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Oksbjerg, Ellen J. (2009) Religious imagery of middle Yayoi settlements : An iconology of engraved drawings on Kinai pottery and bronze bells. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis investigates pictorial engraving on pottery vessels and bronze bells of the Yayoi Period (500 BC-AD 250) in Japan. A particular focus is placed on the pottery pictures and their main phase of production at the end of Middle Yayoi - phase IV - (up to circa AD 1). The circumstances behind the shift of motifs from a predominance of animals to a preference for humans and human constructions such as houses comprise the primary area of investigation. Focussing on pictures from Karako Kagi and other Nara Basin settlements, these are studied in relation to the physical surroundings of their making. Their interpretation is connected to that of the settlements and tells of the area's religio-sociological developments. Through statistics of temporal motif distribution and comparisons to ethnographic evidence, I demonstrate that the iconographic changes relate to changes in ritual material in the shape of animal bones and crafted artefacts during Middle Yayoi; together telling of a transition from a basically nature-bound spiritual animism to a more politically manipulative shamanism. Examining the general enclosing of settlement spaces during the Yayoi Period, it is explored how a number of small moated settlements dissolve and amalgamate into large settlements inside and beyond the Nara Basin at the transition between Early and Middle Yayoi. It is suggested that this was a result of a strong factional competition between the basin's settlement leaders from the end of Early Yayoi. Karako Kagi, whose location was in the centre of the basin, developed into the regional centre of craft production; tying up population groups to the settlement and the cultivated zone. Part of the ritual sphere was moved away from the settlement, and a nature-culture dichotomy came to prevail that had not existed before, but which supported the leading tier's interests in a stronger focus on human ancestry and differentiated descent.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:10

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