Jômon Archaeological Sites in Hokkaidô, Northern Tôhoku, and other regions

Date of Submission: 05/01/2009
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Japan to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Hokkaidô, Aomori Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Akita Prefecture, and other Prefectures concerned
Coordinates: N40 48 44 E140 41 48
Ref.: 5398

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This Jômon property is a group of unique archaeological sites representing a culture that continuously occupied the Japanese archipelago for nearly 10,000 years in the natural environment sustained by the humid temperate climate of the Holocene epoch, living in permanent settlements supported primarily by hunting, fishing, and gathering. This makes it distinct from Neolithic cultures in other regions of the earth which were established on agriculture and animal husbandry. The property possesses outstanding universal value as a testimony of a unique cultural tradition representing the way in which human beings coexisted with nature over an immense period of time in a specific geo-cultural region of our planet.

While Jômon culture spread throughout the Japanese archipelago, it displayed particularly noteworthy development in eastern Japan during the era in which broadleaf deciduous forests extended through much of the region, as stable food supplies and the evolution of the techniques used in securing them led to the expansion of areas of permanent settlement, larger communities, and a sudden increase in the number of earthen figurines and stone ritual implements.

Especially in the region centering on Hokkaidô and northern Tôhoku, a number of the distinct cultural zones representative of the Jômon period flourished, now characterized by their pottery types, such as the Entô, Tokoshinai, and Kamegaoka cultures. The Kamegaoka pottery culture in particular spread its influence to distant areas, reaching the Kinki and Chûgoku regions of Honshû Island, and the islands of Shikoku and Kyûshû. The Jômon sites under consideration are located in a variety of different topographical areas from the seacoast to river watersheds and hill country, and include the remains of villages, shell mounds, stone circles, and archaeological sites remaind in wetlands and give dramatic evidence of the process of establishment of permanent settlements and the adaptation of these cultures to the abundant food resources of the broadleaf deciduous forests, the seacoast, and rivers and streams.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Jômon culture is an exceptional example in world history of a Neolithic culture that flourished and matured over more than 10,000 years in permanent settlements sustained by a mode of production involving hunting, fishing, and gathering and the coexistence of human beings and nature in the humid temperature climate of the Holocene epoch.

The group of archaeological sites that serves as material evidence of this cultural tradition is particularly evident in eastern Japan from the time that broadleaf deciduous forests became stably established throughout this region. These sites possess outstanding universal value as a representation of the way in which human beings coexisted with nature over an immense period of time in a specific geo-cultural region of our planet.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The authenticity of all of the constituent sites has been amply maintained from the perspective of the archaeological sites buried underground and the landscape they comprise.

The integrity of the properties is also established by the fact that all the elements indispensable to any discussion of Jômon culture are present, from villages and shell mounds to stone circles and archaeological sites remained in wetlands.

Comparison with other similar properties

Comparable Neolithic archaeological sites inscribed on the World Heritage List are either sites of cave paintings and ritual monuments or sites of tool production. There are no properties comparable to this unique group of archaeological sites, which demonstrate a way of life that continued over such a long span period of the Neolithic era.