The earliest post‐glacial period in Japan, characterized by hunter‐gatherer communities, conventionally divided into six main periods between 10 000 and 300 bc. The oldest is the Incipient (10 000–7500 bc), followed by the Earlier (7500–5000 bc). From the Early Jomon (5000–3500 bc) there are settled villages and an increasing use of marine resources resulting in a well‐known series of midden sites. During the Middle Jomon (3500–2500 bc) widespread trading networks develop, and ritual structures become more common. In the Late Jomon (2500–1000 bc) settlement systems collapse in the Chubu and Kanto regions. In the Final Jomon (1000–300 bc) there is increasing development of deep‐sea fisheries, the development of rice agriculture by the north Kyushu groups, and the beginning of pottery production.