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The beginnings of rice and millet agriculture in prehistoric Japan

Hiroo Nasu a, *, Arata Momohara b
Department of Evolutionary Studies of Biosystems, SOKENDAI: The Graduate University of Advanced Studies, Shonan Village, Hayama, Kanagawa 240-
0193, Japan
Department of Environmental Science and Landscape Architecture, Chiba University, 648 Matsudo, Matsudo-shi, Chiba 271-8510, Japan

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This paper reviews recent archaeobotanical evidence of the beginnings of rice and millet agriculture in
Available online xxx prehistoric Japan, focusing on agricultural weed assemblages from early rice cultivation sites. In this
study we show that the most reliable dispersal timing of rice and millet cultivation was the end of the
Keywords: Final Jomon period, corresponding to the Initial and Early Yayoi period of northern Kyushu. Rice and
Agriculture millet were introduced from China via Korea probably at the same time, as a pair. Early rice cultivation
was likely practiced, not in slash-and-burn elds but in primitive paddy elds, which did not possess
clearly dened paddy ridges or compartments, and were constructed in human-managed open wetlands
near forests. Millets were probably cultivated on upland farmlands close to rice paddy elds. The use of
Weed berries and nuts which was the subsistence base of Jomon period continued during this time, and rice
and millet agriculture gradually spread up until the Middle to Late Yayoi period.
2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction transformation into an agricultural society by the introduction of

irrigated paddy rice (Oryza sativa) (Ine) agriculture from the
The spread of agriculture from its center of origin to marginal continent in the Yayoi period (1000 BCe300 AD). Why did this
areas is one of the key issues in understanding the cause of cultural change happen? To answer this question, we need to rst nd a
diffusion and subsistence changes in various human societies. In clear answer as to when and how rice and millet agriculture was
East Asia, the cultivation of rice and millet was assumed to have introduced into the Jomon culture and how was it was adopted in
begun in China in the early Holocene (ca.8000e5000 BC) (Fuller, relation to social and environmental change.
2007; Cohen, 2011; Zhao, 2011) and subsequently propagated out The transition from the Jomon to the Yayoi period in prehistoric
of China into the Korean Peninsula ca. 3000e1000 BC (Lee, 2011). Japan was characterized by the introduction of irrigated paddy rice
The timing and the process of the introduction of the earliest rice agriculture. However, there are reports of the existence of
and millet cultivation in prehistoric Japan have to date been a carbonized/waterlogged rice remains, rice impressions on pottery,
controversial subject. and rice phytoliths in the Jomon period, before the emergence of
Jomon culture (ca.14000e1000 BC) in prehistoric Japan is clearly dened paddy elds. On the basis of these Jomon rice
believed to have been a huntingegatheringeshing society; how- reports, researchers have argued that the Jomon people were
ever, recent archaeobotanical studies revealed that the Jomon farmers who cultivated rice (Sato, 2002). Concomitant occurrences
people were not merely hunteregatherers. They probably managed of carbonized seeds and/or impressions of foxtail millet (Setaria
or cultivated chestnut (Castanea crenata) (Kuri), lacquer tree (Tox- italica) (Awa) and common millet (Panicum miliaceum) (Kibi) have
icodendron verniciuum) (Urushi), hemp (Cannabis sativa) (Asa), led some researchers to suggest that the Jomon people grew rice
and even soybean (Glycine max) (Daizu) and azuki bean (Vigna and millet through an early slash-and-burn or shifting agriculture,
angularis) (Azuki) (Kitagawa and Yasuda, 2008; Crawford, 2011; similar to practices shown in modern ethnological examples
Noshiro and Sasaki, 2014; Nasu et al., 2015). However, this (Sasaki, 2003, 2011). However, to the best of our knowledge, no
pattern of Jomon subsistence eventually underwent a archeological evidence of a slash-and-burn agriculture in this
period (Noto, 2002) because of the difculty in detecting the re-
mains of the elds in and around archaeological sites.
One method of investigating the cultivation form of rice and
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (H. Nasu).
millet during the Jomon period is to focus on the weeds. Weeds are
1040-6182/ 2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article in press as: Nasu, H., Momohara, A., The beginnings of rice and millet agriculture in prehistoric Japan, Quaternary
International (2015),
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dened as a plant population that interfere with human activities Japan represented by the newly advanced replication method of
and that grow well in the human environment, having partially the seed impressions on pottery fragments, phytolith analysis, and
nature of both cultivated plants and wild plants (Yamaguchi, 1997). direct dating of carbonized crop grains, has made it necessary to re-
Since the species composition of weeds differs depending on the examine previous records of Jomon period rice and millet remains
degree of interference with human activities, they can be used to (Nakazawa, 2009; Nakayama, 2010; Obata, 2011). Here, we will
estimate the degree of human interference when the site was in use. present the latest reports on the identication of rice and millet, as
Using this method, Kasahara (1976a, 1982) pointed out that there well as researchers' opinions, and problems in the evaluation of
was an increase in paddy weeds between the Yayoi and Jomon pe- these reports (Fig. 1, Table 1).
riods. Thus, by looking at the species composition of weeds associ-
ated with crops, it is possible to indirectly estimate the location and
form of the cultivation environment at that time (Willcox, 2012). 1.2. Beginnings of rice cultivation in Japan
In this paper, we examine the manner in which rice and millet
were cultivated, by focusing on the composition of the weeds and Nakayama's (2010) report on rice remains from Jomon and Yayoi
wild grasses that accompany these two crops. First, we will review sites, which included data on impressions, carbonized grains,
recent archaeobotanical records of rice and millet in Japan during phytolith, and pollen, is currently the most methodical-body of
the transition from the Jomon to Yayoi period. Second, we describe data on the subject. According to this report, the oldest examples of
our impression of an initial form of rice cultivation using human- rice remains are phytoliths which were found at Kagoshima Uni-
managed open wetlands before the development of clearly versity Campus site of the Middle Jomon period. Yet, because
distinct paddy elds, based on the example of Kitashirakawa- phytoliths are small silica particles found in the soil, we cannot
oiwakecho site in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, dated to the end of the completely rule out the possibility of contamination from upper
Final Jomon period (corresponding to the Early Yayoi period of layers into the lower layers, which can occur through the distur-
northern Kyushu; ca. 1000 BC). This paper expands upon Nasu's bance effect of the root systems of plants and organisms in the soil.
(2014) paper, written in Japanese, with additional data and ideas. Thus, some researchers accept this phytolith record as evidence of
rice cultivation, whereas others do not. Nakayama (2010) evaluated
the data as follows: Reliability of the data is high because quan-
1.1. Rice and millet in the Jomon period titative analysis shows the phytolith uctuation in each layer, but
there is no other evidence to support the results of this analysis,
When do rice and millet begin to appear in the archaeological such as traces of cultivated elds and paddies, or carbonized rice
record in Japan? The recent progress of archaeobotanical studies in grains (p. 209). If rice was cultivated in the Middle Jomon period,

Fig. 1. Map showing Jomon and Yayoi sites mentioned in the text. 1: Kagoshima University Campus, 2: Suitenmukai, 3: Ishinomoto, 4: Minami-mizote, 5: Bunkyo, 6: Itaya III, 7:
Kazahari, 8: Nabatake, 9: Sakamoto A, 10: Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho, 11: Ryugasaki A, 12: Yazaki, 13: Yashikidaira.

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Table 1
Correspondence table of pottery typology, relative age and radiocarbon age for sites mentioned in the text.
14 14
Site Region Pottery typology Relative age Range of C age (un calibrated) Range of C age (calibrated)a
Itaya III Chugoku Tottaimon phase I End of Final Jomon 2900e2800 C BP ca. 1200e840 cal BC
Nabatake Northern Kyushu Yamanodera type Initial Yayoi 2800e2700 C BP ca. 1020e800 cal BC
Nabatake Northern Kyushu Itazuke I type Beginning of Early Yayoi 2600e2500 C BP ca. 820e530 cal BC
Ryugasaki Kinki Nagahara type End of Final Jomon 2600e2500 C BP ca. 820e530 cal BC
Kitashirakawa Kinki Nagahara type/Funabashi type End of Final Jomon 2600e2500 C BP ca. 820e530 cal BC
Calibration was used Oxcal 4.2 programme (Bronk Ramsey, 2009) with IntCal 13 calibration curve (Reimer et al., 2013).

then we could expect to nd carbonized rice in hearths or pit shows that the earliest reliable rice impression is found in the
houses; however, excavations have not found such evidence. Tottaimon pottery stage I (corresponding to Maeike-shiki pottery)
Recently, many carbonized seeds of wild or cultivated soybean and at Itaya III site, Shimane Prefecture (Table 1, Fig. 1). From the Tot-
azuki bean have been found in Middle Jomon pit houses (Aida et al., taimon period, reliable rice records increase, not only of impres-
2012; Nasu et al., 2015). The sizes of these seeds are similar to that sions but also carbonized grains, phytolith, and pollen records
of rice; therefore, if rice had been used and cultivated in the Middle (Nakayama, 2010). At present, the direct dating results of carbon-
Jomon period, its carbonized grains should have been found as well. ized rice grains show 2800e2400 14C BP (ca. 1020e399 cal BC), and
Their absence suggests that rice was not cultivated in the Middle rice remains of an earlier date have not been found (Nishimoto,
Jomon period. Furthermore, even in the southern Korean peninsula, 2009). The earliest paddy elds have also been found from this
rice cultivation was transmitted around 3100 cal BP (ca. 1150 BC) period, such as Nabatake site, Saga prefecture (Kasahara, 1982) and
(Crawford and Lee, 2003; Shoda, 2010; Lee, 2011). In our opinion, Sakamoto A site, Miyazaki prefecture (Urushibata, 2006).
there is little possibility that rice cultivation could have been Thus, many researchers admit that rice was cultivated in Japan
introduced to Japan in the Middle Jomon period. from the end of the Final Jomon period (Initial to Early Yayoi period
If it is difcult to ascertain the presence of rice in the Middle in northern Kyushu), but opinions diverge on the authenticity of
Jomon period as yet, then what about the Late Jomon period? The rice remains that precede this period. More reliable evidence is
record of rice in the Late Jomon period shows an increase in needed from the Late Jomon period and the rst half of the Final
carbonized grains, phytoliths, and impressions (Fig. 1). However, Jomon period. Future rice reports should be cross-checked by ex-
according to Nakazawa (2009) and Nakayama (2010), there are perts in multiple elds, such as pottery typology and plant
reservations concerning all of these records. For example, the identication.
identication of rice impressions on Late Jomon pottery from Ish-
inomoto site in Kumamoto Prefecture has come under question
1.3. Beginnings of millet cultivation in Japan
(Nakazawa, 2009). Based on the photo in the report, we cannot
even nd a basis for determining whether it is rice. Recently
What about millet? Millet that has its origins in East Asia include
discovered rice impressions from the Suitenmukai site, Kagoshima
foxtail millet (Awa), common millet (Kibi), and barnyard millet
Prefecture, indicates the possible presence of rice only in the Late
(Echinochloa esculenta) (Hie). Of these three types, the origin of
Jomon period (Obata and Manabe, 2011). On the other hand, Miyaji
barnyard millet is still unclear, but there is some evidence of
(2013) argued that the pottery itself is not of the Late Jomon period;
cultivation, semi-cultivation, or management of wild barnyard
it is probably Tottaimon pottery, which belongs to the end of the
grass (Echinochloa sp.) during the Initial to Middle Jomon period in
Final Jomon period. The age of rice impressions from the Minami-
northern Japan. Crawford (1983) found carbonized grains (cary-
Mizote site, Okayama Prefecture, is also in doubt, based on their
opses) of barnyard grass that were somewhat large, wide and thick,
pottery type (Nakazawa, 2009). At this site, rice phytoliths have
in otation samples from the Middle Jomon sites of Hokkaido in
been found in the pottery (Fujiwara, 1995). The possibility of
northern Japan, and discovered a trend toward seed enlargement.
contamination of phytoliths in the matrix of pottery is lower than
Crawford (1983, 1992, 2011) and Sakamoto (1988) pointed out the
for phytoliths in soil. As the age of the pottery impressions has been
possibility of barnyard millet domestication in Japan. Yoshizaki
called into question, it is likely that the dating of the pottery con-
(1992) named the Echinochloa Jomon barnyard millet (Jomon-
taining rice phytoliths should be re-examined by multiple experts
Hie). However, archaeobotanical nds of barnyard millet decrease
on the ceramics of this period. Dated carbonized rice grains have
in the Final Jomon or Yayoi period; hence, Jomon barnyard millet
been reported from Kazahari site, northern Japan (D'Andrea, 1992;
cultivation/management was probably a temporal food procure-
D'Andrea et al., 1995). Two radiocarbon ages show 2810 270 14C
ment strategy.
BP (1683e382 cal BC) and 2540 240 14C BP (1271e60 cal BC) from
On the other hand, foxtail and common millets domesticated in
direct dating of carbonized rice grains. The pottery type is of the
China were introduced in Japan around the same time as rice. For
end of the Late Jomon period, however, the radiocarbon dates have
this reason, it is considered that the wild ancestors of foxtail and
a large margin of error, and the calibrated ages indicate a period
common millets were probably not distributed in Japan. Green
ranging from Late Jomon to Early Yayoi. For the Late Jomon period,
foxtail (Setaria viridis) (Enokoro-gusa), the wild ancestor of foxtail
there is a possibility of rice cultivation, but we believe the existing
millet, can be found in various parts of Japan today. There is no
evidence is insufcient.
reliable evidence of green foxtail in the Late Glacial or Jomon period
More reliable evidence of rice cultivation is the increase in rice
in Japan, although there are some records of other wild Setaria
remains found in the Final Jomon period (Nakayama, 2010).
species (S. pumila) (Kin-enokoro) (Sugiura et al., 2011). Probably,
Nakazawa (2013) stated that no evidence of rice remains can be
green foxtail is an archeophyte that was brought from China to
found from the rst half of the Late Jomon period, as all of the rice
Japan as a weed of foxtail millet, or it is possible that green foxtail
records are identied as being from the end of the Final Jomon
survived in many areas of Japan where the soil was disturbed
period because they appear on Tottaimon pottery (corresponding to
during the Jomon period and expanded its habitat after the intro-
the Initial and Early Yayoi period in the northern part of Kyushu).
duction of agriculture. The wild ancestor of common millet has not
The recent assemblage of rice impressions by Nakazawa (2013)
yet been identied, although weedy Panicum miliaceum subsp.

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ruderale (Inu-Kibi) in Central Asia is one of the candidates (Kimata sites that already had irrigated paddy eld systems. As previously
and Negishi, 2002). There are also some wild relatives of common discussed, the timing of the increase in reliable evidence of rice and
millet in Japan, such as Panicum bisulcatum (Nuka-kibi), but they paddy elds in Japan matches to a substantial degree; we do not
are not the direct ancestors of common millet. Therefore, common necessarily need to assume that rice was grown using slash-and-
millet was not independently domesticated in Japan but introduced burn agriculture techniques. Sasaki (2003) mentioned that rice
from China as a domesticated plant in the same manner as rice and cultivation started in a primitive rain-fed paddy eld that was not
foxtail millet. irrigated, and it is very difcult to distinguish between paddy elds,
Archaeobotanical remains of foxtail and common millets have farmland, and slash-and-burn elds.
been found from the Final Jomon period (corresponding to the Kasahara (1976b) deduced that slash-and-burn agriculture was
Initial-Early Yayoi period of northern Kyushu) (Fig. 1, Table 1). The practiced in the Jomon period by comparing weeds in modern
earliest evidence of foxtail millet comes from Nabatake site (Initial slash-and-burn elds with archaeobotanical weed seed data. Sub-
Yayoi) in association with rice and paddy eld remains, although sequently, Kasahara (1982) argued that initial rice cultivation was
they are not dated. The direct dating results show that the earliest not specialized between wet paddy elds and dry farmlands, citing
radiocarbon age of carbonized common millet is 2550 25 14C BP weed data from the Nabatake site, Saga Prefecture. Although one of
(801e555 cal BC) from Ryugasaki A site, Shiga Prefecture the authors of this paper had previously expressed a similar idea
(Matsutani, 2006; Miyata et al., 2007). A similar radiocarbon age (Nasu, 2004), now we have recognized that the weeds from slash-
(2530 20 14C BP; 794e552 cal BC) was determined for carbon- and-burn elds, such as Rubus, Vitis, Panicum bisulcatum, Ajuga
ized foxtail millet from the Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho site, Kyoto decumbens, Cirsium, and Picris, listed by Kasahara (1976b), could be
Prefecture (Tomii et al., 2012). These dating results show that grown on the ridges of paddy elds and farmlands, not only in
foxtail and common millets reached the Kinki region around the slash-and-burn elds. Our recent weed data from the Cheng-
same time. Recent progress in seed impression studies have toushan site, Hunan Province, China (ca.6400e5300 cal BP;
revealed several instances of millet impressions on pottery from 4450e3350 BC) shows that rice and foxtail millet were cultivated in
the end of the Final Jomon period, including those found at Yazaki different elds. Rice was cultivated on the paddy eld or wetland
site in Nagano Prefecture and Yashikidaira site in Yamanashi area around the site, and millet was grown on the farmland at the
Prefecture in the Central Highlands of the Chubu region, as well as site itself (Nasu et al., 2007, 2012). With respect to millet cultiva-
from sites in the Kanto region (Sasaki et al., 2009; Endo and tion, there is some possibility of the use of re in preparing the land
Takase, 2011, 2012; Nakazawa, 2011; Nakazawa and Sasaki, 2011; for cultivation. When we take this into consideration, it appears
Takase et al., 2011; Endo, 2012; Nakayama and Sano, 2012; that rice cultivation on the wet paddy eld and millet cultivation on
Nakayama and Uruma, 2012). As we have seen, since there are the dry farmland were simultaneously introduced in Japan during
no reports of millet in the Middle and Late Jomon period, it can be the end of the Final Jomon period.
considered that, as in the case of rice, the earliest evidence of
foxtail and common millets dates from the end of the Final Jomon
Thus, the dispersal timing of rice and millet is thought to be the 2.2. Wetland rice cultivation before the development of paddy
end of the Final Jomon period (corresponding to the InitialeEarly elds: an example from the Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho site
Yayoi period of northern Kyushu), although further conrmation is
needed. With respect to the time difference between the dispersal The author recently excavated interesting archaeobotanical
of rice and millets, we currently believe that rice and millet were materials at a primitive rice cultivation site, Kitashirakawa-
introduced into Japan about the same time, but that after their Oiwakecho, in Kyoto Prefecture (Chiba, 2012; Tomii et al., 2012).
arrival, they spread in different ways. Rice was probably not The site is located on the northeastern part of Kyoto basin at the
actively cultivated at high altitudes in the Central Highlands of the edge of the Kitashirakawa alluvial fan which extends eastward from
Chubu region at rst (Nakazawa, 2011; Nakayama and Uruma, Hiei Mountain. Peaty organic sediments are distributed on the Final
2012). Jomon layer of the site. The Final Jomon level is covered by thick
sand deposits as a result of multiple ooding events. Above these
sand layers are silty to clayey sediments of the Early Yayoi period.
2. Initial cultivation forms of rice and millet The excavation was conducted by Kyoto University during 2009
(Tomii et al., 2012).
2.1. Slash-and-burn or paddy eld Rice and millet were found from the peaty wetland area of the
site, but there are no clear paddy eld remains. Radiocarbon dating
Thus, rice and millet are found since the end of the Final Jomon and pottery typology point to the end of the Final Jomon period.
period. At the time, irrigated paddy elds had already been intro- The weed ora of the site shows in detail the specialized landscape
duced in northern Kyushu, but clear evidence of such elds have of the wetland. The southwest area, where uncarbonized rice chaff
not been found in many other areas. How was rice cultivated in were discovered, was a relatively open area dominated by wetland
these areas? Sato's (2002) DNA analysis has shown that both types herbs and grasses, such as Trapa, Persicaria thunbergii, Persicaria
of rice, temperate and tropical japonica, are represented in rice pubescens, Potamogeton, Juncus, Schoenoplectiella, and Eleocharis,
remains of the Yayoi period. Based on these results, some re- and these species can still be seen in and around modern paddy
searchers and lay citizens believe that Japanese farmers in the Jo- elds. In contrast, in the northwest area, where carbonized foxtail
mon period cultivated dry farmland rice (tropical japonica) through millet grains were discovered, farmland weeds, such as Cyperus,
slash-and-burn agriculture. However, tropical Japonica can be Fatoua villosa, and Commelina communis, were found. These results
grown in wetlands and paddy elds, as well as on dry land; thus, indicate that rice was cultivated on the wetland in the southwest
the presence of tropical japonica is not necessarily evidence of area and that millet was probably cultivated upland in the north-
slash-and-burn agriculture. Sato's analysis can be interpreted to west area. For some reason as yet unknown, foxtail millet was
mean that tropical japonica was growing in Yayoi paddy elds carbonized by re in upland elds and then deposited in the
because the samples that he used were rice remains from Yayoi wetland area together with farmland weeds.

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Table 2
Comparison of plant species between Kitashirakawa and Nabatake sites.

Final Jomon Initial Yayoi Early Yayoi

Kitashirakawa Nabatake Nabatake

Wetland Paddy eld Paddy eld

Cultivated plants 3 Species 3 Species 3 Species

Oryza sativa
Setaria italica
Cucumis melo var. makuwa
Paddy eld and wetland weeds 6 Species 5 Species 17 Species
Persicaria pubescens
Trapa japonica
Monochoria vaginalis
Persicaria hydropiper
Ranunculus sceleratus
Oenanthe javanica
Murdannia keisak
Juncus prismatocarpus subsp. leschenaultii
Blyxa echinosperma
Najas gracillima
Eriocaulon miquelianum
Monochoria korsakowii
Limnophila sessiliora
Rotala indica
Cyperus difformis
Weeds common to both uplands and paddy eld 11 Species 10 Species 17 Species
Persicaria thunbergii
Commelina communis
Persicaria japonica
Lapsanastrum humile
Haloragis micrantha
Cyperus brevifolius var. leiolepis
Cardamine scutata
Eclipta thermalis
Cyperus iria
Stellaria uliginosa
Cyperus compressus
Veronica peregrina
Fimbristylis littoralis
Persicaria lapathifolia
Hypericum erectum
Rorippa indica
Forest herbs 5 Species
Chrysosplenium japonicum
Phytolacca japonica
Pollia japonica
Upland eld and ruderal weeds 10 Species 10 Species 26 Species
Fatoua villosa
Solanum nigrum
Humulus scandens
Potentilla hebiichigo
Mollugo stricta
Cyperus microiria
Oxalis corniculata
(continued on next page)

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Table 2 (continued )

Final Jomon Initial Yayoi Early Yayoi

Kitashirakawa Nabatake Nabatake

Wetland Paddy eld Paddy eld

Portulaca oleracea
Plantago asiatica
Boehmeria nivea var. concolor
Fallopia japonica
Boehmeria japonica
Boehmeria spicata
Ajuga decumbens
Setaria viridis
Caucalis platycarpos
Sigesbeckia pubescens
Digitaria ciliaris
Chamaecrista nomame
Hemisteptia lyrata
Potentilla anemonifolia
Trees, shrubs and vines 19 Species 11 Species 10 Species
Juglans mandshurica var. sachalinensis
Quercus subsp. Cyclobalanopsis
Quercus subsp. Quercus
Aesculus turbinata
Styrax obassia
Broussonetia papyrifera
Aralia elata
Ampelopsis glandulosa var. heterophylla
Sambucus racemosa subsp. sieboldiana
Pinus subgenus Pinus
Torreya nucifera
Castanea crenata
Cornus controversa
Zanthoxylum ailanthoides
Wisteria oribunda
Rubus hirsutus
Styrax japonica
Zanthoxylum schinifolium
Rubus parvifolius
Cinnamomum camphora
Lycium chinense
Rubus buergeri

1e9 grains (), 10e49 grains (), 50e99 grains (), over 100 grains ().

On the other hand, seed, wood, and pollen analysis in the east et al., 2012), and probably these changes were caused by human
area revealed the presence of a swamp forest before rice cultiva- activity.
tion began. The taxa of the swamp forest in the east area exhibited
differences between the lower and upper layers. In the lower
layer, Japanese chestnut (Juglans mandshurica var. sachalinensis), 2.3. Comparison of the weed species composition of the initial
horse chestnut (Aesculus turbinate), and cornel (Cornus con- paddy eld at Nabatake site
troversa) dominated the tree taxa associated with forest herbs,
such as Chrysosplenium, Pollia japonica, and Phytolacca japonica, What is the difference between the wetland of the
which usually grow in the dark swamp forest. In the upper layer, Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho site and paddy elds? To answer this
which corresponds to the stratum in the west area in which rice question, we compared the weed species composition of the
was discovered, the secondary forest taxa of deciduous oak Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho site with that of the Nabatake site,
(Quercus sect. Quercus), Styrax obassia, Wisteria oribunda, and where the Initial and Early Yayoi paddy elds were found, and for
Zanthoxylum ailanthoides dominated, together with ruderal herbs, which a detailed weed seed analysis was carried out by Kasahara
such as Persicaria longiseta, P. thunbergii, Mosla, Carex, and (1982).
Humulus scandens. These results indicate that the dark swamp Nabatake site is located at the end of a small valley at the base of
forest became an open wetland at the time of rice cultivation. the hill which faces the west part of the Karatsu plainin Saga pre-
From the data collected through wood remains analysis, fallen fecture, of northern Kyushu Island. From the site, cultural layers
Quercus trees with cut marks were also found. Pollen data show belonging to Early Jomon, Final Jomon (Initial Yayoi), Early Yayoi
the transition of the surrounding vegetation, from an evergreen and Middle Yayoi were found during its excavation in the 1980's
forest to a secondary deciduous Quercus forest at the time (Tomii (Kasahara, 1982).

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The paddy elds of Nabatake site are found from two time pe-
riods. One belongs to the Initial Yayoi period (Yamanodera type),
and the other to the Early Yayoi period (Itazuke I type). Weed
species compositions from the paddy elds of the two periods are
compared with the weed composition of Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho
site in Table 2.
First, the list of common species in the paddy elds of Naba-
take site are as follows: Schoenoplectiella, Eleocharis, and Persicaria
pubescens in the paddy eld and wetland weed category; Carex,
Persicaria thunbergii, Echinochloa, Mosla, Cyperus, and Commelina
communis in the weeds common to both uplands and paddy
elds category; Stellaria, Persicaria, Fatoua villosa, Urticaceae,
Solanum, Humulus scandens, Viola, and Potentilla hebiichigo in the
upland eld and ruderal weeds category; and Morus, Actinidia,
Rubus, and Broussonetia papyrifera in the arboreal category. Thus,
the common species in the Nabatake paddy elds were relatively
large in number. On the other hand, a major difference between
the Nabatake paddy elds and Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho wetland Fig. 3. Comparison of species percentage by life-form category between Kitashirakawa
is the absence of typical paddy weeds, such as Alismataceae and and Nabatake sites.
Monochoria at the latter site. Since these species are emergent
plants, this difference indicates that there was no clear compart- 3. Conclusion
ment made by paddy ridges to keep water in the Kitashirakawa-
Oiwakecho wetland. Another feature is that a large number of As we have seen above, although some Japanese researchers still
woody plants and forest herbs are still present. This indicates that believe that the beginnings of rice and millet agriculture go back as
there was a rich forest near the Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho far as the Middle to Late Jomon period, the most reliable timing of
wetland. its dispersal is the end of the Final Jomon period (corresponding to
Next, we compared the number of each species in terms of the Initial and Early Yayoi period of northern Kyushu). This result
percentages by ecological category (Fig. 2). In Kitashirakawa- supports the views of English-written literature that neither rice
Oiwakecho site, the number of weed species is relatively small, nor millet was an important part of Jomon subsistence (Crawford,
at about 50% of all the plant life, whereas woody plants and forest 1992, 2008, 2011; Imamura, 1996; Habu, 2004; Matsui and
herbs constitute up to 40%. In contrast, in the Early Yayoi paddy Kanehara, 2006; Bleed and Matsui, 2010).
eld of Nabatake site, the percentage of woody plants and forest It is assumed that rice and millet cultivation were simulta-
herbs decreased to 10% and 0%, respectively, while the percentage neously introduced as a set, part of the agricultural complex into
of weeds increased to 80%. In the life-form category (Fig. 3), the the existing Jomon subsistence economy; however, it seems not to
percentage of annual herb species is 35% at Kitashirakawa- have spread linearly or rapidly. Although the Jomon people had
Oiwakecho site, and increased to 50% in the Early Yayoi paddy already managed and cultivated several varieties of crops (soybean,
eld of Nabatake site. These results indicate the degree of azuki bean, perilla herbs, hemp, and bottle gourd) and trees
disturbance caused by human activity in the paddy eld. (chestnut, lacquer tree), the grace of the forest, such as berries and
Thus, a detailed weed seed analysis is a powerful tool for the acorns, was still a major food source during the Final Jomon period.
reconstruction of the state of initial rice cultivation, even in cases At the time, rice was probably cultivated in primitive paddy elds,
where remains of clearly dened paddy ridge partitions are unable such as in man-made open wetlands with no clear paddy ridge or
to be found. In the example of Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho site, the compartment, and located near a forest environment. The use of
view of rice being cultivated in the primitive paddy elds was berries and nuts in the Jomon period continued, and perhaps rice
probably a pleasant sight, as pointed out by Tasaki (2002). and millet agriculture gradually spread through the Middle to Late
Yayoi period. Several types of groups may have coexisted alongside
each other, perhaps with one group which did not accept rice and
millet agriculture until late, a different group that quickly adopted
cultivation of paddy rice, and yet another group being introduced to
millet farming in the mountain regions.


We thank Makoto Tomii, Naoko Sasaki, Yumiko Murakami,

Hikaru Takahara and Yuya Tsujimoto for their help in our study of
Kitashirakawa-Oiwakecho site. We are grateful to Michihiko
Nakazawa, Seiji Nakayama, Hiroki Obata, Aya Manabe and Yuichiro
Kudo for presenting us with the recent rice and millet data, chro-
nological data and critical comments. This research was supported
in part by Grant-in-Aid for Scientic Research (KAKENHI) (grant
number 25850009, 25284154).


Fig. 2. Comparison of species percentage by ecological category between Kitashir- Aida, S., Nakazawa, M., Nasu, H., Sasaki, Y., Yamada, T., Koshiishi, H., 2012.
akawa and Nabatake sites. Archaeobotanical investigations of charred plant remains and seed impressions

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