Dogs and the Ancient Japanese
During the last glacial maximum (ice age), the Japanese archipelago was connected to mainland Asia via land bridges extending as far south as Taiwan, but mainly north to Russia, and (possibly) Korea in the west. Thanks to these bridges, Japan has been inhabited by humans for nearly 40,000 years.
The hunter-gatherer peoples of the Japanese Islands specialized in their respective environments; whale hunters in the arctic, and fishers in the southern tropics. On the main island of Honshu, they specialized in collecting shellfish and foraging the cold pine forests filled with large game. But as the world began warming, sea levels rose, the land bridges disappeared, and forests shifted to dense temperate woodlands.
At the tail end of this climate change came the Jamon culture. The Jomon culture dates to about 12500–2350 BP, and is known for its cord-stamped ceramics, which are likely the oldest ceramics in the world.
The Jomon of Honshu specialized in hunting deer and boar using two key technologies: the newly adopted bow technology, and domestic dogs. As wild boar tend to hide in dense cover and can be dangerous to encounter head on, the Jomon created a deadly combo using dogs to sniff them out and trap them for a clear shot with an arrow.
Archaeologists believe dogs were an important part of Jomon culture on Honshu due to an abundance of dog burials placed in sleeping positions at this time, many of which show healed pathologies. But after humans began practicing agriculture, dog burials decrease in number, and sometimes only a few discarded bones are found in midden heaps. Agriculture strikes again.
Source: Perri (2016
Photo: Niigata Prefectural Museum of History
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