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Jar, 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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Looking Questions

  • What do you think this jar is made of? Why?
  • How do you think it was made?
  • Is the top of the jar the same shape as the bottom? What do the lines and shapes remind you of?
  • Look for holes in two of the corners at the top of the jar. What could they be for? What do you think the jar was used for? Why?

Research Idea: Clay Vessels in Ancient Cultures

Clay vessels and shards (broken pieces of clay vessels) have been found in great numbers at archaeological sites around the world. Have students research clay vessels from other ancient cultures, and compare and contrast their forms and decorations with the Jōmon Jar.

Group Project: Archaeologists from the Future

Have each student bring in one utilitarian object from home and create a classroom display. Then, imagine that you are all archaeologists from the future, trying to guess what life was like in the present year using only the objects on display. What could archaeologists learn? What would be missing? What other kinds of research tools might archaeologists of the future use to gain a clearer picture of life today?

Art Project: Coil Jars

Have students roll pieces of clay into long, cord-shaped strands. First, they should create the bottom of the jar by wrapping coils of clay into a tight spiral. Using more clay coils, begin building up the side of the jar. When the jar is the desired height, students should use their fingers, a plastic knife, or a Popsicle stick to begin to smooth out the coils into one solid shape. Don’t let the sides of the jar get too thin, or the jar will collapse. Once students have built their jars, they should make much thinner clay coils and attach them to the outside of their jars to form a decorative pattern or design.

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