, 2500-1500 BCE
Earthenware with applied and incised decoration
Height: 14 1/8 inches (35.9 cm)
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with the Hollis Family Foundation Fund, the Henry B. Keep Fund, and the East Asian Art Revolving Fund, 1999
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About This Jar
This dynamic, three-dimensional form with linear sweeping
designs and lively details was created during the Middle Jōmon
period, 2500–1500 BCE. The term Jōmon
"cord-marked," and refers to the cord-like designs that decorate
this vessel. Jars of this type are a hallmark of Middle Jōmon pieces
found at the archaeological site of Katsusaka in Kanagawa prefecture,
on Japan’s main island, Honshū.
The ancient potter who created this vessel worked the clay cords
up from the base along the cylindrical body in vertical lines that
are capped by swirling loops. Along the upper part of the body, the
potter applied a wide, horizontal band of the spiraling cords, which
look like waves rolling around the edges of the jar. The wave motif
continues at the top of the vessel, where along the rim a thick,
incised triple band of cords swoops up into open curls at the four
corners. Two of the flared corners have small, open-looped handles,
where a carrying rope might have been attached.
The long, rolled-cord shapes applied to the surface of this vessel
were not only decoration, but also served to strengthen the pot by
adding thickness and support to the body. Pieces such as this jar
were fired in earthen pits, where the heat only reached between
600 and 750 degrees. Ceramics fired at these temperatures are
called low-fired ceramics, or earthenware. While the exact use
of such jars is unknown, they were most likely used for cooking
or storing food.
Archaeology is the scientific study of material remains—such as
relics, artifacts, and monuments—of past human life and activities.
By examining the physical evidence of ancient cultures, archaeologists
attempt to solve mysteries about human societies of long ago.
Archaeologists working in Japan have a large number of research sites. Japan has about 370,000 registered archaeological sites, and
approximately 50,000 of these represent the Jōmon period
As a result of archaeological studies, we have gained much
knowledge about the Jōmon period in Japan. Artifacts found in
Jōmon-period sites in Japan allow archaeologists to theorize about
how people met the challenges of life in their environment. For
example, the discovery of various tools for farming and hunting
has led archaeologists to understand the variety of ways Jōmon society
people obtained food. Unearthing highly decorated jars
like this one gives us information about Jōmon concepts of
beauty and design.
Archaeologists come to conclusions about their subjects based
on information they gather researching in the field, as well as by
reading other archaeological documents. Although discovering
ancient artifacts can be very exciting, archaeology also requires
patience and meticulous attention to detail. Depending on the
size of a site, it could take many years to completely reveal
what lies underground.
This object is included in Learning from Asian Art: Japan
, a teaching kit developed by the Division of Education and made possible by a grant from the Freeman Foundation of New York and Stowe, Vermont.