By Dr. Sonia Coman
Jōmon period (c. 10,500–c. 300 B.C.E.): grasping the world, creating a world
The Jōmon period is Japan’s Neolithic period. People obtained food by gathering, fishing, and hunting and often migrated to cooler or warmer areas as a result of shifts in climate. In Japanese, jōmon means “cord pattern,” which refers to the technique of decorating Jōmon-period pottery.
As in most Neolithic cultures around the world, women made pots by hand. They would build vessels from the bottom up from coils of wet clay, mixed with other materials such as mica and crushed shells. The pots were then smoothed both inside and out and decorated with geometric patterns. The decoration was achieved by pressing cords on the malleable surface of the still moist clay body. Pots were left to dry completely before being fired at a low temperature (most likely, just reaching 900 degrees Celsius) in an outdoor fire pit.
Later in the Jōmon period, vessels presented ever more complex decoration, made through shallow incisions into the wet clay, and were even colored with natural pigments. Jōmon-period cord-marked pottery illustrates the remarkable skill and aesthetic sense of the people who produced them, as well as stylistic diversity of wares from different regions.
For information on other periods in the arts of Japan, see the longer introductory essays here:
JAANUS, an online dictionary of terms of Japanese arts and architecture
e-Museum, database of artifacts designated in Japan as national treasures and important cultural properties
On Japan in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
Richard Bowring, Peter Kornicki, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Japan (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993)
By Dr. Sonia Coman
Want to join the conversation?
- who is these people I have never heard of them^_^(2 votes)
- They were the most ancient Japanese pottery culture, stretching from 10,000 BCE to 300 BCE (that is, 9,700 years). I know, not many have ever heard of them.(1 vote)