Yayoi Period - Features of Yayoi Culture

Features of Yayoi Culture

The earliest archaeological evidence of the Yayoi is found on northern Kyūshū, though this is still debated. Yayoi culture quickly spread to the main island of Honshū mixing with native Jōmon culture. Yayoi pottery was simply decorated, and produced on a potter's wheel, as opposed to Jōmon pottery, which was produced by hand. Yayoi craft specialists made bronze ceremonial bells (Dōtaku), mirrors, and weapons. By the 1st century AD, Yayoi farmers began using iron agricultural tools and weapons.

As the Yayoi population increased, the society became more stratified and complex. They wove textiles, lived in permanent farming villages, and constructed buildings with wood and stone. They also accumulated wealth through land ownership and the storage of grain. These factors promoted the development of distinct social classes. Yayoi chiefs, in some parts of Kyūshū, appear to have sponsored, and politically manipulated, trade in bronze and other prestige objects. This was possible due to the introduction of an irrigated, wet-rice culture from the Yangtze estuary in southern China via the Ryukyu Islands or Korean Peninsula. Wet-rice agriculture led to the development and growth of a sedentary, agrarian society in Japan. Local political and social developments in Japan were more important than the activities of the central authority within a stratified society.

Direct comparisons between Jōmon and Yayoi skeletons show that the two peoples are noticeably distinguishable. The Jōmon tended to be shorter, with relatively longer forearms and lower legs, more wide-set eyes, shorter and wider faces, and much more pronounced facial topography. They also have strikingly raised brow ridges, noses, and nose bridges. Yayoi people, on the other hand, averaged an inch or two taller, with close-set eyes, high and narrow faces, and flat brow ridges and noses. By the Kofun period, almost all skeletons excavated in Japan, except those of the Ainu and Okinawans, resemble those of modern day Japanese.

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