggested that it was probably used for religious services and ceremonies in antiquity. Regardless, Yasushi Kosugi, a Jomon culture professor at Hokkaido University, excited with the discovery described it as particularly valuable from an archaeological point of view,

“The find is extremely precious in that it could help ascertain what the spiritual culture in the mid-Jomon period was like,” he stated according to Asahi .

Dr. Kosugi went on explaining what makes this particular find so rare and unique. Apparently, a painting of a human body drawn with pigments at the lower part of the earthenware, has been unearthed before at the Todonomiya archaeological site in Nagano Prefecture, a fact that indicates that such paintings were made during the Jomon Pottery Culture. However, no face drawings had ever been unearthed across Japan before, which makes this discovery really special, providing insights into this ancient and relatively obscure culture.

The Fascinating Jomon Pottery Culture

The Jomon period (10,500-300 BC), which covers a vast expanse of time, constitutes Japan’s Neolithic period. According to Metropolitan Museum , its name is derived from the “cord markings” that specifies the ceramics created during that time. Jomon people were semi-sedentary, living mostly in pit dwellings arranged around central open spaces, and obtained their food by gathering, fishing, and hunting. While the many excavations of Jomon sites have added to our knowledge of specific artifacts, they have not helped to resolve certain fundamental questions concerning the people of the protoliterate era, such as their ethnic classification and the origin of their language.

When it comes to Jomon pottery, the majority of it has rounded bottoms and the vessels are usually small. This shows that the vessels would typically be used to boil food, perhaps fitting into a fire. Later Jōmon pottery pieces are more elaborate, especially during the Middle Jōmon period, where the rims of pots became much more complex and decorated.

Left: Incipient Jomon pottery from Hinamiyama site. At Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa. Between 11000 and 7000 BC. . Right Early Middle Jomon pottery, between 5000 – 4000 BC. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The Middle Jomon period, from which comes the newly found fragment of painted stone, marked the high point of the Jomon culture in terms of increased population and production of handicrafts. The warming climate peaked in temperature during this era, causing a movement of communities into the mountain regions. Refuse heaps indicate that the people were sedentary for longer periods and lived in larger communities; they fished, hunted animals such as deer, bear, rabbit, and duck, and gathered nuts, berries, mushrooms, and parsley. Early attempts at plant cultivation may date to this period. The increased production of female figurines and phallic images of stone, as well as the practice of burying the deceased in shell mounds, suggest a rise in ritual practices during that period.

More elaborate rim typical of the Middle/ Late Jōmon period (c. 4000 BC- c. 200 BC) ( CC0)

Now, get a glimpse of the ancient Thracian culture at Louvre

Exquisitely crafted gold, silver and bronze objects will go on display at the Louvre museum in Paris this week, giving visitors a rare glimpse of the ancient Thracian culture that produced them.

From L to R: Crown, 350-300 BCE in gold (Iskra History Museum, Kazanlak, Bulgaria), Head of Seuthes III Golyama Kosmatka, third century BCE in bronze (Archeological Museum, Sofia). (Photos: AFP)

Many stories still remain untold about this refined civilisation whose citizens included Orpheus, the mythical son of a Thracian king, and legendary gladiator Spartacus who led an uprising against Rome.

Today, "ancient Thrace is most famous for its unique goldsmithing works", Bulgarian exhibition commissioner Milena Tonkova told AFP ahead of Tuesday's opening.

One of the exhibition highlights is the Panagyurishte ritual beverage set -- the most prized possession of these ancient people who inhabited the Balkan peninsula from the 2nd millennium BC to the 3rd century AD.

Made of 23-carat gold, it consists of a phial, an amphora with centaur-shaped handles and seven rhytons, and drinking vessels carved in the form of women's and animal heads, with a total weight of six kilos (13 pounds).

Since Communist times, Bulgaria has been exhibiting gold and silver Thracian treasures found on its territory in museums around the world, from Mexico to India and Japan.

Not just about gold
But "it won't just be the umpteenth exhibition in France of Thracian gold: it will offer the general public an opportunity to gain broader insight into this culture," said Francoise Gaultier, the director of Louvre's Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities.

Beyond the stunning wares, this latest exhibition aims to paint a broader picture of the lifestyle of the Thracians by showing the tools used to carve the pieces.

It will also showcase for the first time the exact replicas of four Thracian tombs from central Bulgaria, where some of the precious finds were uncovered.

One of them contained another centrepiece of the exhibition -- the life-size bronze head of King Seuthes III with eyes made of alabaster and a glass paste lending extreme liveliness to the king's sculptured face.

This ruler of the Odrysian kingdom had been buried together with his gold wreath, headpiece, horse ornaments, drinking cups and even glass playing dice.

"Seuthes' face will personalise ancient Thrace for the public," French commissioner Alexandre Baralis said.

In addition to unveiling the spectacular craft behind Thrace's treasures, the exhibition aims to shed a light on famous Thracian rulers.

"What we want to do is to present a historical and archeological synthesis that allows us to go further, to give substance, and offers a global perspective on the history of the Odrysian kingdom from 479 to 278 BC," Baralis said.

"We want to show that the Thracians, as actors of the ancient world, were as influential as the Greek, the Macedonians or the Romans."

Bulgarian tourism boost
The exhibition will also provide an opportunity to Bulgaria to bolster its image as one of the three European countries with the richest cultural heritage after Greece and Italy.

"The exhibition at the Louvre will offer us a trampoline for promoting cultural tourism," said Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova.

Bulgaria is currently mostly known for its winter resorts and Black Sea beaches but according to the minister, it has a huge potential to attract new tourism to the dozens of reconstructed Thracian burial sites.

History of Stone Age Art (2.5 million-3,000 BCE)

Prehistoric art comes from three epochs of prehistory: Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic. The earliest recorded art is the Bhimbetka petroglyphs (a set of 10 cupules and an engraving or groove) found in a quartzite rock shelter known as Auditorium cave at Bhimbetka in central India, dating from at least 290,000 BCE. However, it may turn out to be much older (c.700,000 BCE). This primitive rock art was followed, no later than 250,000 BCE, by simple figurines (eg. Venus of Berekhat Ram [Golan Heights] and Venus of Tan-Tan [Morocco]), and from 80,000 BCE by the Blombos cave stone engravings, and the cupules at the Dordogne rock shelter at La Ferrassie. Prehistoric culture and creativity is closely associated with brain-size and efficiency which impacts directly on "higher" functions such as language, creative expression and ultimately aesthetics. Thus with the advent of "modern" homo sapiens painters and sculptors (50,000 BCE onwards) such as Cro-Magnon Man and Grimaldi Man, we see a huge outburst of magnificent late Paleolthic sculpture and painting in France and the Iberian peninsular. This comprises a range of miniature obese venus figurines (eg. the Venuses of Willendorf, Kostenky, Monpazier, Dolni Vestonice, Moravany, Brassempouy, Gagarino, to name but a few), as well as mammoth ivory carvings found in the caves of Vogelherd and Hohle Fels in the Swabian Jura. However, the greatest art of prehistory is the cave painting at Chauvet, Lascaux and Altamira.

Proto-Renaissance: c.1300-1400
Early Renaissance: c.1400-90
High Renaissance: c.1490-1530
North Renaissance: c.1400-1530
Mannerism: c.1530-1600

Baroque Art Style: c.1600-1700
Dutch Realism: c.1600-1700
Rococo: c.1700-1789
Neoclassicism: c.1790 on
Romanticism: c.1790 on
Realism: c.1830 on

Pre-Raphaelites (1848 on)
Impressionistm (1870s on)
Neo-Impressionism (1870s)
Newlyn School (1880s)
Art Nouveau (Late 19th C)
Symbolism (Late 19th C)
Post Impressionism (c.1880s)
Les Fauves (1898-1908)
Expressionist Art (1900 on)
Die Brucke (1905-11)
Der Blaue Reiter (1911-14)
Ashcan School (1892-1919)
Cubism (1908-1920)
Orphism (1912-16)
Purism (1920s)
Precisionism (1920s on)
Collage (1912 on)
Futurism (1909-1914)
Rayonism (1910-20)
Suprematism (1913-1920s)
Constructivism (1917-21)
Vorticism (1913-15)
Dada Movement (1916-1924)
De Stijl (1917-31)
Bauhaus School (1919-1933)
Neo-Plasticism (1920-40)
Art Deco (1920s, 30s)
Ecole de Paris (1900 on)
Neue Sachlichkeit (1920s)
Surrealism (1924 on)
Magic Realism (1920s)
Entartete Kunst (1930s)
Social Realism (1920s, 30s)
Socialist Realism (1929 on)
St Ives School (1930s on)
Neo-Romanticism: from 1930s
Organic Abstraction (1940-65)
Existential Art (1940s, 50s)
Abstract Expressionism (c.1944-64)
Art Informel (c.1946-60)
Tachisme (1940s, 50s)
Arte Nucleare (1951-60)
Kitchen Sink Art (mid-1950s)
Assemblage (1953 on)
Neo-Dada (1950s on)
Op-Art (Optical Art) (1960s)
Pop Art (1958-72)
New Realism (1960s)
Post-Painterly Abstraction (1960s)
Feminist Art (1960s on)

Conceptualism (1960s on)
Performance (1960s on)
Installation (1960s on)
Video Art (1960s on)
Minimalism (1960s on)
Photo-Realism (1960s, 1970s)
Environmental Land Art) (1960s on)
Supports-Surfaces (c.1966-72)
Postmodernism (1970 on)
Post-Minimalism (1971 on)
New Subjectivity (1970s)
London School (1970s)
Graffiti Art (1970s on)
Transavanguardia (1979 on)
Neo-Expressionism (1980 on)
Britart: YBAs (1980s on)
Neo-Pop (late 1980s on)
Stuckism (1999 on)

These murals were painted in caves reserved as a sort of prehistoric art gallery, where artists began to paint animals and hunting scenes, as well as a variety of abstract or symbolic drawings. In France, they include the monochrome Chauvet Cave pictures of animals and abstract drawings, the hand stencil art at Cosquer Cave, and the polychrome charcoal and ochre images at Pech-Merle, and Lascaux. In Spain, they include polychrome images of bison and deer at Altamira Cave in Spain. Outside Europe, major examples of rock art include: Ubirr Aboriginal artworks (from 30,000 BCE), the animal figure paintings in charcoal and ochre at the Apollo 11 Cave (from 25,500 BCE) in Namibia, the Bradshaw paintings (from 17,000 BCE) in Western Australia, and the hand stencil images at the Cuevas de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) (from 9500 BCE) in Argentina, among many others.

Mesolithic Art (c.10,000-4,000 BCE)

Against a background of a new climate, improved living conditions and consequent behaviour patterns, Mesolithic art gives more space to human figures, shows keener observation, and greater narrative in its paintings. Also, because of the warmer weather, it moves from caves to outdoor sites in numerous locations across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas. Mesolithic artworks include the bushman rock paintings in the Waterberg area of South Africa, the paintings in the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in India, and Australian Aboriginal art from Arnhem Land. It also features more 3-D art, including bas-reliefs and free standing sculpture. Examples of the latter include the anthropomorphic figurines uncovered in Nevali Cori and Göbekli Tepe near Urfa in eastern Asia Minor, and the statues of Lepenski Vir (eg. The Fish God) in Serbia. Other examples of Mesolithic portable art include bracelets, painted pebbles and decorative drawings on functional objects, as well as ancient pottery of the Japanese Jomon culture. One of the greatest works of Mesolithic art is the sculpture "Thinker From Cernavoda" from Romania.

Neolithic Art (c.4,000-2,000 BCE)

The more "settled" and populous Neolithic era saw a growth in crafts like pottery and weaving. This originated in Mesolithic times from about 9,000 BCE in the villages of southern Asia, after which it flourished along the Yellow and Yangtze river valleys in China (c.7,500 BCE) - see Neolithic Art in China - then in the fertile crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys in the Middle East (c.7,000) - the 'cradle of civilization' - before spreading to India (c.5,000), Europe (c.4,000), China (3,500) and the Americas (c.2,500). Although most art remained functional in nature, there was a greater focus on ornamentation and decoration. For example, calligraphy - one of the great examples of Chinese art - first appears during this period. See: Chinese Art Timeline for details. Neolithic art also features free standing sculpture, bronze statuettes (notably by the Indus Valley Civilization), primitive jewellery and decorative designs on a variety of artifacts. The most spectacular form of late Neolithic art was architecture: featuring large-stone structures known as megaliths, ranging from the Egyptian pyramids, to the passage tombs of Northern Europe - such as Newgrange and Knowth in Ireland - and the assemblages of large upright stones (menhirs) such as those at the Stonehenge Stone Circle and Avebury Circle in England. (For more, please see: megalithic art.) However, the major medium of Neolithic art was ceramic pottery, the finest examples of which were produced around the region of Mesopotamia (see Mesopotamian art) and the eastern Mediterranean. For more chronology, see: Pottery Timeline. Towards the close of this era, hieroglyphic writing systems appear in Sumer, heralding the end of prehistory.

For more about prehistoric painting, sculpture, architecture and crafts during this period, see: Stone Age Art.

Japan’s ancient way to save the planet

The concept of mottainai encompasses the idea of respecting resources and not wasting them, along with an inherent recognition of their value.

Reaching across the counter to pass us a beautifully wrapped pack of homemade senbei (rice crackers), the elderly shopkeeper joined in our admiration of the colourful designs. Each pack was nestled in traditional washi paper, which, the shopkeeper suggested, could be used again for gifts or to cover a notebook. &ldquoMottainai,&rdquo she called as we left, wagging a finger with the perfect stern-grandmother tone to match.

Ubiquitous in daily life, mottainai has been the go-to admonishment for waste in Japan for centuries, representing a meaningful connection between item and owner that&rsquos deeply rooted in Buddhist culture. Focussing on the essence of objects, it encourages people to look beyond our throwaway culture and value each item independently, adding the fourth &ldquoR&rdquo of &ldquorespect&rdquo to the well-known mantra of &ldquoreduce, reuse, recycle&rdquo.

As sustainability becomes a global focus, the nuance of mottainai offers an alternative frame for our link to the world and the items we bring into it. While many sustainable efforts focus on the future of the planet as a motivator, mottainai looks closely at the items themselves, believing that if you value an item in the first place, there is no cause for waste at all.

While I had often heard the phrase as teachers chided students for leftover rice at lunch or used as a cheeky excuse by colleagues fishing the final fries from a nearby plate, I had never heard it used with the future of a pristine item in mind.

In the current climate of environmental activism, the reduction of waste &ndash be it single-use plastics, food or energy consumption &ndash is high on the collective conscience. Admired for complex recycling systems and impeccably clean cities, Japan may appear to have succeeded in mastering the art of the three Rs, but this perception has created a mindset of dangerous complacency. In reality, Japan is the second largest per-capita generator of plastic waste in the world, producing more than the entire European Union.

In the face of this global crisis, the value of a single word like mottainai could easily be dismissed, but its continued prevalence in daily life in Japan is seen by some as a powerful tool ready to be re-harnessed.

&ldquoThe concept of mottainai is rooted in Japanese culture, but recently there is a tendency not to care about it,&rdquo explained Tatsuo Nanai, chief of the official MOTTAINAI campaign. The NGO was launched following the visit of Nobel prize-winning Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai in 2005, with the aim of revitalising the concept. &ldquoShe knew about mottainai and she was very impressed with the concept,&rdquo Nanai said, &ldquobecause it expresses much more than a single word.&rdquo

Mottainai&rsquos potential power lies in its complex meaning, which draws on ancient Buddhist beliefs. &ldquoMottai comes from the Buddhist word that refers to the essence of things. It can be applied to everything in our physical world, showing that objects don&rsquot exist in isolation but are connected to one another&rdquo Nanai said, adding that, &ldquo&lsquo-nai&rsquo is a negation, so &lsquomottainai&rsquo becomes an expression of sadness over the loss of the link between two entities, living and non-living.&rdquo

The concept of mottainai is rooted in Japanese culture, but recently there is a tendency not to care about it

The bond between owner and object is a fundamental element of Japanese culture, reflected in everything from the traditional repairing art of kintsugi to the sparking of joy sought by famous organiser Marie Kondo. Visitors may glimpse a delicately repaired bowl during a tea ceremony or stumble upon one of the annual festivals held to give thanks to used items. &ldquoWhen things can no longer be used, we always say &lsquootsukaresama-deshita!&rsquo to them it means &lsquothank you for your hard work&rsquo,&rdquo Nanai said. A prime example is hari-kuyo ceremonies, where broken sewing needles are retired and placed in soft tofu during a sombre memorial to thank them for their service.

In a world of mass production and consumerism, however, these connections to objects are difficult to maintain, highlighting our increased distance from the environment we rely on. &ldquoPeople thought we were separate from the forests and oceans, that we were superior to nature, but the environmental crisis awakened our consciousness to the reality that we are part of nature,&rdquo Nanai said.

In a country facing frequent and increasingly severe natural disasters, the gravity of this separation is keenly felt. This connection to the planet was highlighted by Maathai as she travelled the world, taking the message of mottainai along with her. During a speech at the launch of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006, she illustrated the connection between human rights and environmental conservation, citing the greed for Earth&rsquos limited resources as the &ldquoroot cause of most conflicts&rdquo. Following on, she recalled her trip to Japan, where she learnt about mottainai and the lesson it holds to &ldquoto be grateful, to not waste and be appreciative of the limited resources&rdquo.

Thanks to Maathai, Nanai&rsquos campaign team and Japanese expat communities, the concept of mottainai is slowly spreading across the globe. Vietnam holds an annual mottainai festival, while Los Angeles&rsquo Little Tokyo neighbourhood chose it as the theme for their 2016 regeneration project.

It is no surprise, then, that this year&rsquos Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo are being used to shine a spotlight on sustainability and, more specifically, the mottainai version of it. Alongside renewable energy use, utilising existing stadiums and transport systems as well as carbon offsetting plans, there will be two highly visible symbols on display: ceremony podiums will be made from recycled plastic gathered from across Japan while all 5,000 medals will be made from 100% recycled metals, carefully extracted from electronic devices donated by members of the public. By using personal items rather than industrial or commercial sources, each and every donation allows the electronics&rsquo former owners to feel a sense of contribution to the medals and the event as a whole.

But while raising international awareness of the concept is one priority, a generational divide surrounding mottainai needs to be tackled if it is to regain its influence within Japan.

Considering the societal changes in Japan over the past century &ndash from world wars to vast technological advances &ndash associate professor Misuzu Asari of Kyoto University Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies notes that, &ldquomany elderly people know poverty from their experiences during and after the war, and have learnt &lsquomottainai&rsquo the hard way. People of the younger generation, however, have lived in the age of material abundance, so there is a big gap between the elderly and the young.&rdquo She explains that while the younger generations&rsquo disconnect to an item&rsquos intrinsic value could have created a more minimalist lifestyle, it has instead led to mass consumption, with items disregarded and easily replaced.

Aiming to change this, the MOTTAINAI campaign focuses on children and their families. Alongside the frequent MOTTAINAI Flea Markets held across Tokyo selling second-hand goods, the campaign also runs children&rsquos markets &ndash allowing children to sell and buy toys and clothes. &ldquoChildren are the key,&rdquo Nanai explained, showing photos of a recent market held in Tokyo. &ldquoThey know their future will be jeopardised so we must help them however we can.&rdquo With no parents allowed and a 500-yen (£3.50) limit, the markets are designed to teach children not only the value of money, but also the alternatives to throwing away old items.

With the growth of population and the shortage of resources over the world, wisdom, culture and technology will be indispensable for surviving

A more extreme version of the mottainai spirit can be found on Shikoku, Japan&rsquos fourth-largest island, where children are the focus of one small town&rsquos mission to become zero-waste by 2020. Kamikatsu declared their goal back in 2003 and work with families and schools to offer alternatives to landfill. Board chair Akira Sakano showed me a card game she designed for local children when I visited in December. &ldquoWe give them five options to rescue the waste: starting with re-using, then there&rsquos repairing, repurposing, recycling and rotting. Of course, you cannot always save the object, so we have two extras &ndash to go to the landfill, or to refuse the item in the first place.&rdquo

This final option, she explained, is the key to her message when it comes to reducing waste. &ldquoBy refusing, it&rsquos similar to mottainai, but it&rsquos more like how you can come up with a new idea not to use the product in the beginning.&rdquo From promises to forgo fast food toys to suggesting reusable bottles, local children taking part have clearly taken the message to heart.

The town also has a complex 45-part recycling system and a kuru-kuru swap-shop, which has so far found new homes for more than 11 tonnes of items and operates a repurposing craft project. Now recycling more than 80% of their waste, the town is well on its way to reaching their zero-waste goal and are welcoming interns and visitors from Japan and abroad to share what they have learned.

&ldquoWith the growth of population and the shortage of resources over the world, wisdom, culture and technology will be indispensable for surviving,&rdquo said Asari. From the beautiful paper now covering my notebooks to the recycled medals to be handed out atop plastic podiums, the connection between people, objects and the world we share has never been more important.

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I want to fly… that’s what I’m in it for – Laurie Anderson

To the imagination of the ensuing generation of Romantic writers and artists, the Moon is less a utilitarian prop than a lyrical aspiration, emblematic of unreachable ideals. William Blake’s charming engraving I Want! I Want! (1793), which envisions a childlike figure erecting a long slender ladder to the Moon, is indicative of the age’s fragile longing for meaningful social reforms. As an object of wistful yearning, the Moon imprints itself indelibly on several influential masterpieces of the 19th Century as well.

Caspar David Friedrich’s Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon (1818) offers a meditative approach (Credit: Alamy)

Caspar David Friedrich’s affecting double portrait of pensive companions, Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon (1818), is the very picture of mindful meditation. Framed ruggedly by a ragged gnarl of branches, the Moon offers itself to the conjoined mind of these wanderers as a counterpoint to the fleeting concerns of our ephemeral existence. To the troubled consciousness of Vincent van Gogh, near the end of the century, the anguished orb that clenches its gold and white knuckles in the corner of Starry Night (1889) is a tightening knot of inner fire that is as disquieting as it is blazingly beautiful.

In Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889), the moon is disquieting as well as beautiful (Credit: Alamy)

The many phases of the Moon’s meaning, evolving as it has over the course of its long journey across humans’ cultural imagination from prehistory to the present, will necessarily shape every observer's experience of Anderson and Hsin-Chien’s immersive work. Less a blank slate than a rich palimpsest of accumulating connotations, the Moon can only be appreciated anew if we strip away what we think we know about it and about ourselves. Like all great works of art, To the Moon aims to facilitate the finding of oneself through a paradoxical process of self-loss. “I think you can lose yourself in a Russian novel, and you can lose yourself in a pencil drawing,” Anderson says, “but you lose yourself in VR in a more organic way”. At the core of this extraordinary work is a desire to orchestrate “a sense of disembodiment”, allowing visitors to dissolve into the endlessly swelling mystery of the Moon. “I want to fly,” she tells me, “that’s what I’m in it for.”

To the Moon by Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang will be presented by HTC VIVE Arts, official Virtual Reality Partner of Art Basel in Hong Kong, from 29 to 31 March 2019.

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Jayuya’s Petroglyphs

Piedra Escrita

In the middle of Río Saliente in Jayuya, almost two hours from San Juan in the mountainous region of the island, you can find one of the most admired petroglyphs in Puerto Rico. La Piedra Escrita is a large carved rock that contains many different types of shapes and forms, such as faces, spirals, and even a coquí. Visitors can swim and play in the water, as well as have direct contact with the rock. There is no fee and a recreational area near the river is open during the day year-round.

Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park in Utuado

Sol de Jayuya

Jayuya has many other Taíno gems that you shouldn’t miss during your visit. El Sol de Jayuya, which is part of the Mural Tallado de Zamas located in Cerro Puntas in the Zamas neighborhood, is one of the most ancient petroglyphs and represents religious signs or symbols such as the god of the sun.

Cicero: Alliances, Exiles and Death

During his exile, Cicero refused overtures from Caesar that might have protected him, preferring political independence to a role in the First Triumvirate. Cicero was away from Rome when civil war between Caesar and Pompey broke out. He aligned himself with Pompey and then faced another exile when Caesar won the war, cautiously returning to Rome to receive the dictator’s pardon.

Cicero was not asked to join the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar in 44 B.C., but he was quick to celebrate it after the fact. In the infighting that followed Caesar’s death, Cicero made brief attempts at alliances with key figures, first defending Mark Antony before the Senate and then denouncing him as a public enemy in a series of withering speeches. For some time he supported the upstart Octavian, but when Antony, Octavian and Lepidus allied in 43 to form the Second Triumvirate, Cicero’s fate was settled. Antony arranged to have him declared a public enemy. Cicero was caught and killed by Antony’s soldiers, who are said to have cut off his head and right hand and brought them for display in Rome𠅊ntony’s revenge for Cicero’s speeches and writings.


Pacific County, named after the Pacific Ocean, is perched at the southwestern corner of Washington state. The ocean forms its western border and the north shore of the Columbia River and Wahkiakum County form its southern border. Grays Harbor County lies to the north and Lewis County to the east. A distinctive geographical feature is the 30-mile-long Long Beach Peninsula, which meets the ocean on its western side and shelters Willapa Bay on its eastern side. In 1851 Pacific County was the third county created in what would become Washington Territory. The economic base of the area's indigenous Chinook and Lower Chehalis peoples as well as of early-arriving settlers was oystering, especially in Shoalwater (later Willapa) Bay, and fishing. Soon lumber became a predominant early industry, followed by cranberry farming, dairy farming, and later, vacationing and tourism. Pacific County's area is nearly 1,000 square miles and the 2005 population was about 21,000 people. The county's four incorporated cities are Raymond, South Bend, Long Beach, and Ilwaco. Of the 39 Washington counties, Pacific County ranks 28th in population and 30th in land area.

Pacific County lies within two geographic subregions of Washington state known as Coastal Plains and the Coast Range. The coastal area consists of a sandy plain characterized by "shallow bays, tidal flats, delta fans and low headlands" that lie between the ocean and the foothills of the Coast Range (Pacific County Agriculture). Long Beach peninsula has one of the longest continuous ocean beaches on the on the Pacific Coast. It is one-to-three miles wide and 30 miles long. The interior side of the peninsula contained bogs, shallow ponds, and lakes.

Inland from the coast, the foothills were heavily forested with western hemlock, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and Pacific silver fir. The main hardwood trees are red alder and bigleaf maple. The climate is mild and damp but too cool and cloudy for most crops.

First Peoples

The Chinook Indians were original inhabitants of the lower Columbia River including the future Pacific County. There were more than 40 Chinook settlments in Pacific County, at the mouths of the Nemah, Naselle, Willapa, and Bone rivers, and at Nahcotta, Oysterville, Goose Point, Bruceport, Tokeland, and Grayland. The site of one of their main villages became Chinook.

Along with the Lower Chehalis, the Chinook wintered along Shoalwater Bay. They spoke the Chinook language and traded (mostly fur, fish, and slaves) over thousands of miles with many different peoples. They were master navigators of sea-going canoes, and salmon and oysters formed the core of their economic base. Reflecting their long experience as traders, their name was given to the Chinook Jargon, a trade lingo that included terms from Chinook, English, French, and Nootka.

The Chinook and the Chehalis were eventually decimated by introduced diseases. Many of their descendants, by accepting 80-acre allotments on the much larger Quinault Reservation, attained the privilege of Quinault treaty rights.

The Shoalwater Indian Reservation, consisting of 334.5 acres, was established by an executive order signed by President Andrew Johnson on September 22, 1866. Pacific County's only reservation, it occupies 333 acres on the north shore of Willapa Bay, on the site of an ancient Chinook village. The non-treaty Indians of Shoalwater Bay made their living by fishing, crabbing, and oystering, selling their surplus to canneries much the same as non-Indians. Members of the present-day Shoalwater Bay Tribe are descended from Chinook, Chehalis, and other area tribes. The tribe has 237 enrolled members and a resident service population of 1,148. The tribal center at Tokeland serves both the tribe and the surrounding community.

More than 1,000 Chinook tribal members live at Bay Center on Willapa Bay and in South Bend -- both ancient village sites -- and elsewhere around the region. The tribe has headquarters in Chinook, and continues to seek federal recognition.


Pacific County's location on the Pacific Ocean and on the northern shore of the estuary of the Columbia meant that for early explorers arriving by sea, its bays and forested hills often became their first glimpse of the future state of Washington. Bruno Heceta, aboard the Spanish frigate Santiago, mapped the entrance to the Columbia River in 1775. Thirteen years later, in 1788, the British trader John Meares (1756?-1809), aboard the Felice Adventurer, traded with Indians off what is now called Willapa Bay. He did not actually find the river he was looking for and in his disappointment renamed Cape San Roque as Cape Disappointment and Assumption Bay as Deception Bay.

In 1792, British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver viewed Cape Disappointment as a “conspicuous point” not worthy of investigation, and passed on by. On May 11, 1792, Captain Robert Gray of Boston aboard the Columbia Rediviva sailed into the Columbia River as the first European to do so. Here he encountered Chinook Indians in cedar dugouts with furs and fresh salmon to trade.

The Lewis and Clark expedition first viewed the Pacific Ocean from the sandy beach of the Long Beach Peninsula on November 15, 1805 (after mistakenly thinking a few days before that the rough waves of the Columbia were ocean waves). They arrived at the Chinook’s summer fishing village and stayed 18 days exploring the area. Considering the rain and fog, the party voted to winter on the other side of the river. Thus the future Pacific County was the site of the first election by Americans in the West and the first to include a Native American and a woman (Sacagawea, the Shoshone wife of of one of the expedition's hunters) and an African American (York, Captain Clark's African slave).

At Astoria, across the wide river mouth from the future Pacific County, the American John Jacob Astor established a fur-trading post in 1811, which was by 1813 owned by the Canadian (British) North West Company, and by 1821 by the British Hudson's Bay Company. Extensive trading and familial relationships developed between the Chinook and these British fur traders.

Under Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, the U.S. Exploring Expedition arrived in the summer of 1841. One of the expedition's vessels, the Peacock, sailed the into the mouth of the Columbia on a survey mission, grounded on a sand spit, and was lost, giving its name to Peacock Spit. The crew was saved by nearby Hudson's Bay Co. fur traders and by missionaries. Among those who jumped ship was James DeSaule, the Peacock's black Peruvian cook. He became one of the first non-Indians to settle in the region.

Graveyard of the Pacific

The many shipwrecks at the mouth of the Columbia -- around 2,000 since 1792 -- have given rise to the name "graveyard of the Pacific." It was back and forth over this treacherous estuary that skilled Indian navigators guided their canoes, causing Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to note their remarkable navigational skills “thro emence waves & Swells” ("18 Days in Pacific County").

More than one early settler in the area arrived by shipwreck. In 1829 the Isabella, bound for the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver, wrecked on a shoal. Thus arrived Englishman James A. Scarborough (1805-1855), who in 1843 settled at Chinook Point on the Columbia River. He married a Chinook woman, Ann Elizabeth, and filed a Donation Land Claim for all of Chinook Point and most of Scarboro Hill. He occupied the property until his death in 1855. The land ultimately became Fort Columbia, part of the U.S. Army’s defense of the mouth of the Columbia River. It is now Fort Columbia State Park.

In 1845 a marker was made by cutting off the tops of three fir trees on the crest of the headland, to be used as a navigational aid. In 1856 a lighthouse was built on Cape Disappointment. It was visible 21 miles out to sea, and had a fog bell. The U.S. Army mounted smooth-bore cannon at Fort Cape Disappointment in 1862 (or 1864). Renamed Fort Canby in 1875, the facility continued to serve in defense of the Columbia River until World War II. It is now part of Cape Disappointment State Park.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began dredging the mouth of the Columbia in the 1870s, and still dredges up four to five million cubic yards of sand every year. In 1980, the U.S. Coast Guard opened its National Motor Lifeboat School at Ilwaco. Today, the Coast Guard's related Station Cape Disappointment responds to 300 or 400 maritime calls for assistance each year.

The Confluence Project, unveiled in 2006 at Cape Disappointment State Park, is a $15 million monumental public-art project to commemorate stops by Lewis and Clark in Washington and Oregon. Designed by artist Maya Lin, the project offers lessons in history, celebrates indigenous cultures, and rehabilitates parts of the natural environment.

Formation and Settlement

From 1818 to 1846, the Pacific Northwest, called Oregon, was jointly occupied by Great Britain, represented mostly by Hudson's Bay Co. fur trappers, and by the United States. The first two counties in the future Washington state were created in 1845 by the Provisional Government for Oregon Territory, a body consisting of both British and American settlers. These were Clark (originally named Vancouver) and Lewis. In 1846 Great Britain ceded to the United States the Pacific Northwest below the 49th parallel and in 1848 Congress created Oregon Territory (including Washington and Idaho). The Oregon Territorial Legislature created Pacific County out of the southwestern corner of Lewis County in 1851. Pacific County was thus the third county formed in what would become Washington Territory, and the first formed by the Oregon Territorial Legislature. In 1853 Congress created Washington Territory, comprising Pacific, Lewis, and Clark (renamed Clarke) counties. Pacific County's boundaries were adjusted in 1860, 1867, 1873, 1879, and finally in 1925.

Settlement in the future Pacific County was framed first by nearby Hudson's Bay Co. fur trappers, and after 1848, by the California Gold Rush. This last caused San Francisco to boom and opened a large market for both lumber and oysters. Pacific County, accessible to San Francisco by sea, had both in abundance.

The promotional activities of Elijah White, who hoped to found a great port city on the Columbia, resulted in the new town of Pacific City, located just south of present-day Ilwaco. On February 26, 1852, a federal executive order set aside 640 acres at Pacific City for a military reservation and required residents to leave. By 1858 all that was left of Pacific City was a couple of houses and a sawmill.

Washington Hall, who had surveyed Pacific City for Elijah White, promoted his own town, Chinookville, beginning in April 1850. Despite the Chinooks' resentment of his appropriation of the site of their principal village, settlers elected Hall county commissioner and Chinookville became Pacific County's first county seat. Hall sold lots until July 1855, at this time deeding his worldly goods to his two children, whose mother was a Native American woman to whom Hall was not married. This protected him from challenges to his claims. He continued for five years to sell lots on behalf of his children, sometimes for cash and sometimes for goods such as shingles and salmon, before disappearing in the direction of Idaho.

Shellfish and Fish

During the 1850s, schooners began arriving in Shoalwater Bay, mostly from San Francisco, looking for oysters. One of these was the Robert Bruce. On December 11, 1851, the ship’s cook doped the crew and set the ship on fire. Bill McCarty, who was cutting timbers at Hawk’s Point, along with the Indians he was working with, carried the men ashore. The Robert Bruce burned to the water line. The stranded men, who in any case had come with the idea of starting an oyster business, settled on the bay, forming what became Bruceport. These “Bruce boys” entered the oyster trade and soon bought two schooners of their own.

In 1854, Chief Nahcati invited R. H. Espy, who had been cutting timber for the San Francisco market, and L. A. Clark, a New York tailor who'd achieved a modest success in the California gold rush, to the site of future Oysterville on the Long Beach Peninsula. There they filed Donation Land Claims and set up an oyster business, shipping canoeloads of oysters to Bruceport for shipment south. Soon vessels from San Francisco were arriving at Oysterville.

Oysterville founders also included the brothers John and Thomas Crellin, who also arrived in 1854. Enmity ensued between the two new oystering groups but this ended when John Morgan, one of the Bruce boys, married Sophia Crellin, sister of John and Thomas. The two companies joined forces and by 1863 were called Crellin & Company. From 1855 to 1892, the county seat was located in Oysterville.

The oyster trade brought one of Washington's earliest chroniclers to the Territory for the first time. James G. Swan (1818-1900) came to the future Pacific County at the invitation of his friend, oysterman Charles J. W. Russell. Swan lived on Willapa Bay from 1852 to 1855, observing the first pioneer settlement grow and getting to know the Chinook and Chehalis inhabitants, including Chief Comcomly's sister as well as Toke, the leader for whom Toke Point and Tokeland are named, and Toke's wife Suis. In 1857 Swan described Indian and pioneer life on the bay in The Northwest Coast, Or, Three Years' Residence in Washington Territory, one of the earliest books about life in Washington.

Native oysters fed San Francisco during the Gold Rush (1848-1864). After they were depleted, first eastern oysters (1893-1920) and then Pacific or Japanese oysters (1920s-1950s) were brought in and farmed. Finally, laboratories in the United States began to grow oyster spat (a minute oyster larva attached to a solid object, usually a piece of oyster shell), making imports no longer necessary. One out of every six oysters consumed in the United States is grown and harvested in Willapa Bay, the “Oyster Capital of the World.”

From the handful of companies farming the bay more than a century ago to the estimated 350 independent growers in Willapa today (many of them Japanese-Americans), Willapa Bay is thought to be the largest farmed shellfish producer in the United States.

Fishing and canning, too, have been essential to the economy. Salmon was one of the first items traded to early explorers. In 1853, Patrick J. McGowan, an Irishman, purchased 320 acres of an old mission grant and founded the town of McGowan on the north shore of the Columbia. Here he established the first salmon-packing company in the state.


Chinook Indians had long harvested the wild cranberries that grew in bogs, and as early as 1847 the berries were exported to San Francisco. In 1880, Anthony Chabot, a native of Quebec who had grown wealthy from engineering ventures in San Francisco, became interested in growing cranberries commercially. In 1881 he bought 1,600 acres of government land and planted 35 acres of cranberries at Seaview, near present-day Long Beach. He brought in several hundred thousand vines from Massachusetts, and production reached 7,500 barrels. Labor was provided by Indians and by Chinese. But eventually pests and mildew brought in with the non-native vines attacked the crop, labor problems developed, and the Chabot bog went to weeds.

Meanwhile another pioneer, Chris Hanson, had planted two acres of cranberries. For a time he was the only producer on the Long Beach peninsula. Between 1909 and 1916 cranberry growing increased there to 600 acres.

About 1912, a grower named Ed Benn introduced cranberries in the Tokeland and Grayland districts of northern Pacific County. Finnish settlers expanded the bog area.

In 1923 the State College of Washington (later Washington State University) established the Cranberry-Blueberry Experiment Station at Long Beach not far from Chabot's original bog to provide technical assistance to growers. Researcher D. J. Crowley worked out sprays to control pests, and overhead sprinkling to protect from winter frost and summer scald. WSU closed its Cranberry Research Station in 1992. Growers formed the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Association in order to buy the station. They farm the former WSU bogs while WSU continues to support technical personnel.

In the 1930s growers associated with Ocean Spray, a co-op owned by cranberry farmers, to process and market their crops. Growers also affiliated with a national marketing association, the National Cranberry Growers Association. By 1957 the Washington cranberry industry was thriving. Today virtually all the cranberries harvested in the state, about 1.5 million pounds annually, are grown in the Willapa Basin.

More than 90 percent of the Willapa uplands were forested. Approximately 3 percent of the present stands are undisturbed old growth with the majority of the remainder being managed timberlands. Mechanization of logging with steam locomotives and steam donkeys beginning in the 1890s made logging another mainstay of the county’s economy.

In 1892 the sawmill town of South Bend, located on the Willapa River, was named the county seat. The choice was so contentious that, in 1893, South Bend residents forcibly removed county records from Oysterville. Things remained calm for a number of years, until Raymond, an industrial town north of South Bend, took an interest in becoming county seat. To show Raymond how serious it was about keeping the county seat, South Bend built a new courthouse. Designed by C. Lewis Wilson and Co. in Chehalis, was nicknamed "the gilded palace of extravagance," which it was at the time.

Following World War I, the forest-products industry went into a long slow decline. Timber prices dropped in the 1920s and housing construction almost ceased in the 1930s. As the supply of old-growth timber from private lands declined, mills closed. Improvements in highway and rail transport made it possible to ship logs to large, distant mills, creating more pressure on local mills. A building boom in Asia beginning in the 1960s meant that Japanese mills could out-bid local mills for logs, leaving many local workers idle. Although timber sales from state and federal lands provided some jobs, the timber industry became a shadow of its former self.

In the 1980s Weyerhaeuser remodeled its Raymond plant, closed it, and reopened it with worker concessions. In 2001 the plant earned international recognition for its environmental management.

Dairy Farming

Dairy farms were established on stump farms in the hills after the trees were logged. In 1950 there were 150 dairy farms in the county. In 1964 the number of farms had fallen to only 40, but milk production had increased. In 2002 Pacific County had 341 farms with an average size of 152 acres.

Railroads and Roads

Lewis Loomis (d. 1913) owned the Ilwaco Navigation Company and the Shoalwater Bay Transportation Company. In 1888 he built a narrow-gauge railroad from Ilwaco to Nahcotta. Eventually it became part of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, and then a branch of the Union Pacific Railroad. The railroad took its final run on September 10, 1930.

The age of the auto arrived, and the Olympic Loop Highway (U.S. 101) that passes through Raymond and traces the shore of Willapa Bay, was completed in August 1931. The road made the beaches and products of Pacific County more accessible to the rest of the state. Thirty years later, in 1966, the completion of the Astoria-Megler Bridge spanning the Columbia River and connecting Oregon to Washington had a large impact on Pacific County.

Cities and Towns

The four incorporated cities of Pacific County are Raymond, South Bend, Long Beach, and Ilwaco. Tokeland is a quiet seaside village, the center of the Shoalwater Indian Reservation. Bay Center, located on the Goose Point Peninsula of Willapa Bay, is a center of fish farming. Its canneries prepare Dungeness crab, salmon, Pacific oysters, and Manila clams.

Raymond, located on the Willapa River, was started in 1904 and quickly became a center of logging, an industrial mill town. A land company offering free waterfront tracts attracted some 20 manufacturing plants over the next few years. Its business section was originally built on stilts above the tidelands and sloughs of the site. Sawmills proliferated and German, Polish, Greek, and Finnish immigrants arrived to work in them. By 1905, 400 citizens lived in Raymond. The town, named after leading citizen and first postmaster Leslie V. Raymond, incorporated in 1907 and by 1920 had a population of 4,000. During World War I Raymond became a center of shipbuilding.

A notable Raymond firm is the Dennis Company, which started out as a shingle mill and in 1905, as prices dropped due to competition, merged with another mill, becoming the Raymond Shingle Manufacturing Company. This enterprise was blown to bits in a mill explosion later that year and the family turned to hauling firewood gathered from mill leftovers gathered from several companies. The transportation and sales business expanded into hauling coal, then blacksmithing, then moving pianos and furniture. The firm acquired a warehouse and began selling and delivering block ice. By 1925 it was selling and delivering ice, coal, wood, brick, lime, and cement. The Dennis family purchased forestlands and opened an alder mill to build (and deliver) furniture.

Possessing a transportation infrastructure, it was natural, when Prohibition was repealed in 1933, to go into delivery of beer and soda pop, which led to bottling and producing Dennis Quality Beverages such as Red Rock Cola. Eventually all this diverse activity led to opening a retail store in Raymond during the 1940s. Other activities included manufacturing cement, building houses, selling hardware and plumbing supplies, and operating a long-distance trucking business. The firm opened a feed store and a Honda shop, and went into the clothing business, starting with sweatshirts. Today it operates the original store and corporate offices in Raymond, as well as satellite stores in Aberdeen, Elma, Long Beach, and Montesano, plus a concrete plant in Ilwaco. The Dennis Company employs 100 people.

In 2006 Raymond is home to nearly 3,000 people. Manufacturing still provides about 14 percent of the employment. Health, education, and social services provide another 17 percent, as does arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations, and food services.

South Bend, down the Willapa River from Raymond, was founded in 1869. It was a lumber and sawmill town. In 1889, men associated with the Northern Pacific Railroad bought land there and within five years the town boomed from 150 souls to 3,500. The town went from boom to bust and back to boom several times, with fishing, oystering, canning, and the lumber business providing its economic base. In 1892 it became county seat and in 1910 erected the grand county courthouse, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Today South Bend is a community of docks, fishing boats, crab-processing plants, and other enterprises and is home to the county historical museum. As county seat, South Bend houses numerous Pacific County government functions.

Tourists began arriving at the long beach that gives Long Beach its name in the late nineteenth century, attracted to what historian Lucile McDonald calls “Washington’s Cape Cod.” Long Beach, located on the southern part of the peninsula, triples in population each July and August. Tourists are mainly sport fishermen and fisherwomen and beach aficionados who surf, swim, eat oysters, shop, and fly kites (Long Beach is home of the annual Washington State International Kite Festival held the third week in August). In the 1990s Long Beach built a 2,300-foot-long dunes boardwalk, a network of wetland trails, and an interpretive center.

Long Beach was the approximate location of Anthony Chabot's pioneering cranberry operation. WSU's cranberry and blueberry experiment station was established here in 1923.

Long Beach has a population of about 2,300 residents. Hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfast establishments, as well as gift shops, galleries, and restaurants serving visitors form an important part of the economy.

Ilwaco, located at the southern end of the Long Beach peninsula, is a traditional fishing port. The town was also a center of logging and cranberry growing. The first non-Indian arrivals appeared in the 1840s, and included the American John Pickernell, who came from Champeog, Oregon, after French Canadian and American settlers there had disagreed over political organization. Another early arrival was James DeSaule, the black Peruvian cook on board the Wilkes Expedition's Peacock. DeSaule jumped ship when the vessel went down and eventually moved to Ilwaco and ran a freight service between Astoria (across the Columbia) and Cathlamet.

Ilwaco was originally named Unity in celebration of the end of the Civil War, but was always called Ilwaco, after Elowahko Jim, a son-in-law of the Chinook Chief Comcomly. A plat for the town was filed in 1876 under the name Ilwaco.

A Great Lakes method of trapping salmon led to a population boom to 300 after 1882. This involved traps made of tarred rope webs installed on permanent pilings and gave rise to conflict with gillnet fishers who found their fishing grounds preempted. The latter set nets afire, terrorized night watchmen, and in other ways tried to regain their fishing rights. The "gillnet wars" lasted from 1882 until 1910.

Ilwaco incorporated in 1890, and became a city nearly a century later, on July 13, 1987. It has a history museum, an 800-slip marina, a library, bookstore, coffeehouses and restaurants, an antiques store, and other businesses. The population of about 1,000 swells to 3,000 during the summer months when people come for swimming, boating, fishing, and other recreation.

The State of Washington
Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation

Oyster sloop, Shoalwater Bay, 1890

Courtesy UW Special Collections (Freshwater and Marine Image Bank)

Pacific County, Washington

Fort Canby Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment, 1900s

Bay Center, Willapa Bay, n.d.

Photo by Charles Haskins Townsend, Courtesy UW Special Collections (Freshwater and Marine Image Bank)

Railroad depot, Raymond, 1910s

Industrial section, Raymond, 1920s

Pacific County Courthouse, South Bend, 1940s

School, Oysterville, 1900s

Willapa Bay Lighthouse, ca. 1890

Photo by Henry Bamber, Courtesy National Archives (Image No. 26-LG-62-2)

Oyster harvesting near South Bend, 1930s

Centennial celebration, Oysterville, 1954

Long Beach, 1930s

Bargeload of oyster shells, Nahcotta, 1960s

Long Beach, 1960s

Cranberry Bog, Ilwaco, August 2, 2008

Oysterville Church (originally Baptist Church, 1892), Oysterville, August 2, 2008

HistoryLink.org photo by Paula Becker

Grave of siblings Medora Espy and Albert Espy, Oysterville Cemetery, August 2, 2008

HistoryLink.org photo by Paula Becker

Site of first Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville, August 2, 2008

HistoryLink.org photo by Paula Becker

Oldest post office in Washington run continuously under the same name (1858, current building 1919), Oysterville, August 2, 2008

4,300-Year-Old First Face Offers a Glimpse of Ancient Japanese Culture - History

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Venture deep into the heart of a land of legends where age old traditions exist side by side with modernity

In Search of Japanese Roots

Unearthing the origins of the Japanese is a much harder task than you might guess. Among world powers today, the Japanese are the most distinctive in their culture and environment. The origins of their language are one of the most disputed questions of linguistics. These questions are central to the self-image of the Japanese and to how they are viewed by other peoples. Japan’s rising dominance and touchy relations with its neighbors make it more important than ever to strip away myths and find answers.

The search for answers is difficult because the evidence is so conflicting. On the one hand, the Japanese people are biologically undistinctive, being very similar in appearance and genes to other East Asians, especially to Koreans. As the Japanese like to stress, they are culturally and biologically rather homogeneous, with the exception of a distinctive people called the Ainu on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. Taken together, these facts seem to suggest that the Japanese reached Japan only recently from the Asian mainland, too recently to have evolved differences from their mainland cousins, and displaced the Ainu, who represent the original inhabitants. But if that were true, you might expect the Japanese language to show close affinities to some mainland language, just as English is obviously closely related to other Germanic languages (because Anglo-Saxons from the continent conquered England as recently as the sixth century a.d.). How can we resolve this contradiction between Japan’s presumably ancient language and the evidence for recent origins?

Archeologists have proposed four conflicting theories. Most popular in Japan is the view that the Japanese gradually evolved from ancient Ice Age people who occupied Japan long before 20,000 b.c. Also widespread in Japan is a theory that the Japanese descended from horse-riding Asian nomads who passed through Korea to conquer Japan in the fourth century, but who were themselves — emphatically — not Koreans. A theory favored by many Western archeologists and Koreans, and unpopular in some circles in Japan, is that the Japanese are descendants of immigrants from Korea who arrived with rice-paddy agriculture around 400 b.c. Finally, the fourth theory holds that the peoples named in the other three theories could have mixed to form the modern Japanese.

When similar questions of origins arise about other peoples, they can be discussed dispassionately. That is not so for the Japanese. Until 1946, Japanese schools taught a myth of history based on the earliest recorded Japanese chronicles, which were written in the eighth century. They describe how the sun goddess Amaterasu, born from the left eye of the creator god Izanagi, sent her grandson Ninigi to Earth on the Japanese island of Kyushu to wed an earthly deity. Ninigi’s great-grandson Jimmu, aided by a dazzling sacred bird that rendered his enemies helpless, became the first emperor of Japan in 660 b.c. To fill the gap between 660 b.c. and the earliest historically documented Japanese monarchs, the chronicles invented 13 other equally fictitious emperors. Before the end of World War II, when Emperor Hirohito finally announced that he was not of divine descent, Japanese archeologists and historians had to make their interpretations conform to this chronicle account. Unlike American archeologists, who acknowledge that ancient sites in the United States were left by peoples (Native Americans) unrelated to most modern Americans, Japanese archeologists believe all archeological deposits in Japan, no matter how old, were left by ancestors of the modern Japanese. Hence archeology in Japan is supported by astronomical budgets, employs up to 50,000 field-workers each year, and draws public attention to a degree inconceivable anywhere else in the world.

Why do they care so much? Unlike most other non-European countries, Japan preserved its independence and culture while emerging from isolation to create an industrialized society in the late nineteenth century. It was a remarkable achievement. Now the Japanese people are understandably concerned about maintaining their traditions in the face of massive Western cultural influences. They want to believe that their distinctive language and culture required uniquely complex developmental processes. To acknowledge a relationship of the Japanese language to any other language seems to constitute a surrender of cultural identity.

What makes it especially difficult to discuss Japanese archeology dispassionately is that Japanese interpretations of the past affect present behavior. Who among East Asian peoples brought culture to whom? Who has historical claims to whose land? These are not just academic questions. For instance, there is much archeological evidence that people and material objects passed between Japan and Korea in the period a.d. 300 to 700. Japanese interpret this to mean that Japan conquered Korea and brought Korean slaves and artisans to Japan Koreans believe instead that Korea conquered Japan and that the founders of the Japanese imperial family were Korean.

Thus, when Japan sent troops to Korea and annexed it in 1910, Japanese military leaders celebrated the annexation as the restoration of the legitimate arrangement of antiquity. For the next 35 years, Japanese occupation forces tried to eradicate Korean culture and to replace the Korean language with Japanese in schools. The effort was a consequence of a centuries-old attitude of disdain. Nose tombs in Japan still contain 20,000 noses severed from Koreans and brought home as trophies of a sixteenth-century Japanese invasion. Not surprisingly, many Koreans loathe the Japanese, and their loathing is returned with contempt.

What really was the legitimate arrangement of antiquity? Today, Japan and Korea are both economic powerhouses, facing each other across the Korea Strait and viewing each other through colored lenses of false myths and past atrocities. It bodes ill for the future of East Asia if these two great peoples cannot find common ground. To do so, they will need a correct understanding of who the Japanese people really are.

Japan’s unique culture began with its unique geography and environment. It is, for comparison, far more isolated than Britain, which lies only 22 miles from the French coast. Japan lies 110 miles from the closest point of the Asian mainland (South Korea), 190 miles from mainland Russia, and 480 miles from mainland China. Climate, too, sets Japan apart. Its rainfall, up to 120 inches a year, makes it the wettest temperate country in the world. Unlike the winter rains prevailing over much of Europe, Japan’s rains are concentrated in the summer growing season, giving it the highest plant productivity of any nation in the temperate zones. While 80 percent of Japan’s land consists of mountains unsuitable for agriculture and only 14 percent is farmland, an average square mile of that farmland is so fertile that it supports eight times as many people as does an average square mile of British farmland. Japan’s high rainfall also ensures a quickly regenerated forest after logging. Despite thousands of years of dense human occupation, Japan still offers visitors a first impression of greenness because 70 percent of its land is still covered by forest.

Japanese forest composition varies with latitude and altitude: evergreen leafy forest in the south at low altitude, deciduous leafy forest in central Japan, and coniferous forest in the north and high up. For prehistoric humans, the deciduous leafy forest was the most productive, providing abundant edible nuts such as walnuts, chestnuts, horse chestnuts, acorns, and beechnuts. Japanese waters are also outstandingly productive. The lakes, rivers, and surrounding seas teem with salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, and cod. Today, Japan is the largest consumer of fish in the world. Japanese waters are also rich in clams, oysters, and other shellfish, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, and edible seaweeds. That high productivity was a key to Japan’s prehistory.

From southwest to northeast, the four main Japanese islands are Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu, and Hokkaido. Until the late nineteenth century, Hokkaido and northern Honshu were inhabited mainly by the Ainu, who lived as hunter-gatherers with limited agriculture, while the people we know today as Japanese occupied the rest of the main islands.

In appearance, of course, the Japanese are very similar to other East Asians. As for the Ainu, however, their distinctive appearance has prompted more to be written about their origins and relationships than about any other single people on Earth. Partly because Ainu men have luxuriant beards and the most profuse body hair of any people, they are often classified as Caucasoids (so-called white people) who somehow migrated east through Eurasia to Japan. In their overall genetic makeup, though, the Ainu are related to other East Asians, including the Japanese and Koreans. The distinctive appearance and hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Ainu, and the undistinctive appearance and the intensive agricultural lifestyle of the Japanese, are frequently taken to suggest the straightforward interpretation that the Ainu are descended from Japan’s original hunter-gatherer inhabitants and the Japanese are more recent invaders from the Asian mainland.

But this view is difficult to reconcile with the distinctiveness of the Japanese language. Everyone agrees that Japanese does not bear a close relation to any other language in the world. Most scholars consider it to be an isolated member of Asia’s Altaic language family, which consists of Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic languages. Korean is also often considered to be an isolated member of this family, and within the family Japanese and Korean may be more closely related to each other than to other Altaic languages. However, the similarities between Japanese and Korean are confined to general grammatical features and about 15 percent of their basic vocabularies, rather than the detailed shared features of grammar and vocabulary that link, say, French to Spanish they are more different from each other than Russian is from English.

Since languages change over time, the more similar two languages are, the more recently they must have diverged. By counting common words and features, linguists can estimate how long ago languages diverged, and such estimates suggest that Japanese and Korean parted company at least 4,000 years ago. As for the Ainu language, its origins are thoroughly in doubt it may not have any special relationship to Japanese.

After genes and language, a third type of evidence about Japanese origins comes from ancient portraits. The earliest preserved likenesses of Japan’s inhabitants are statues called haniwa, erected outside tombs around 1,500 years ago. Those statues unmistakably depict East Asians. They do not resemble the heavily bearded Ainu. If the Japanese did replace the Ainu in Japan south of Hokkaido, that replacement must have occurred before a.d. 500.

Our earliest written information about Japan comes from Chinese chronicles, because China developed literacy long before Korea or Japan. In early Chinese accounts of various peoples referred to as Eastern Barbarians, Japan is described under the name Wa, whose inhabitants were said to be divided into more than a hundred quarreling states. Only a few Korean or Japanese inscriptions before a.d. 700 have been preserved, but extensive chronicles were written in 712 and 720 in Japan and later in Korea. Those reveal massive transmission of culture to Japan from Korea itself, and from China via Korea. The chronicles are also full of accounts of Koreans in Japan and of Japanese in Korea — interpreted by Japanese or Korean historians, respectively, as evidence of Japanese conquest of Korea or the reverse.

The ancestors of the Japanese, then, seem to have reached Japan before they had writing. Their biology suggests a recent arrival, but their language suggests arrival long ago. To resolve this paradox, we must now turn to archeology.

The seas that surround much of Japan and coastal East Asia are shallow enough to have been dry land during the ice ages, when much of the ocean water was locked up in glaciers and sea level lay at about 500 feet below its present measurement. Land bridges connected Japan’s main islands to one another, to the Russian mainland, and to South Korea. The mammals walking out to Japan included not only the ancestors of modern Japan’s bears and monkeys but also ancient humans, long before boats had been invented. Stone tools indicate human arrival as early as half a million years ago.

Around 13,000 years ago, as glaciers melted rapidly all over the world, conditions in Japan changed spectacularly for the better, as far as humans were concerned. Temperature, rainfall, and humidity all increased, raising plant productivity to present high levels. Deciduous leafy forests full of nut trees, which had been confined to southern Japan during the ice ages, expanded northward at the expense of coniferous forest, thereby replacing a forest type that had been rather sterile for humans with a much more productive one. The rise in sea level severed the land bridges, converted Japan from a piece of the Asian continent to a big archipelago, turned what had been a plain into rich shallow seas, and created thousands of miles of productive new coastline with innumerable islands, bays, tidal flats, and estuaries, all teeming with seafood.

That end of the Ice Age was accompanied by the first of the two most decisive changes in Japanese history: the invention of pottery. In the usual experience of archeologists, inventions flow from mainlands to islands, and small peripheral societies aren’t supposed to contribute revolutionary advances to the rest of the world. It therefore astonished archeologists to discover that the world’s oldest known pottery was made in Japan 12,700 years ago. For the first time in human experience, people had watertight containers readily available in any desired shape. With their new ability to boil or steam food, they gained access to abundant resources that had previously been difficult to use: leafy vegetables, which would burn or dry out if cooked on an open fire shellfish, which could now be opened easily and toxic foods like acorns, which could now have their toxins boiled out. Soft-boiled foods could be fed to small children, permitting earlier weaning and more closely spaced babies. Toothless old people, the repositories of information in a preliterate society, could now be fed and live longer. All those momentous consequences of pottery triggered a population explosion, causing Japan’s population to climb from an estimated few thousand to a quarter of a million.

The prejudice that islanders are supposed to learn from superior continentals wasn’t the sole reason that record-breaking Japanese pottery caused such a shock. In addition, those first Japanese potters were clearly hunter-gatherers, which also violated established views. Usually only sedentary societies own pottery: what nomad wants to carry heavy, fragile pots, as well as weapons and the baby, whenever time comes to shift camp? Most sedentary societies elsewhere in the world arose only with the adoption of agriculture. But the Japanese environment is so productive that people could settle down and make pottery while still living by hunting and gathering. Pottery helped those Japanese hunter-gatherers exploit their environment’s rich food resources more than 10,000 years before intensive agriculture reached Japan.

Much ancient Japanese pottery was decorated by rolling or pressing a cord on soft clay. Because the Japanese word for cord marking is jomon, the term Jomon is applied to the pottery itself, to the ancient Japanese people who made it, and to that whole period in Japanese prehistory beginning with the invention of pottery and ending only 10,000 years later. The earliest Jomon pottery, of 12,700 years ago, comes from Kyushu, the southernmost Japanese island. Thereafter, pottery spread north, reaching the vicinity of modern Tokyo around 9,500 years ago and the northernmost island of Hokkaido by 7,000 years ago. Pottery’s northward spread followed that of deciduous forest rich in nuts, suggesting that the climate-related food explosion was what permitted sedentary living.

How did Jomon people make their living? We have abundant evidence from the garbage they left behind at hundreds of thousands of excavated archeological sites all over Japan. They apparently enjoyed a well-balanced diet, one that modern nutritionists would applaud.

One major food category was nuts, especially chestnuts and walnuts, plus horse chestnuts and acorns leached or boiled free of their bitter poisons. Nuts could be harvested in autumn in prodigious quantities, then stored for the winter in underground pits up to six feet deep and six feet wide. Other plant foods included berries, fruits, seeds, leaves, shoots, bulbs, and roots. In all, archeologists sifting through Jomon garbage have identified 64 species of edible plants.

Then as now, Japan’s inhabitants were among the world’s leading consumers of seafood. They harpooned tuna in the open ocean, killed seals on the beaches, and exploited seasonal runs of salmon in the rivers. They drove dolphins into shallow water and clubbed or speared them, just as Japanese hunters do today. They netted diverse fish, captured them in weirs, and caught them on fishhooks carved from deer antlers. They gathered shellfish, crabs, and seaweed in the intertidal zone or dove for them. (Jomon skeletons show a high incidence of abnormal bone growth in the ears, often observed in divers today.) Among land animals hunted, wild boar and deer were the most common prey. They were caught in pit traps, shot with bows and arrows, and run down with dogs.

The most debated question about Jomon subsistence concerns the possible contribution of agriculture. Many Jomon sites contain remains of edible plants that are native to Japan as wild species but also grown as crops today, including the adzuki bean and green gram bean. The remains from Jomon times do not clearly show features distinguishing the crops from their wild ancestors, so we do not know whether these plants were gathered in the wild or grown intentionally. Sites also have debris of edible or useful plant species not native to Japan, such as hemp, which must have been introduced from the Asian mainland. Around 1000 b.c., toward the end of the Jomon period, a few grains of rice, barley, and millet, the staple cereals of East Asia, began to appear. All these tantalizing clues make it likely that Jomon people were starting to practice some slash-and-burn agriculture, but evidently in a casual way that made only a minor contribution to their diet.

Archeologists studying Jomon hunter-gatherers have found not only hard-to-carry pottery (including pieces up to three feet tall) but also heavy stone tools, remains of substantial houses that show signs of repair, big village sites of 50 or more dwellings, and cemeteries — all further evidence that the Jomon people were sedentary rather than nomadic. Their stay-at-home lifestyle was made possible by the diversity of resource-rich habitats available within a short distance of one central site: inland forests, rivers, seashores, bays, and open oceans. Jomon people lived at some of the highest population densities ever estimated for hunter-gatherers, especially in central and northern Japan, with their nut-rich forests, salmon runs, and productive seas. The estimate of the total population of Jomon Japan at its peak is 250,000 — trivial, of course, compared with today, but impressive for hunter-gatherers.

With all this stress on what Jomon people did have, we need to be clear as well about what they didn’t have. Their lives were very different from those of contemporary societies only a few hundred miles away in mainland China and Korea. Jomon people had no intensive agriculture. Apart from dogs (and perhaps pigs), they had no domestic animals. They had no metal tools, no writing, no weaving, and little social stratification into chiefs and commoners. Regional variation in pottery styles suggests little progress toward political centralization and unification.

Despite its distinctiveness even in East Asia at that time, Jomon Japan was not completely isolated. Pottery, obsidian, and fishhooks testify to some Jomon trade with Korea, Russia, and Okinawa — as does the arrival of Asian mainland crops. Compared with later eras, though, that limited trade with the outside world had little influence on Jomon society. Jomon Japan was a miniature conservative universe that changed surprisingly little over 10,000 years.

To place Jomon Japan in a contemporary perspective, let us remind ourselves of what human societies were like on the Asian mainland in 400 b.c., just as the Jomon lifestyle was about to come to an end. China consisted of kingdoms with rich elites and poor commoners the people lived in walled towns, and the country was on the verge of political unification and would soon become the world’s largest empire. Beginning around 6500 b.c., China had developed intensive agriculture based on millet in the north and rice in the south it had domestic pigs, chickens, and water buffalo. The Chinese had had writing for at least 900 years, metal tools for at least 1,500 years, and had just invented the world’s first cast iron. Those developments were also spreading to Korea, which itself had had agriculture for several thousand years (including rice since at least 2100 b.c.) and metal since 1000 b.c.

With all these developments going on for thousands of years just across the Korea Strait from Japan, it might seem astonishing that in 400 b.c. Japan was still occupied by people who had some trade with Korea but remained preliterate stone-tool-using hunter-gatherers. Throughout human history, centralized states with metal weapons and armies supported by dense agricultural populations have consistently swept away sparser populations of hunter-gatherers. How did Jomon Japan survive so long?

To understand the answer to this paradox, we have to remember that until 400 b.c., the Korea Strait separated not rich farmers from poor hunter-gatherers, but poor farmers from rich hunter-gatherers. China itself and Jomon Japan were probably not in direct contact. Instead Japan’s trade contacts, such as they were, involved Korea. But rice had been domesticated in warm southern China and spread only slowly northward to much cooler Korea, because it took a long time to develop cold-resistant strains of rice. Early rice agriculture in Korea used dry-field methods rather than irrigated paddies and was not particularly productive. Hence early Korean agriculture could not compete with Jomon hunting and gathering. Jomon people themselves would have seen no advantage in adopting Korean agriculture, insofar as they were aware of its existence, and poor Korean farmers had no advantages that would let them force their way into Japan. As we shall see, the advantages finally reversed suddenly and dramatically.

More than 10,000 years after the invention of pottery and the subsequent Jomon population explosion, a second decisive event in Japanese history triggered a second population explosion. Around 400 b.c., a new lifestyle arrived from South Korea. This second transition poses in acute form our question about who the Japanese are. Does the transition mark the replacement of Jomon people with immigrants from Korea, ancestral to the modern Japanese? Or did Japan’s original Jomon inhabitants continue to occupy Japan while learning valuable new tricks?

The new mode of living appeared first on the north coast of Japan’s southwesternmost island, Kyushu, just across the Korea Strait from South Korea. There we find Japan’s first metal tools, of iron, and Japan’s first undisputed full-scale agriculture. That agriculture came in the form of irrigated rice fields, complete with canals, dams, banks, paddies, and rice residues revealed by archeological excavations. Archeologists term the new way of living Yayoi, after a district of Tokyo where in 1884 its characteristic pottery was first recognized. Unlike Jomon pottery, Yayoi pottery was very similar to contemporary South Korean pottery in shape. Many other elements of the new Yayoi culture were unmistakably Korean and previously foreign to Japan, including bronze objects, weaving, glass beads, and styles of tools and houses.

While rice was the most important crop, Yayoi farmers introduced 27 new to Japan, as well as unquestionably domesticated pigs. They may have practiced double cropping, with paddies irrigated for rice production in the summer, then drained for dry-land cultivation of millet, barley, and wheat in the winter. Inevitably, this highly productive system of intensive agriculture triggered an immediate population explosion in Kyushu, where archeologists have identified far more Yayoi sites than Jomon sites, even though the Jomon period lasted 14 times longer.

In virtually no time, Yayoi farming jumped from Kyushu to the adjacent main islands of Shikoku and Honshu, reaching the Tokyo area within 200 years, and the cold northern tip of Honshu (1,000 miles from the first Yayoi settlements on Kyushu) in another century. After briefly occupying northern Honshu, Yayoi farmers abandoned that area, presumably because rice farming could not compete with the Jomon hunter-gatherer life. For the next 2,000 years, northern Honshu remained a frontier zone, beyond which the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido and its Ainu hunter-gatherers were not even considered part of the Japanese state until their annexation in the nineteenth century.

It took several centuries for Yayoi Japan to show the first signs of social stratification, as reflected especially in cemeteries. After about 100 b.c., separate parts of cemeteries were set aside for the graves of what was evidently an emerging elite class, marked by luxury goods imported from China, such as beautiful jade objects and bronze mirrors. As the Yayoi population explosion continued, and as all the best swamps or irrigable plains suitable for wet rice agriculture began to fill up, the archeological evidence suggests that war became more and more frequent: that evidence includes mass production of arrowheads, defensive moats surrounding villages, and buried skeletons pierced by projectile points. These hallmarks of war in Yayoi Japan corroborate the earliest accounts of Japan in Chinese chronicles, which describe the land of Wa and its hundred little political units fighting one another.

In the period from a.d. 300 to 700, both archeological excavations and frustratingly ambiguous accounts in later chronicles let us glimpse dimly the emergence of a politically unified Japan. Before a.d. 300, elite tombs were small and exhibited a regional diversity of styles. Beginning around a.d. 300, increasingly enormous earth-mound tombs called kofun, in the shape of keyholes, were constructed throughout the former Yayoi area from Kyushu to North Honshu. Kofun are up to 1,500 feet long and more than 100 feet high, making them possibly the largest earth-mound tombs in the world. The prodigious amount of labor required to build them and the uniformity of their style across Japan imply powerful rulers who commanded a huge, politically unified labor force. Those kofun that have been excavated contain lavish burial goods, but excavation of the largest ones is still forbidden because they are believed to contain the ancestors of the Japanese imperial line. The visible evidence of political centralization that the kofun provide reinforces the accounts of kofun-era Japanese emperors written down much later in Japanese and Korean chronicles. Massive Korean influences on Japan during the kofun era — whether through the Korean conquest of Japan (the Korean view) or the Japanese conquest of Korea (the Japanese view)—were responsible for transmitting Buddhism, writing, horseback riding, and new ceramic and metallurgical techniques to Japan from the Asian mainland.

Finally, with the completion of Japan’s first chronicle in a.d. 712, Japan emerged into the full light of history. As of 712, the people inhabiting Japan were at last unquestionably Japanese, and their language (termed Old Japanese) was unquestionably ancestral to modern Japanese. Emperor Akihito, who reigns today, is the eighty-second direct descendant of the emperor under whom that first chronicle of a.d. 712 was written. He is traditionally considered the 125th direct descendant of the legendary first emperor, Jimmu, the great-great-great-grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Japanese culture underwent far more radical change in the 700 years of the Yayoi era than in the ten millennia of Jomon times. The contrast between Jomon stability (or conservatism) and radical Yayoi change is the most striking feature of Japanese history. Obviously, something momentous happened at 400 b.c. What was it? Were the ancestors of the modern Japanese the Jomon people, the Yayoi people, or a combination? Japan’s population increased by an astonishing factor of 70 during Yayoi times: What caused that change? A passionate debate has raged around three alternative hypotheses.

One theory is that Jomon hunter-gatherers themselves gradually evolved into the modern Japanese. Because they had already been living a settled existence in villages for thousands of years, they may have been preadapted to accepting agriculture. At the Yayoi transition, perhaps nothing more happened than that Jomon society received cold-resistant rice seeds and information about paddy irrigation from Korea, enabling it to produce more food and increase its numbers. This theory appeals to many modern Japanese because it minimizes the unwelcome contribution of Korean genes to the Japanese gene pool while portraying the Japanese people as uniquely Japanese for at least the past 12,000 years.

A second theory, unappealing to those Japanese who prefer the first theory, argues instead that the Yayoi transition represents a massive influx of immigrants from Korea, carrying Korean farming practices, culture, and genes. Kyushu would have seemed a paradise to Korean rice farmers, because it is warmer and swampier than Korea and hence a better place to grow rice. According to one estimate, Yayoi Japan received several million immigrants from Korea, utterly overwhelming the genetic contribution of Jomon people (thought to have numbered around 75,000 just before the Yayoi transition). If so, modern Japanese are descendants of Korean immigrants who developed a modified culture of their own over the last 2,000 years.

The last theory accepts the evidence for immigration from Korea but denies that it was massive. Instead, highly productive agriculture may have enabled a modest number of immigrant rice farmers to reproduce much faster than Jomon hunter-gatherers and eventually to outnumber them. Like the second theory, this theory considers modern Japanese to be slightly modified Koreans but dispenses with the need for large-scale immigration.

By comparison with similar transitions elsewhere in the world, the second or third theory seems to me more plausible than the first theory. Over the last 12,000 years, agriculture arose at not more than nine places on Earth, including China and the Fertile Crescent. Twelve thousand years ago, everybody alive was a hunter-gatherer now almost all of us are farmers or fed by farmers. Farming spread from those few sites of origin mainly because farmers outbred hunters, developed more potent technology, and then killed the hunters or drove them off lands suitable for agriculture. In modern times European farmers thereby replaced native Californian hunters, aboriginal Australians, and the San people of South Africa. Farmers who used stone tools similarly replaced hunters prehistorically throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. Korean farmers of 400 b.c. would have enjoyed a much larger advantage over Jomon hunters because the Koreans already possessed iron tools and a highly developed form of intensive agriculture.

Which of the three theories is correct for Japan? The only direct way to answer this question is to compare Jomon and Yayoi skeletons and genes with those of modern Japanese and Ainu. Measurements have now been made of many skeletons. In addition, within the last three years molecular geneticists have begun to extract dna from ancient human skeletons and compare the genes of Japan’s ancient and modern populations. Jomon and Yayoi skeletons, researchers find, are on the average readily distinguishable. Jomon people tended to be shorter, with relatively longer forearms and lower legs, more wide-set eyes, shorter and wider faces, and much more pronounced facial topography, with strikingly raised browridges, noses, and nose bridges. Yayoi people averaged an inch or two taller, with close-set eyes, high and narrow faces, and flat browridges and noses. Some skeletons of the Yayoi period were still Jomon-like in appearance, but that is to be expected by almost any theory of the Jomon-Yayoi transition. By the time of the kofun period, all Japanese skeletons except those of the Ainu form a homogeneous group, resembling modern Japanese and Koreans.

In all these respects, Jomon skulls differ from those of modern Japanese and are most similar to those of modern Ainu, while Yayoi skulls most resemble those of modern Japanese. Similarly, geneticists attempting to calculate the relative contributions of Korean-like Yayoi genes and Ainu-like Jomon genes to the modern Japanese gene pool have concluded that the Yayoi contribution was generally dominant. Thus, immigrants from Korea really did make a big contribution to the modern Japanese, though we cannot yet say whether that was because of massive immigration or else modest immigration amplified by a high rate of population increase. Genetic studies of the past three years have also at last resolved the controversy about the origins of the Ainu: they are the descendants of Japan’s ancient Jomon inhabitants, mixed with Korean genes of Yayoi colonists and of the modern Japanese.

Given the overwhelming advantage that rice agriculture gave Korean farmers, one has to wonder why the farmers achieved victory over Jomon hunters so suddenly, after making little headway in Japan for thousands of years. What finally tipped the balance and triggered the Yayoi transition was probably a combination of four developments: the farmers began raising rice in irrigated fields instead of in less productive dry fields they developed rice strains that would grow well in a cool climate their population expanded in Korea, putting pressure on Koreans to emigrate and they invented iron tools that allowed them to mass-produce the wooden shovels, hoes, and other tools needed for rice-paddy agriculture. That iron and intensive farming reached Japan simultaneously is unlikely to have been a coincidence.

We have seen that the combined evidence of archeology, physical anthropology, and genetics supports the transparent interpretation for how the distinctive-looking Ainu and the undistinctive-looking Japanese came to share Japan: the Ainu are descended from Japan’s original inhabitants and the Japanese are descended from more recent arrivals. But that view leaves the problem of language unexplained. If the Japanese really are recent arrivals from Korea, you might expect the Japanese and Korean languages to be very similar. More generally, if the Japanese people arose recently from some mixture, on the island of Kyushu, of original Ainu-like Jomon inhabitants with Yayoi invaders from Korea, the Japanese language might show close affinities to both the Korean and Ainu languages. Instead, Japanese and Ainu have no demonstrable relationship, and the relationship between Japanese and Korean is distant. How could this be so if the mixing occurred a mere 2,400 years ago? I suggest the following resolution of this paradox: the languages of Kyushu’s Jomon residents and Yayoi invaders were quite different from the modern Ainu and Korean languages, respectively.

The Ainu language was spoken in recent times by the Ainu on the northern island of Hokkaido, so Hokkaido’s Jomon inhabitants probably also spoke an Ainu-like language. The Jomon inhabitants of Kyushu, however, surely did not. From the southern tip of Kyushu to the northern tip of Hokkaido, the Japanese archipelago is nearly 1,500 miles long. In Jomon times it supported great regional diversity of subsistence techniques and of pottery styles and was never unified politically. During the 10,000 years of Jomon occupation, Jomon people would have evolved correspondingly great linguistic diversity. In fact, many Japanese place-names on Hokkaido and northern Honshu include the Ainu words for river, nai or betsu, and for cape, shiri, but such Ainu-like names do not occur farther south in Japan. This suggests not only that Yayoi and Japanese pioneers adopted many Jomon place-names, just as white Americans did Native American names (think of Massachusetts and Mississippi), but also that Ainu was the Jomon language only of northernmost Japan.

That is, the modern Ainu language of Hokkaido is not a model for the ancient Jomon language of Kyushu. By the same token, modern Korean may be a poor model for the ancient Yayoi language of Korean immigrants in 400 b.c. In the centuries before Korea became unified politically in a.d. 676, it consisted of three kingdoms. Modern Korean is derived from the language of the kingdom of Silla, the kingdom that emerged triumphant and unified Korea, but Silla was not the kingdom that had close contact with Japan in the preceding centuries. Early Korean chronicles tell us that the different kingdoms had different languages. While the languages of the kingdoms defeated by Silla are poorly known, the few preserved words of one of those kingdoms, Koguryo, are much more similar to the corresponding Old Japanese words than are the corresponding modern Korean words. Korean languages may have been even more diverse in 400 b.c., before political unification had reached the stage of three kingdoms. The Korean language that reached Japan in 400 b.c., and that evolved into modern Japanese, I suspect, was quite different from the Silla language that evolved into modern Korean. Hence we should not be surprised that modern Japanese and Korean people resemble each other far more in their appearance and genes than in their languages.

History gives the Japanese and the Koreans ample grounds for mutual distrust and contempt, so any conclusion confirming their close relationship is likely to be unpopular among both peoples. Like Arabs and Jews, Koreans and Japanese are joined by blood yet locked in traditional enmity. But enmity is mutually destructive, in East Asia as in the Middle East. As reluctant as Japanese and Koreans are to admit it, they are like twin brothers who shared their formative years. The political future of East Asia depends in large part on their success in rediscovering those ancient bonds between them.

Buried in Beads 4,000 Years Ago, This Chiefly Family Lives Again

Museums in Canada unveil high-tech facial reconstructions that breathe new life into very old bones.

At a remote site overlooking the Salish Sea in British Columbia, archaeologists made the discovery of a lifetime in 2010. While digging an ancient shell midden, researchers from the University of Toronto and the local shíshálh Nation were astonished to find the grave of an ancient chief laid to rest nearly 3,700 years ago in a ceremonial bead garment weighing more than 70 pounds. Nearby lay several members of his wealthy family.

“These are some of the most elaborate burials in North America before European contact,” notes Terence Clark, an archaeologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon who directed the project.

On July 1 st , the 150 th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation, two Canadian museums are giving the public a first glimpse of this ancient family. In major new exhibitions, the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec, and the tems swiya Museum in British Columbia, are unveiling digital facial reconstructions of this indigenous leader and his kin.

Watch: Coming Face to Face with Canada's First Peoples

Created by a team of biological anthropologists and computer-generated imagery (CGI) experts in consultation with shíshálh elders, the reconstructions are animated and eerily lifelike. “When my people come up and look at these, they say things like, that looks like my uncle and that looks like his wife,” says Keith Julius, a councillor at shíshálh Nation in Sechelt, B.C.

The grave sites first came to light after shíshálh researchers noticed shells and artifacts eroding from a bank in their lands northwest of Vancouver. A subsequent visit revealed several stone beads, so they asked archaeologists to investigate. In a saucer-shaped grave flecked with red ochre, the archaeologists discovered skeletal remains of a man about 50 years old, who lay curled on his side and facing an ocean inlet. Parallel rows of nearly 350,000 small stone beads—a quantity sufficient to fill a bathtub today—completely covered his body.

Producing so many beads by hand would have taken a vast amount of time, says Clark. Made from small pieces of shale or mudstone, each bead had to be ground into a disc roughly half the size of an aspirin, then drilled with a hole. When archaeologist Brian Thom of the University of Victoria tried to replicate this process several years ago with pieces of slate and traditional stone tools, it took him 13 minutes on average to make just one stone bead. An experienced bead-maker could have sped things up considerably, doubling the rate of production, suggests Clark. But even in that best-case scenario, more than 35,000 hours would have been needed to make the chief’s ceremonial bead garment.

In a cashless society, where hours of labor equate to value, the beads represent “a fantastic concentration of wealth,” says Alan McMillan, an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby who was not part of the team.

As Clark and his colleagues expanded the excavations, they discovered more burials from the same period, and more ancient riches. Just a few yards from the chief, the team uncovered the remains of a woman who died between 19 and 23 years of age. Mourners had tied a gleaming shell necklace around her neck and adorned her torso with 5,700 stone beads. In addition, the archaeologists found nearly 3,200 tiny shell beads—most just two and a half times the size of a grain of sand and much harder to make than the stone beads—in the sediment around her skull. “We have shown these to bead experts around the world and they have no idea how they were made,” says Clark.

Such tiny beads could have been woven into the young woman’s hair as ornamentation. “They would have been bright white with a bit of sheen, and in black hair, I think they would have been really beautiful,” Clark says.

Near the young woman, the team discovered two other graves. One of these contained the remains of two young men interred with another 2,200 stone and shell beads. An examination of these remains by biological anthropologist Jerome Cybulski of the Canadian Museum of History revealed that the two men could have been twins, based on some shared traits.

“They had identical impacted teeth and identical patterns of [skull] sutures,” says Clark. The other grave belonged to an infant whose skeleton bore extensive traces of red ochre, a pigment frequently used in Northwest Coast rituals today.

Just how this ancient chiefly family managed to accumulate such wealth 3,700 years ago remains an open question. Societies living along the shores of the Salish Sea at that time made their living by fishing, hunting deer and other game, and foraging or cultivating carbohydrate-rich root plants such as wapato. They had yet to acquire slaves or live in the big, multi-family longhouses characteristic of the historic period—conditions that could have led to the accumulation of wealth.

Clark thinks this chiefly family possessed knowledge of great value to others, who bestowed gifts on this lineage during feasts. “This family is so wealthy because they have special ritual knowledge or spiritual knowledge,” Clark says.

Andrew Martindale, an archaeologist at the University of British Columbia who is not a member of the team, thinks the discovery of such an extraordinary group of burials so early in time shows “that history is not as straightforward as we might have assumed.” And he applauds the way in which the research team and the shíshálh elders worked together to create the new facial reconstructions of this ancient chiefly family.

“This seems to be a really collaborative and mutually respectful project to show who these people are,” he says. “And I think that’s really important.”

Watch the video: Japanese Culture - A Glimpse into Feudal Japan