Rosalyn Wadsworth: The Transition from Hunter-Gathering to Agriculture in Japan

Hello! My name is Rosalyn Wadsworth and I’m an upcoming senior with a double major in Anthropology (Bachelor of Science) and Japanese Language and Culture (Bachelor of Arts). I am recipient of a Tyler Center for Global Studies Research Award and this August I will be traveling to Japan for my research project.

Rosalyn Wadsworth, Junior, Anthropology and Japanese Language and Culture

For my proposed IDEA Grant project and subsequent Honors in the Major Thesis, I am undertaking a meta-analysis of Japanese populations dating from the Middle Jōmon to Late Yayoi Period (5000 B.P– 1700 B.P) to establish if the transition from hunter-gatherer subsistence practices to agricultural practices is conspicuous in the skeletal data (Crema et al 2022). I will utilize biometric data and non-metric observations (including tooth crowding, presence of caries and dental pathologies, and dental attrition) from academic sources, such as research journals and unpublished raw data stored in university archives, to clarify the nature of this transition. My research will demonstrate how, if at all, subsistence changes translate to physiological.

The Jōmon were an indigenous hunter-gatherer population that occupied Japan until 3000 B.P when agricultural communities (termed Yayoi) appeared in Northern Kyushu (Crema et al 2022; Barnes 2019). Three distinct narratives characterize the literature of this transition in subsistence practices: cultural diffusion, demic migration of agriculturalists from the Korean Peninsula to Japan, or the acculturation of agriculturalist practices among hunter-gatherers (Barnes 2019; Crawford 2011). Previous archaeological research has concluded that the Yayoi rice agriculturalists, often referred to in the literature as the continental culture package, quickly dispersed across the Japanese archipelago, replacing extant Jōmon hunter-gatherers (Barnes 2020; Bleed and Matsui 2010). However, the radiocarbon dating of charred rice grains at multiple Yayoi cultural sites have provided evidence that the Yayoi were present in Japan 600 years before previously thought and that dispersal rates of the continental package varied regionally, which has further complicated the archaeological narrative (Crema et al 2022).

Kyoto, Japan
Photo by Cosmin Georgian on Unsplash

My intention is to conduct a meta-analysis of the published data to 1) describe over-arching subsistence patterns across the Japanese archipelago, and 2) establish if Jōmon subsistence practices persisted along the coast in contrast to inland agricultural sites. I hypothesize that the osteological data in Japan from the Jōmon period to Yayoi period at coastal sites will reflect a combination of integrating Jōmon and Yayoi populations alongside regional persistence of Jōmon subsistence practices and for Yayoi subsistence to prevail in inland sites where conditions are more suited to rice agriculture, a trend that has been observed among hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists in Southeast Asia such as the Man Bac site in Vietnam (Oxenham et al 2021).

In Japan, I will be reviewing unpublished archaeological field notes and data collections in archives at Tokyo University and Kyoto University, consulting with leading Japanese archaeologists, and visiting pertinent archaeological sites and museums. This will be my first trip to Japan and I’m extremely excited to be able to apply the knowledge I have gained in the classroom and on previous projects to my own archaeological research, practice my linguistic skills, and immerse myself in Japanese culture. This trip represents an invaluable opportunity that will extend far beyond a summer research project and is a crucial next step in my development as a future archaeologist and researcher. It is my intention to one day pursue a Ph.D in Anthropology specializing in prehistoric East Asian Archaeology and this is my first opportunity to experience working in my future field of study. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: