Polished greenstone axe made from jadeite, Middle-Late Jomon period, c. 3000–1000 BC. Southern Kyushu, Japan. Asian Archaeology, Beardsley Collection. UMMAA 37232.

Greenstone ornaments and axes made of jadeite and serpentine were highly valued throughout Japan among the sedentary hunter-gatherers of the Middle and Late Jomon periods (c. 3000–1000 BC). In the early 1950s, anthropologist Richard Beardsley collected this fine jadeite axe in central Kyushu Prefecture in southern Japan. Unfortunately, additional provenience information is missing. Specialists manufactured fine polished stone artifacts such as this and exchanged them over considerable distances. Jadeite axes were used for woodworking and the processing of wild plants. Possession of such an exotic object may also have marked its owner’s prestige or status. The circulation of greenstone objects increased dramatically during this period, when social inequalities were developing and intensifying within Jomon communities.

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In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.