Okinawa (Japon) : 3,000-year-old Tohoku pottery shard uncovered

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Okinawa 1A fragment with characteristics of the Kamegaoka pottery style common in northeastern Japan 3,000 years ago was found in Chatan, Okinawa Prefecture. (Go Katono)

A fragment of pottery common in northeastern Japan 3,000 years ago was found on Okinawa Prefecture, showing that exchanges between the southern and main Japanese islands were more extensive than previously thought, officials said.

Based on experts’ opinions, the Chatan education board concluded the shard was almost certainly a variation of Kamegaoka pottery, making it the first such piece discovered in Okinawa Prefecture.

The piece, unearthed about six years ago at an archeological site in the town, features maze-like grooves and faint traces of vermillion paint.

Kamegaoka pottery has distinctive patterns and was mainly distributed in and around what is now the Tohoku region at the end of the Jomon Pottery Culture (c. 8000 B.C.-300 B.C.)

Many Kamegaoka pottery pieces have been excavated in eastern Japan, but few have been found in western parts of the nation.

Previously, the farthest south for distribution of this particular pottery was on the Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima islands of Kagoshima Prefecture, which lie north of Okinawa Prefecture.

The discovery of the pottery fragment (in Chatan) has strengthened the view that people were actively interacting and trading between Japan’s main island and Okinawa from the end of the Jomon to the early part of the Yayoi period,” said Yasuo Yamashiro, a senior official of the Chatan education board.

The Yayoi Pottery Culture period was from 300 B.C. to A.D. 300.

The shard, believed to have come from earthenware, was excavated between 2009 and 2010 from a layer dating back to the end of the Jomon Pottery Culture, according to the education board. It was found at the Hanzanbaru B site, where a U.S. military base was once located.

A jade piece dating back to the same time period was also discovered at the Ireibaru archeological site near the Hanzanbaru B site. It came from Niigata Prefecture on the main island of Honshu.