Yamagata #5: Jomon Venus (縄文の女神)

For Yamagata Prefecture’s 5th postcard, let’s talk a little about Japanese history. The Jomon Period in Japanese history was from around 12,000 BC to 300 BC, when Japan was populated by a hunter-gatherer society with a high level of cultural complexity. They are perhaps the most famous in the Archaeology community for “cord-marked” pottery, vessels decorated with markings of ropes which created a very unique look. This pottery is one of the oldest discovered in the world, and is in fact where the name “jomon” came from.

In the mid- to late- Jomon periods, clay figurines were produced in various styles and in large numbers. Today’s postcard is of a type that depicts women, often pregnant, in a stylized manner and are often called “goddess” or “venus”. This one resides at the Yamagata Prefectural Museum (which has an English page, but it isn’t terrible informative… still, you can find it here). It is in great condition for being 4,500 years old, and is revered for its great sculptural beauty.

Recently, the statue was 3D Printed in several aspects, allowing scientists at the museum to handle the statue without fear, and find details that were not as visible on the original. It also allows visitors to interact with the statue freely. As an archaeology nerd, I think 3D printing of relics is a fantastic idea, but I’m not going to get started talking about it because I’d never stop!

I didn’t visit this museum when I visited Yamagata, unfortunately. However I did visit the Jomon replica village of Sannai-Maruyama in Aomori Prefecture, which I highly recommend.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Jomon Period and these figures, This page has some fantastic information on Jomon and beyond. This site goes more into detail about the pottery, but has some great links and references for further reading. And if you’re in Tokyo, the Tokyo National Museum has several figures on display, a number of which are from Yamagata.