The University of Arizona

A Dietary Study of the Kamegaoka Culture Population during the Final Jomon Period, Japan, Using Stable Isotope and Lipid Analyses of Ceramic Residues

Akiko Horiuchi, Yoshiki Miyata, Nobuhiko Kamijo, Lucy Cramp, Richard P Evershed


The Jomon culture is an ancient Japanese society that existed during approximately 14,000 to 400 BC and which is characterized by Jomon (cord pattern) pottery. To investigate the paleodiet of the people of northeastern Tohoku in Japan during the Final Jomon period (about 1000–400 BC), we studied three sites in Aomori Prefecture, the center of the Kamegaoka culture. The Fubinashi site is on the coast and was supported by a rich fishing culture. Imazu was a coastal salt-making site. Sugisawa is a mountainous inland site on the banks of a river. We determined the 14C ages of the interior and exterior surfaces of carbonized material on potsherds and compared the data with pottery typology and age to study the marine reservoir effect. We also analyzed the bulk carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes and C:N ratios to determine the presence of aquatic foodstuffs. The organic residues from pottery typology corresponding to the described analyses provided a general perspective of differences in the ancient diets at each site. When we recovered sufficient lipids, we analyzed compound-specific stable isotopes of fatty acids to obtain a multilateral view of those diets. Our findings indicate that the diets of inhabitants of both Fubinashi and Imazu consisted primarily of marine products and some terrestrial foodstuffs, whereas people from Sugisawa processed mainly C3 plants and some terrestrial animals and aquatic commodities.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18455


diet, Jomon, organic residue, reservoir effect, stable isotope analysis

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