Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 356–370 | Cite as

Why Didn’t Agriculture Develop in Japan? A Consideration of Jomon Ecological Style, Niche Construction, and the Origins of Domestication.

  • Peter BleedEmail author
  • Akira Matsui


Over the course of some 12,000 years, Jomon cultures developed a highly refined adjustment to the Japanese landscape. Japanese archaeologists have exposed Jomon culture in great detail, but because it rested on wild resources, the Jomon era attracts little worldwide archaeological interest. This paper discusses Jomon ecological style in light of niche construction theory to consider the conditions that gave rise to agriculture and domestication. Jomon communities clearly managed much of their landscape and many plant and animal populations. Drawing on ideas from niche construction theory, we argue that qualities of potential domesticates are a central factor in the development of agriculture.


Niche construction Agricultural origins Jomon Japan 



This paper grew out of a stimulating visit to the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties while the senior author held a Japan Foundation short-term Research Fellowship in the summer of 2006. We thank both of these organizations. Gary Crawford, Junko Habu, and Dan Osborne read early versions of this paper and offered useful reactions. We also gratefully acknowledge the advice and thoughtfulness of Tatsuo Kobayashi. Of course, we alone accept responsibility for shortcomings this paper may contain.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  2. 2.Director of Archaeological Operations, National Institutes for Cultural HeritageNara National Cultural Properties Research InstituteNaraJapan

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