Monday, 10 April 2006

Bizarre finds in glass cabinets

This actually happened last week, but I just remembered it now:

After my Eikaiwa (English conversation) class last Wednesday, my students and I stopped to look at the new arts and crafts display in the foyer of the Community Centre. There is always a display there. At the moment, the display is of toys that have been made out of old kimono. Anyway, when I got to the end of the display, I was confronted by a dusty old display case tucked away in a corner that I think has always been there but I never looked at before. On closer inspection, the cabinet contained shards of pottery. There were no dates written anywhere, so I asked Mrs. Doi how old the pottery is. "It is Jomon." Jomon pottery? In Konoura? Cool!

I had assumed that Konoura would not have interesting things like that. Until an earthquake 250-odd years ago Konoura was mostly under a lagoon and the bits that weren't under water were islands. They were some of the '99 Islands of the North' (of which there were actually 103, but they were named after a more-famous set of islands down south that really were numbered 99).

I had a closer look at the pottery, and it really is ancient. The decoration was similar in construction (although the patterns were different) to Beaker pottery of Europe.

Here is a link that I don't think is quite correct, but it is an interesting read anyway. Keep in mind: although the article suggests the Jomon people only lived on the Kanto plain, that is quite simply not true. Konoura is no where near Kanto, and as I have already mentioned, Jomon pottery was found here. Jomon pottery is found all over Tohoku (Northern Honshu), not to mention the rest of Japan.

The article also states that Japanese is in the same language group as Chinese and Korean. This is also untrue. Japanese grammar has no relation to Chinese or Korean. The writing systems are related, but that is as far as it goes. Japanese, as far as linguists can tell, is a distant relative of Mongolian and Hungarian (which are also not related to Chinese), with a Pacific Island influence. The people of Northern China probably did not speak Chinese but a proto-Mongolian at the time that some of them came out this way. In Okinawa I think the language was mostly Pacific Island type, but I don't know the language of the Ryuku so I'm not sure. I can't ask Japanese people about this, because when I do they say "We speak Japanese. We always have." Japanese like to believe they are free from foreign influence. Unless they are under 30 years old. Then they want to be American.

The article also states that the Yayoi displaced the previous inhabitants of Japan. I have already discussed this a little along with language. It did not happen that way. Even today there are the remnants of the Ryuku in the south, the Ainu in the north, and another couple of minority groups I have forgotten the name of who live (lived) in Kyushu and Shikoku. Amongst the people here in the north of Honshu, there are people with brown hair, curly hair, heavy beards (on men and sometimes women), long noses and non-Asian eyes. Obviously the Japanese are not racially uniform.

Here is another link. I just found this now. This is in Akita Ken (but as far away from me as is possible to get and still be in Akita). I had no idea I was living near stone circles! In fact, this is the first time I have heard about stone circles in Japan at all. 4000 years old? That's older than Stonehenge, isn't it? Although I will admit that the stones aren't nearly as big as the stones that make up Stonehenge.

A practical link.

Another link. Whoever wrote this sounds like they know more about what they are talking about that the first link's author did. It is quite lengthy; I have not read it all yet.

Another link (this stuff is interesting). This article also points out that the Jomon culture was also in Korea and Eastern Russia. This makes sense since the land was joined up at that time. I have heard that there are little-known often-ignored cultural minorities in Korea like the Ryuku and Ainu of Japan who were shunted into less-hospitable areas by the Asian immigrants.

Nothing like reading articles on archaeological research of prehistoric cultures early on a Monday morning. Yeah, I'm a geek.

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