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Jomon Stone Circles

26 September 2022

William sent in the link https://the-past.com/feature/circles-of-stone-exploring-the-monuments-of-jomon-japan/ … circles of stone – explaining the stone monuments of Jomon Japan. It coincides with an exhibition at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre this autumn, a feature on Japanese stone circles and the similarities they have in common with Stonehenge. They mostly date between 2500-300BC. Therefore they coincide with megalithic activity at Stonehenge. Was there a similar phenomenon to account for them both? Presumably, something in the sky if it was visible at opposite ends of the earth.

These stone monuments belong to the Jomon culture people, and they precede the advent of farmers from China and Korea. The Jomon people are themselves dated between 14,000BC until around 300BC, when farmers intruded into northern Japan. They had been ensconced in southern Japan for some time. The link is from The Past, which incorporates several magazines. The article itself is published in Current World Archaeology 115 [September 2022] which is available at some newsagents such as WH Smiths.

The Jomon, a hunter-gatherer society, exploited marine resources, and created wooden pillars, bank enclosed cemeteries, as well as stone circles – the latter fairly late in the sequence. They were using pottery 14,000 years ago, long before pottery was common elsewhere in the world. Little is known about them during the last Ice Age or where they came from in the first instance. They left behind a lot of shell middens. Why did they expend a lot of time on labour in order to build the stone circles? Big Question. Something unusual was going on in the world, it seems to imply. They date from 2500BC, the current date assigned to the major sarsen stone circle on Salisbury Plain. Remarkably, the date of 2200BC also figures prominently in the article, another date they share in common with societies in the Near and Middle East, as well as Europe. However, the Jomon stone circles involved using stones from 4 kg to over 100 kg, the latter being quite hefty. They are of course smaller than megaliths in Europe for example, but these are hunter-gatherers rather than farmers who come with organisation and group effort. The Jomon must have also been organised.

One of the more famous of the Jomon constructions was a twin circle, a feature also known in megalithic Europe. This is situated at Oyu and it was in use between 2200 until 700BC. In other words, it went out of use at about the same time as the stone formations and high altars of the Levant as recorded in the Bible. Is that just a coincidence? The Oyu twin circle comprises two sets of concentric rings of stone settings arranged around what looks like a sundial but was in fact back to back standing stones. The two stones were aligned to midwinter sunrise – also similar to Stonehenge. Concentric circles also occur often in Europe, going back earlier than 2500BC, but no doubt continuing to be erected contemporary with the Jomon examples. There are also twin circles and triple circle formations in Europe, aligned with each other as the Japanese examples.

For more information see https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/news/online-jomon-matsuri … and the exhibition at Stonehenge Visitor Centre runs from September 30th 2022 until August 2023.

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