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Field Report: A Middle Jomon site in northern Japan.
2010-2011 Field Seasons
Archaeological Research Facility
31 May, 2011
Junko Habu, Professor
The goals of our project are 1) to examine characteristics of subsistence, settlement and society of the Middle Jomon period (ca. 3000 BC), and 2) to identify activity areas within a Middle Jomon pit house at the Goshizawa Matsumori site in Aomori, Japan. Located on a hillside about 10 km away from the famous Sannai Maruyama site, Goshizawa Matsumori is a residential site dated to the beginning of the Middle Jomon period. The site is on Aomori City land that is leased to the Aomori Horse Riding Club, and was discovered by a member of the Riding Club during construction of a small kitchen garden. A local archaeologist who initially reported the discovery noted that the site consists of at least one pit-dwelling and a concentration of Middle Jomon potsherds. Unlike Sannai Maruyama, which is associated with a large number of Early and Middle pit-dwellings, Goshizawa Matsumori is likely to have been a smaller settlement, possibly a special purpose site that was occupied only seasonally. A systematic investigation of this site can help us understand functional diversity among Jomon sites in this region.
My students and I have been excavating the Goshizawa Matsumori site since July 2008, and this year was our last field season. Our excavation area included a Middle Jomon pit-dwelling (House 1), three Middle Jomon flask-shaped storage pits(Features 13, 19 and 22), and a Heian Period (8-12 Century A.D.) pit-dwelling (Feature 20). Our efforts of the summer 2010 field season focused on the completion of the excavation of House 1. Soil samples were collected for flotation and water-screening from 25 cm x 25 cm x 5 cm units. We collected about 600 bags of soil samples from the fill of House 1 and successfully completed our excavation on August 12.
Spatial distribution data of artifacts and floral remains from House 1 is in progress. Analyses of charred floral remains retrieved from soil samples from House 1 indicate that a large number of walnut shell fragments, as well as a smaller number of chestnut remains, are present. In addition, charred seeds of lacquer tree (Rus), Amur cork tree (Phellodendron), dogwood (Cornus), Japanese Angelica-tree (Aralia), elderberry (Sambucus), knotweed (Polygonum), and Goosefoot (Chenopodium) have been identified. In particular, an abundance of charred lacquer tree seeds is characteristic of the seed assemblage. Ethnographic records indicate that lacquer tree fruits were frequently used to extract plant oil/wax, which might have been the case with the Jomon people. Alternatively, an abundance of lacquer tree seeds could indicate an artificial management of lacquer tree population. Comparison with data from other sites is currently underway to evaluate the importance of both walnuts and lacquer tree seeds in Jomon subsistence and lifeways.
Our summer 2010 fieldwork was conducted in conjunction with a summer field school class, Anthropology N134A (Archaeological Field Methods: Archaeology of Jomon Hunter-Gatherers in Japan). 14 undergraduate students from UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin Madison, and Western Caroline University joined the class. The project was run with assistance from four American and three Japanese staff members. We had fun, and we were able to interact with local archaeologists and residents through outreach events and museum tours.