This chapter charts the trajectory of change of Jomon period clay anthropomorphic figurines in the Japanese archipelago. The earliest specimens embodied the perception of the body and female bodily experiences rather than accurately representing the body itself. Emphasis gradually shifted from the material embodiment of unmediated bodily perception and experiences to the visual representation of the body. Through this process, the subject of the representation expanded from the female body to the bodies of various categories of being, including animals and fantastic/supernatural beings, and the figurines came to embody the mutual transformability. These beings were networked to form an ‘animistic’ cosmology whose successful reproduction was metaphorically linked to that of human life and community. The decline of the symbolic role of the female reproductive faculty as the universal referent in the prayer for communal well-being led to the end of the Jomon clay anthropomorphic figurines.
This article reviews recent advances in the field of hunter-gatherer archaeology in Japan and Korea. It concentrates on issues that are key to understanding the importance of east Asian data in world hunter-gatherer archaeology and anthropology. Emphases are on issues that are relevant to recent discussion in the field of historical ecology, including long-term sustainability, collapses and subsequent recoveries of human socio-economic systems, human impacts on the biosphere, and the examination of processes operating on temporal scales of varying duration. The article first presents the chronological framework and regional/temporal variability of two post-Pleistocene hunter-gatherer cultures—Jomon and Chulmun. It then reviews new data on post-Pleistocene socio-economic transformations of these hunter-gatherers in relation to changing environmental conditions. Cases presented here indicate that overspecialization among hunter-gatherers can contribute to a rapid decline or a seeming ‘collapse’ in their socio-economic systems, followed by a shift to a new subsistence strategy among reduced populations.
In early China there was no widespread tradition of making figurines until about the mid-first millennium bc when human figurines started to be placed in burials to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. In prior millennia only pockets of China had seen the emergence of figurines, but these appeared to be short-lived phenomena clearly rooted and linked to local and regional cultures. The overall paucity of three-dimensional imagery and relative rarity of human representations both in two and three dimensions meant that China does not feature in surveys of early figurines. This chapter surveys and discusses selected appearance of figurines of the Neolithic and Bronze Age, with an emphasis on the Hongshan Culture in the northeast, the Yellow River and the Shijiahe Culture along the middle Yangtze.