What is the Japanese Archaeological Association?

The Japanese Archaeological Association is a nation-wide organization founded in 1948 with the purpose of promoting the progress archaeology and fulfilling archaeologists’ societal responsibilities. At present, with a membership of approximately 4,200, it is the largest scholarly organization in the field of archaeology in Japan.

The Japanese Archaeological Association was founded in 1948 on the principles of autonomy, democracy, equality, reciprocity, and openness, for the purpose of promoting progress in archaeology and fulfilling archaeologists’ societal responsibilities, and is the largest organization of archaeological researchers in Japan. The current regular membership is approximately 4,200, but in order to deepen public understanding about the Association’s activities and nurture the next generation of researchers, membership categories of “sponsor” and “student” have been newly adopted. A certain level of scholarly qualification is required to be a regular member of the Association.

The Association’s officers consist of twenty-four Directors (one of whom serves full time as Managing Director) and two auditors, comprising the Board of Directors which conducts the day-to-day operations. Apart from the Managing Director, the remaining Directors divide up the roles of Association President, two Vise-Presidents, five Executive Directors, and 15 others in charge of various projects, and are elected by the members to serve two-year terms. In order to carry out Association business, the Board of Directors maintains seven standing committees, plus special committees and sub-committees which are formed as necessary. At present there is one each of the latter two types of committee.

The Association holds general meetings twice annually (each including research presentations and a symposium) plus public symposia and lectures at various times during the year, publishes the journals Nihon Kokogaku and the Journal of Japanese Archaeology along with items distributed to its members (its annual report Archaeologia Japonica, a news bulletin, and the abstracts of papers presented at meetings), and also keeps scholars and the general public informed about the latest results of archaeological investigations and research through its website.

In order to promote the protection and utilization of buried cultural properties, the Committee on Policy for the Protection of Buried Cultural Properties has been established as a standing committee, which strives for close cooperation and coordination with relevant organizations such as those with the national and local governments. In recent years special committees were set up in response to the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, to provide local governments in disaster-struck areas with assistance for cultural properties rescue operations and excavations preceding revitalization projects, while the Association has also held public lectures presenting the results of rescue work and provided assistance with disaster preparedness measures.

The social situation has recently become increasingly severe regarding the administrative management of heritage including buried cultural properties, and towards college-level programs in archaeological education which produce personnel for such tasks. In response, the Research Conditions Investigative Committee has been established as a standing committee to conduct the Association’s examination of these issues. Also, in recent years descriptions of the Paleolithic and Jōmon periods that enliven the start of history in Japan are being deleted from or severely curtailed in the history texts used in middle and high schools. The Association, which believes it proper to provide accurate knowledge regarding the advance of history to the children who represent the future, is actively making proposals to the national government and society in this regard through its Committee to Investigate Social Studies and History Texts (a standing committee).

In addition, by maintaining close cooperation and coordination with the Science Council of Japan and related academic associations, the Association bears its part in promoting the development of not only archaeology but also the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences as a whole.

Recently the Association has devoted efforts in particular to promoting the internationalization of archaeology through its International Exchange Committee (a standing committee), which strives to disseminate the latest research achievements through introductions on the Association’s renewed website of archaeological sites that have drawn attention through recent investigations, and by holding a joint public lecture series yearly with three other Japanese academic associations specializing in the archaeology of overseas regions.