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The Land of Flame Pottery: Regional Patterns in the Social Construction of Group Identities in Middle Jomon Communities

posted on 2023-09-07, 05:08 authored by Ali Ghobadi

Regional group identities are critical concepts for intellectual debate in the social sciences today, but how can simple culture-area ethnicity assumptions based on material culture similarities be surpassed to archaeologically explore regional identity and organization in prehistoric, non-agricultural societies that are unencumbered by the influence of neighboring polities? This dissertation integrates several research strategies using pottery remains to evaluate the scale and interaction of social identities during the Middle Jomon period of eastern Japan (approximately 4,000-5,000 years BP) in present-day Niigata prefecture, where hunter-gatherer groups interacted during a period of intensive population growth and remarkable elaboration of material culture. The research strategies include: 1) an examination of intra-regional differences in pottery production and exchange; 2) a study of variation in decorative and technological styles of pottery; and 3) characterization of regional network structure and the potential for social action among geographical clusters of coexisting settlements.The data consist of ceramic samples collected from nine Middle Jomon settlements covering the extent of Niigata’s Flame-pottery style region. This dissertation is situated within and informed by an extensive body of existing Japanese-language archaeological research. These studies have demonstrated the existence of occasional long-distance, inter-regional interaction among Middle Jomon settlements, but have only begun to examine the nature of interaction within the region. The results from this study suggest that although an established regional community of practice existed among Jomon potters of the period, it was only one part of a more complicated pattern of interaction and communication among different geographical clusters of settlements. Regional identity was thus multi-faceted and only weakly bounded, and the distinctive decoration of Flame pottery did not signal the existence of hierarchical regional organization. It was, rather, related to expanding social practices that remained tied to the occupational histories of geographically circumscribed settlement groups.





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American University. Department of Anthropology

Degree level

  • Doctoral

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