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Early State Formation in Japan: View from Eastern Periphery

Dr. Ken Sasaki, Professor of Archaeology, Meiji University
Thursday, November 9, 2017
12:00-1:00 PM
Room 2009 Ruthven Museums Building Map
This paper reports results of my fieldwork of several mound tombs in the old province of Hitachi in eastern Japan, 50 miles northeast of Tokyo. The mound tombs are dated to the fifth, sixth and early seventh centuries, A.D. or the Middle and Late Kofun Period. The Kofun Period is characterized by the sharing of standardized keyhole-shaped form for elite mound tombs, which is distinguished from the preceding Yayoi Period when mortuary customs were regionally distinctive. Japanese archaeologists, especially those trained at the Kyoto University, have previously argued that the sharing of the mound form was a reflection of the strong, centralized state. In other words, the highest-ranking chief in the central polity distributed mound-construction plan to local elites as a symbol of control over local regions. However, the results of my fieldwork since 1999 indicate that several aspects of elite mortuary customs in eastern Japan are regionally distinctive. This suggests to me that local elites in eastern Japan, while influenced by the central polity to some extent, had considerable degree of freedom to maintain and practice their own customs.
Building: Ruthven Museums Building
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Anthropology, Archaeology
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Museum of Anthropological Archaeology