Earlier this year the UNESCO (United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) committee met at their 44th session for a combined review of the 2020 and 2021 nominations for the World Heritage List. Following the postponing of the 2020 conference due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 34 sites were inscribed to the list for 2021, including the Jomon Era Archeological Sites of Northern Japan.
The Jomon Prehistoric Sites are located in Northern Japan in the southern part of Hokkaido Island and northern Tohoku. The 17 archaeological sites span various types of landscapes, from mountains and hills to plains and lowlands, inland bays to lakes, and rivers. UNESCO considers the sites to be important as they ‘bear a unique testimony to the development over some 10,000 years of the pre-agricultural yet sedentary Jomon culture and its complex spiritual belief system and rituals.’
From the sites it is possible to see evidence as to how a sedentary hunter-fisher-gatherer society, developed from about 13,000 BCE, adapted and matured in response to environmental changes going on around them. We can also learn about the expressions of Jomon spirituality through tangible objects found at the sites, including lacquered pots, clay tablets with the impression of feet and the famous goggle eyed dogu figurines. There is also evidence of ritual places such as earthworks and large stone circles reaching diameters of more than 50 metres, clearly important sites to the Jomon culture.
As UNESCO highlights ‘the serial property testifies to the rare and very early development of pre-agricultural sedentism from emergence to maturity’, a fact which makes it more than worthy of a place on the prestigious World Heritage List.