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Archaeology[Chapter 4]The Eastern Edge of Asia: Yayoi Period

Rice agriculture technology was transmitted from the Korean peninsula to Japan about 2,500 years ago. At the same time, the deep bowls that had been used throughout the Jōmon culture were transformed into new sorts of pots, jars, and cups. The Yayoi period is divided into early, middle, and late periods. In the early Yayoi Period, Ongagawa style implements and rice agriculture had spread as far north as the Tōhoku region. By the end of the early period, bronze goods were transmitted from Korea to Japan, and by the middle period northern Kyūshū saw the introduction of Chinese mirrors and bronze ritual weaponry into funeral mounds for regional rulers. However, the rest of Western Japan outside of northern Kyūshū did not yet see those prestige-goods in its funeral rites. The fact that these items have not been found east of central Japan seems to indicate also that Yayoi society was not equally developed throughout Japan. In the late Yayoi period, from Western Japan to the Tōkai (Eastern Japan) region, various localities had developed particular styles of burial mounds.  

-Yayoi Earthenware Vessels-

From the late Jōmon period in northern Kyūshu,  rice agriculture was introduced, and Yūsu pattern earthenware, as well as vermillion tinted earthenware vessels based on those of the Korean peninsula, began to appear. The Ongagawa pattern earthenware of the early Yayoi spread throughout western Japan along with rice agriculture, and some Ongagawa pattern earthenware relics have even been found as far away as the Tōhoku (northeastern) region of Japan. From the middle of the Yayoi, earthenware with various regional characteristics appear. On the otherhand, in eastern Japan, Jōmon patterned earthenware continued to be in use until the late Yayoi period. 

-Rice Agriculture and Stone and Metal Tools-

The introduction of rice agriculture can be seen not only directly in the traces of rice paddies, but also in unearthed tools suited to the rice culture.  There are stone knives for harvesting rice and stone axes for cutting and shaping wood, which spread together with the rice culture technology from the Korean peninsula across Western Japan. By the end of the early Yayoi period we can confirm the presence of a few iron implements, but even in the comparatively developed Northern Kyūshū region, the changeover to the use of iron implements is only seen toward the end of the middle Yayoi period. 

-Bronze Ritual Implements and their Regional Varieties-

The bronzeware from the Korean peninsula included bronze swords, pikes, and bronze halberds, as well as small hand-held mirrors and small ceremonial bells . Production of these goods in Japan began from the first half of the middle Yayoi period, and and although various bronze military goods and bells began to grow in size and be produced locally, they lost their original functionality. While such goods were used in funerary mounds for the elite in northern Kyūshū, in other areas they appear to have been a sort of common property.  No examples of these bronze goods can be found in graves east of the Tenryūgawa river or the Chikumagawa river, and around the Jōetsu region we see the distribution of angled stone implements.

-Graves in the Yayoi Period-

In northern Kyūshū, graves with burial jars and flexed-knee inhumation became common and from the middle Yayoi period onwards large-scale funeral tumuli were built. Grave sites wth large Chinese mirrors and many bronze implements are thought to be the graves of the kings of the nations of Ito and Na. In the region around present-day Kyoto, square-shaped grave sites developed and this style spread to eastern Japan by the middle Yayoi period. It is possible to see reburial in earthenware caskets in eastern Japan. By the late Yayoi period, local regions developed their own specific styles graves.  The San’in and San’yō regions of Western Japan, for example, are noted for developing large funeral mounds with protrusions.