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New publication on cuisine of Hokkaidō Jōmon hunter-gatherer societies

Posted on 23 September 2020

Harry Robson, Alexandre Lucquin, Oliver E. Craig, and an alumnus, Hayley Saul and colleagues publish new article in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology

Jomon Pottery


New publication on the cuisine of Hokkaidō Jōmon hunter-gatherer societies where the authors combine in-depth analysis of tool-kits and site locations to predict culinary traditions at 18 different sites in five regions spanning the full Hokkaidō Jōmon sequence (ca. 14,500–2300 cal BP). These predictions are tested via organic residue analysis of 169 sherds from prehistoric cooking pots.


The goal of this contribution is to stimulate a wider reflection on the role of food consumption practices throughout prehistory. We focussed on the Jōmon communities of Hokkaidō Island in Northern Japan since these mobile foragers underwent a process of economic diversification and intensification, eventually leading to higher levels of sedentism across the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Moreover, dynamic social settings and expansion of the subsistence base at the start of the Holocene would have provided rich opportunities for novel food combinations, and potentially, the rise of diverse regional cuisines. We investigated tool kits and resource landscapes, and sampled pottery from a range of sites, phases and regions. We then applied organic residue analysis to confirm the actual spatiotemporal patterning in cuisine. Although we predicted that ruminants and nuts would have played a major role in local cuisine, especially in inland areas, our results indicate that aquatic resources were central to pottery-based cuisines across the island, and that other food groups had probably been processed in other ways. While organic residue analysis enabled us to reconstruct some major patterns in Jōmon cuisine, we conclude that archaeologists will need to look “beyond the cooking pot” to fully appreciate the full diversity of local foodways.

Robson, H. K., Lucquin, A., Gibbs, K., Saul, H., Tomoda, T., Hirasawa, Y., Yamahara, T., Kato, H., Isaksson, S., Craig, O. E. and Jordan, P. D. (2020). Walnuts, salmon and sika deer: Exploring the evolution and diversification of Jōmon “culinary” traditions in prehistoric Hokkaidō. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 60, 101225. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2020.101225.