|Enigma of the Prehistory of Tanegashima Island
|Date: 23rd October 2021 13:00 - 17:00
Place: Nishinoomote Shiminkaikan 301, Nishinoomote 7600, Nishinoomote City
On line: (Zoom)
Tanegashima Island is located approximately 40 km south of Cape Sata, the southernmost point of the Osumi Peninsula. The island’s prehistory begins around 35,000 years ago and continues until the eighth century AD. It consists of the Paleolithic, Jomon, Yayoi, and Kofun periods. Recent archaeological research has revealed that the island was culturally influenced by mainland Kyushu, especially southern Kyushu, including Kagoshima and Miyazaki.
However, from the Late Yayoi to the Kofun period, Tanegashima Island exhibits differences from southern Kyushu. In particular, we do not clearly understand the subsistence mode prevalent in this period. Wet-rice agriculture had spread to Kagoshima by the Early Yayoi period. On the other hand, agriculture spread to the Amami and Okinawa Archipelago, located to the south of the Osumi Archipelago, by the eighth to twelfth century AD. Recent examination has demonstrated that agriculture spread to the Amami and Okinawa Archipelago from the north. Thus, it spread from Kyushu to the Amami and Okinawa Archipelago through Tanegashima Island (Osumi Archipelago). This raises the question: were the Tanegashima people farmers or hunter-gatherers?
To obtain hints to the answer, this symposium will examine 1) the introduction of agriculture to the Amami and Okinawa Archipelago and 2) the spread of agriculture to southern Kyushu. Then, we will discuss agricultural origin on Tanegashima Island based on the analysis of 3) pottery impressions and 4) agricultural artifacts. However, the enigma surrounding the prehistory of the island remains.
13:00 Opening Address
13:05 「Beginning of Agriculture on the Amami and Okinawa Archipelago」
●TAKAMIYA Hiroto (International Center for Island Studies, Kagoshima University)
The Ryukyu Archipelago stretches from Tanegashima Island to Yonaguni Island for approximately 1200 km. The Amami and Okinawa Archipelago is located at its center. Researchers have been interested in the question of when the subsistence mode of the archipelago changed from hunting-gathering to agriculture. By the early 1990s, at least six hypotheses had been proposed. Some of them argued that agriculture was brought to the region from the far south; others speculated that it was from the north (Kyushu). Researchers have intensely debated the validity of these hypotheses. Unfortunately, they were derived from secondary data, such as those based on settlement locations, recovery of foreign artifacts, and/or contact with farmers. However, we need direct data, such as those based on cultigens and ancient paddy fields, to understand the beginning of agriculture. Since the 1990s, flotation has been introduced in the region to elucidate when food production began. Consequently, recent research has revealed that agriculture began there between eighth and twelfth century AD (approx.). Furthermore, it advanced from the north (Kyushu) to the south (Amami and Okinawa Archipelago) and not vice versa. Thus, the Osumi Archipelago, including Tanegashima Island, must have played a crucial role in the beginning of food production in the Amami and Okinawa Archipelago.
13:45 「On Agriculture of South Kyushu in the Yayoi Period」
●KAWAGUCHI Masayuki (Cultural Properties Second Division of the Agency for Cultural Affairs)
Aagriculture in South Kyushu started from the earliest stage in the Yayoi period. People who lived in South Kyushu cultivated rice in the wet paddy field and foxtail millet in the field. Rice-paddy cultivation that was introduced from Northern Kyushu to South Kyushu started first in the Miyakonojo Basin, Tabuse Plain and the west coast of Kagoshima Bay, because they were important points for traffic from the 10th to the 8th century B.C. The earliest stage of the wet paddy in Yayoi period was small-scale without irrigation facilities, and it was built at swampy land under the cliff of volcanic ash plateau called “Shirasu plateau”．
During the Middle Yayoi period (the 4th century B.C), rice-paddy cultivation was practiced in every place in Southern Kyushu. The wet paddy with irrigation facilities appeared even on the plains. Cultivation of wheat also began during this time. Agriculture which combined cropping in the field with rice-paddy cultivation became widespread in the volcanic ash plateau in the Osumi Peninsula.
During and after the latter half of the Middle Yayoi period, people appeared to have selected which types of agriculture they should practice depending on the condition of the environment where they lived. As a result, three agricultural forms developed in Southern Kyushu. They were 1) mainly consisting of rice-paddy cultivation, 2) combination of rice-paddy with field cropping, and 3) mainly comprising of field cropping.
14:40 「Exploring Cultivated Plants on Tanegashima from Impression on Pottery Analysis」
●NAKAMURA Naoko (Research Center for Archaeology, Kagoshima University)
During the course of excavation, plants themselves are rarely found at archaeological sites. One of the methods to elucidate prehistoric cultivated plants is impression replica analysis. The principle of this analysis is that when making pottery, plant seeds and insects are sometimes mixed into clay. When it is fired to produce pottery, the trace of these materials is detected as holes. Impression replica analysis is a method to identify the species of plants and insects from the shape of holes, and is also called “the second excavation”.
During the Yayoi and Kofun periods on Tanegashima, no archaeological evidence of rice agriculture, which was the basis of the Yayoi culture, has been found. Therefore, when paddy rice cultivation started on Tanegashima has been one of the mysteries. However, interestingly, the pottery culture in the early and middle of the Yayoi periods in Tanegashima was similar (identical?) to that of southern Kyushu, which was already an agrarian society. Furthermore, the societies in southern Kyushu and Tanegashima closely interacted with each other. Thus, there is a very high possibility that rice agriculture was introduced during these periods.
In order to investigate whether or not cultivated plants existed on Tanegashima, we conducted an impression replica analysis of the pottery of the Yayoi and Kofun periods in 2015. As a result, impressions of rice and foxtail millet were found in several potteries excavated in Nishinoomote City. This presentation will introduce the results of the survey and will discuss whether rice and foxtail millet were cultivated on Tanegashima, comparing the situation in southern Kyushu.
15:20 「Aspects and Changes of Prehistoric Subsistence on Tanegashima」
●ISHIDO Takahiro (Hirota Site Museum)
From the Yayoi period to the 8th century, Kyushu Island was an agricultural society, while the Amami and Okinawa Islands were hunter-gatherer society. Tanegashima was located on the border between the two.
According to the Nihon-shoki, in the 7th century, people on Tanegashima Island cultivated rice in two seasons. The rice Impression on the earthenware excavated from the Ichinotsubo site and the isotope analysis of the Hirota human bones suggest that rice agriculture was practiced on Tanegashima in the 3rd century. Furthermore, according to the Plant Impression survey by Naoko Nakamura, rice agriculture on Tanegashima dates back to the middle of the Yayoi period. However, the results of the shell mound excavations indicate that hunting and gathering activities also accounted for a high percentage of the livelihood on Tanegashima.
Thus, the subsistence on Tanegashima from the Yayoi period to the 8th century is characterized by a comprehensive system that includes agriculture and hunting and gathering.
17:00 Closing Remarks