The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Hunter-gatherer resilience after the agricultural transition in prehistoric Kyushu, Japan


1Anthropology/Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2Occupational Therapy, Nishikyushu University

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The diverse cultures of the Jōmon period of Japan (ca. 14,500-300 BCE) and their detailed archaeological and odonto-skeletal records have great potential to help us understand the resilience of modern hunter-gatherers in the face of major social and ecological changes. We argue that odonto-skeletal health serves as a proxy for assessing the resilience of prehistoric human populations in the face of social-ecological transformation. In this paper, we provide the first comparative analysis of the skeletal health of northwest Kyushu populations from the hunter-gatherer Jōmon period into the agricultural Yayoi period with a particular focus on resilience. Archaeological data indicate a persistent and autonomous Jōmon population into the Yayoi period in northwest Kyushu; thus, we hypothesize there will be little change in population health status across time. To test this hypothesis, we assessed the health of individuals from six sites in northwest Kyushu. All indicators except porotic hyperostosis and individual caries rate do not differ significantly among Jōmon and Yayoi periods; however porotic hyperostosis variation is likely attributable to inter-site variation and individual caries rate variation in the Late/Final Jōmon is likely a statistical artifact. What further light has this shed on the Jōmon-Yayoi transition in northern Kyushu? Despite a potential disruption to culture from immigrant agricultural populations to Kyushu, local hunter-gatherer health did not change significantly over time. Using odonto-skeletal health as a proxy of resilience, we believe prehistoric hunter-gatherers of Kyushu were resilient to change.

Alaska EPSCoR NSF award #EPS-0701898 and the state of Alaska

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