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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The neolithic culture of the Yemishi


is, however, one curious form of iwaibe which does not appear to have any counterpart in China or Korea. It is a large jar, or tazza, having several small jars moulded around its shoulder,* these small jars being sometimes interspersed with, and sometimes wholly replaced by, figures of animals.** It is necessary to go to the Etruscan "black ware" to find a parallel to this most inartistic kind of ornamentation.

*This style of ornamentation was called komochi (child-bearing), the small jars being regarded as children of the large.

**Mr. Wakabayashi, a Japanese archaeologist, has enumerated seven varieties of figures thus formed on vases: horses, deer, wild boars, dogs, birds, tortoises; and human beings.

With regard to the general decorative methods of the iwaibe potters, it is noticeable, first, that apparent impressions of textiles are found (they are seldom actual imprints, being usually imitations of such), and, secondly, that simple line decoration replaces the rude pictorial representations of a primitive culture and suggests propagation from a centre of more ancient and stable civilization than that of the Yamato hordes: from China, perhaps from Korea--who knows? As for the terracotta figures of human beings and sometimes of animals found in connexion with Yamato sepulchres, they convey little information about the racial problem.* The idea of substituting such figures

for the human beings originally obliged to follow the dead to the grave seems to have come from China, and thus constitutes another evidence of intercourse, at least, between the two countries from very ancient times.

*Chinese archaic wine-pots of bronze sometimes have on the lid figures of human beings and animals, but these served a useful purpose.

It has been remarked that "the faces seen on these images by no means present a typical Mongolian type; on the contrary, they might easily pass for European faces, and they prompt the query whether the Yamato were not allied to the Caucasian race." Further, "the national vestiges of the Yamato convey an impression of kinship to the civilization which we are accustomed to regard as our own, for their intimate familiarity with the uses of swords, armour, horse-gear, and so forth brings us into sympathetic relation to their civilization." [Munro.]


It will be seen from the above that archaeology, while it discloses to us the manners and customs of the ancient inhabitants of Japan, does not afford material for clearly differentiating more than three cultures: namely, the neolithic culture of the Yemishi; the iron culture of the Yamato, and the intermediate bronze culture of a race not yet identified. There are no archaeological traces of the existence of the Kumaso or the Tsuchi-gumo, and however probable it may seem, in view of the accessibility of Japan from the mainland, not only while she formed part of the latter but even after the two had become separate, that several races co-existed with the Yemishi and that a very mixed population carried on the neolithic culture, there is no tangible evidence that such was the case. Further, the indications furnished by mythology that the Yamato were intellectually in touch with central, if not with western Asia, are re-enforced by archaeological suggestions of a civilization and even of physical traits cognate with the Caucasian.



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