An inland shell midden is investigated. Gorgeous personal ornaments, including a decorated antler section, are recovered in large numbers

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ornament Antler ornament in situ
A decorated ornament made from a forked antler section was recovered from the top of a stratum yielding human bones. Red painted miniature pottery, the leg of a goggle-wearing human clay figurine, shell bracelets, and ornaments made of wild boar tusk were detected nearby. These were possibly grave goods.

Decorated antler ornament
Using the forked section of a deer antler as the material, the surface was smoothed and decorated with designs. Length 26 cm.

There are beads made from stone and from clay. Stone beads made of jade and serpentinite have been ascertained. Diameters range from 0.3 - 0.7 cm.

implement Bone implement in situ
Fishing gear was made from bone and tusk. This photo shows the barbed head of a spear, used for stabbing fish, in situ.


Jar-shaped vessel containing snake bones
Bones from two snakes were recovered from within this jar-shaped ceramic vessel.


Clay figurines
Goggle-wearing human figurines are well known for the Final Jōmon, but small-scale figurines were also recovered in great numbers. Length 2.7 - 9 cm.

Clay mask

Clay mask (upper left), clay plaques (upper and lower right), caterpillar-shaped clay objects (lower left, three items)
The clay mask is only a fragment, but is thought to belong to a type having crooked noses.
Clay plaques are said to have evolved from clay figurines, but their function is unknown. They characteristically have geometric designs executed on their inner and outer surfaces.
Caterpillar-shaped clay objects are named from their appearance, and are found in numbers at sites of the Final Jōmon. Some have a slight curve on their back surfaces and are painted red, from which they are thought to have been personal ornaments. Length 3 - 7 cm.


Bone and antler implements
Among bone and antler implements, many bone needles and spoons (lined up vertically at the right in the photo) were recovered. Fishing gear such as fishhooks, and harpoon and fishing spear heads, are characteristically few in comparison with other shell middens. In addition, personal ornaments made of antler and boar tusk (lined up horizontally at the left) were unearthed.

Photos courtesy of Hashikami municipal board of education.

Terashita Site, Hashikami Town, Aomori Prefecture

Terashita is located in the southeastern portion of Aomori Prefecture, approximately 4.5 km inland from the modern shoreline, on a hilltop roughly 140-170 m above sea level. At this site, dating from the latter half of the Late Jōmon to the start of the Yayoi periods (approximately 4,000ō2,300 years ago), the widened section of a forestry road extending roughly 125 m2 in area was investigated in 2004, with eleven pit-dwellings and eleven pits from the end of the Late Jōmon to the mid Final Jōmon uncovered, along with a shell midden from the mid Final Jōmon period.

The shell midden consists of shells and other materials thought to have been discarded in the depressions of pit dwellings abandoned in the mid Late Jōmon, and in a stream falling off to the north of the site. The bones of land animals, birds, and fish have been detected from the midden along with shells, as well as numerous artifacts fashioned from bone and antler.

Delicately worked personal ornaments, furnished with designs

Among bone and antler implements, there were bone spoons and needles, fishhooks, harpoon and fishing spear heads, arrow-nocks (serving as the tang for an arrowhead), bow-end attachments, and personal ornaments (a decorated forked antler section, necklaces, hair pins, etc.). Spoons and needles are numerous, and while fishing gear was recovered, in the form of fishhooks, and harpoon and fishing spear heads, these items may be characterized as extremely few in number compared with other shell midden sites. After spoons and needles, finely worked and decorated personal ornaments were found in large numbers. The decorated forked antler section was found in near perfect condition. These ornaments are found in graves of this period in the hip region of male skeletons, and are thought to be one of the few personal ornaments worn by men at the time.

Conditions of preservation within the shell midden were extremely good in the current excavation, and as bone and antler implements of the Final Jōmon were recovered, it was possible to obtain valuable materials for considering the living environment, culture, and beliefs of the period. (Mori Atsushi)