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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article reviews the evidence and interpretation of the development of ritual traditions in the prehistoric Japanese archipelago prior to the appearance of Buddhism in mid-sixth century ad. Key sites and materials are selected from the Jomon period (c.14,000 bcc.500 bc), the Yayoi period (c.500 bcad 300), and the Kofun period (ad 300–710). While introducing a series of key sites, the article adopts a thematic approach to evidence for religious activity in the Japanese archipelago including: cosmology; the transformative qualities of ‘ritual’ material culture; evidence for ‘ritual specialists’; the existence of generative schema behind the diversity of ritual traditions; monumentality; the ritualization of the expression of human-animal relationships; and the ritual expression of transitions during the life cycles of individuals and communities.

Keywords: Jomon period, Yayoi period, Kofun period, religious activity, cosmology, material culture, ritualization, human-animal relationships, life cycles

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