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 The Iyai rock-shelter site consists of the archaeological remains of a small rock-shelter located in the foothills of the Joshinetsu mountains in north-west Gunma Prefecture, Japan, dating to the Jomon period. The rock-shelter was most actively utilised during the Initial Jomon period (approx. 11,300-7200 years ago), around the time when hunting and gathering stabilised in the rich natural environment of the early Holocene period during which the Jomon culture was established. At the beginning of the Jomon period, caves and rock shelters in the mountains were often exploited, providing evidence of active behaviour and resource use. The Iyai rock-shelter site is one such example of this. One of the unique features of this site is that it contains a thick layer of ash, which provides ideal conditions for the preservation of skeletal remains and domestic waste left behind by the mountain-dwelling Jomon populations. The site is a valuable example of how the life and culture of the Initial Jomon period people who were beginning to settle in the area can be reconstructed in detail.

 The aim of the excavations at the Iyai site is to reconstruct the life and social organisation of the people of the Initial Jomon period, during which the Jomon culture was established. What kind of people were the early Jomon? How did they acquire their food? Were they well-nourished and in good health? What tools and techniques did they use in their daily lives? What kind of communities did they live in? When and for what purpose did they use caves and rock shelters? These are just some of the questions that we are trying to answer.

 In the Iyai Project, researchers from archaeology, anthropology, zoology, botany, and analytical chemistry are working collaboratively towards and cutting-edge and challenging research aims to comprehensively investigate specific human groups in the Initial Jomon period, including their lifestyles, cultures, and societies. The research project is supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research JP17H00939 (A) “A Prehistoric Research Project on Human Ecobehavioral Systems and the Formation of Jomon Culture during the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition” and JP21H04983 (S) “Social Organization and Funerary Systems of Semi-Sedentary Hunter-Gatherers: reconstruction of prehistoric societies through advanced bio-archaeology” and the results are presented here.

Yasuhiro Taniguchi (Principle Investigator)


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