Java and Japan: A New View of the Yayoi Revolution

Kumar, Anne
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In contrast to conventional wisdom, new scientific evidence from rice genetics, DNA and historical linguistics indicates major elements of Yayoi civilization in Japan came, not from China or Korea, but from the south and specifically from Java.
The social changes that took place in Japan in the time-period when the Jomon culture was replaced by the Yayoi culture were of exceptional magnitude, going far beyond those of the so-called Neolithic Revolution in other parts of the world. They included not only a new way of life based on wet-rice agriculture but also the introduction of metalworking in both bronze and iron, and furthermore a new architecture functionally and ritually linked to rice cultivation, a new religion, and a hierarchical society characterized by a belief in the divinity of the ruler. Because of its immense and enduring impact the Yayoi period has generally been seen as the very foundation of Japanese civilization and identity. In contrast to the common assumption that all the Yayoi innovations came from China and Korea, new scientific evidence from such different fields as rice genetics, DNA and historical linguistics indicates that the major elements of Yayoi civilization actually came, not from the north, but from the south and specifically from Java. Though many adherents of the prevailing belief in the Korean origin of early Japanese civilization regard this proposal as outrageous, it is supported by more compelling evidence than competing hypotheses. In shedding new light on the development of Japan and Java, this evidence cannot be disregarded. Ann Kumar is a professor in the Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University, and concurrently Director of the International Centre of Excellence for Asia and the Pacific Studies Professor and Associate Director, Centre for Research on Language Change. Her publications include: Surapati, Man and Legend: a Study of Three Babad Traditions; The Diary of a Javanese Muslim: Religion, politics and the pesantren 1883- 1886; and Java and Modern Europe: Ambiguous Encounters. Her most recent work is Globalizing the Prehistory of Japan: Language, Genes, and Civilization.
Yayoi, Japan
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