The Archaeology of Religion and Ritual in the Prehistoric Japanese Archipelago

Simon Kaner

in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199232444
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

The Archaeology of Religion and Ritual in the Prehistoric Japanese Archipelago

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  • Prehistoric Archaeology



This article reviews the evidence and interpretation of the development of ritual traditions in the prehistoric Japanese archipelago prior to the appearance of Buddhism in mid-sixth century ad. Key sites and materials are selected from the Jomon period (c.14,000 bcc.500 bc), the Yayoi period (c.500 bcad 300), and the Kofun period (ad 300–710). While introducing a series of key sites, the article adopts a thematic approach to evidence for religious activity in the Japanese archipelago including: cosmology; the transformative qualities of ‘ritual’ material culture; evidence for ‘ritual specialists’; the existence of generative schema behind the diversity of ritual traditions; monumentality; the ritualization of the expression of human-animal relationships; and the ritual expression of transitions during the life cycles of individuals and communities.

Keywords: Jomon period; Yayoi period; Kofun period; religious activity; cosmology; material culture; ritualization; human-animal relationships; life cycles

Article.  6701 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Prehistoric Archaeology

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