Monday, July 11, 2011

4300 Year Old "Dancing Shaman" Jomon Carving

Absolutely fascinating.  I could not find a larger image - it has feathers on it's head and holds some kind of object in its left hand.  Could it be a female shaman???

This is an English translation of an original Japanese language article, found at The Mainichi Daily News online.  What I do not understand is how, since this pottery shard was discovered in 1993, it wasn't until last month - LAST FRICKING MONTH? - that an unidentified "worker" discovered the carving on the pottery shard.  Amazing, absolutely amazing. 

Ancient pottery shard in Aomori found to hold carving of dancing shaman
July 9, 2011

A carving of a dancing shaman has been found on an ancient pottery shard unearthed years ago at an archaeological site in Aomori, making it possibly the oldest depiction of a shaman on an artifact uncovered in Japan.

"It is speculated to be a shaman with a ritual tool in hand, praying and dancing. It is a very valuable find," says Michio Okamura, chairman of an expedition committee for the site.

The shard was uncovered in 1993 from an earth mound near the center of the Sannai-Maruyama archaeological site in the city of Aomori. The shard has been dated to the middle Jomon period, around 4,300 years ago. Last month, a worker noticed that there was a carving of a human on it.

The shard is around eight centimeters tall and six centimeters wide, and the shaman depicted is dancing with a tool in hand and feathers decorating the top of the head, according to Aomori Prefecture's department of protection for cultural properties. The shaman carving is around four centimeters tall and three centimeters wide, and is thought to have been carved with a stick-like object around one millimeter in diameter.

According to the department, depictions of people and expressions of movement are both rare on Jomon pottery. The shard will be on public display at a museum situated next to the Sannai-Maruyama site from July 9 to Nov. 20.
Perhaps the "carved in" figure on the shard was not spotted because it was so small?  It measures a mere four centimeters tall and three centimeters wide or about 1.58 inches tall and 1.18 inches wide. I guess I shouldn't be so critical - but really, didn't the original excavators take a good look at the shards they excavated back in 1993?  We have known for the past 50-60 years (at least), and I assume this has been taught to the last few generations of would-be archaeologists that the smallest mark could have the most incredible meaning...

Just by way of comparison, the Butrint chess piece was about 1.5 inches tall.

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