Online Journal of Anthropology

cockroach

 

Long ago, in a field far away…

 

Impressions of cockroach egg cases from 4,300 year old Japanese potsherds (broken pottery fragments) have been found in southern Japan. X-ray, computed tomography (CT) and scanning electron microscopy were used to image the impressions and reveal aspects about ancient Japanese life in this latest archeological survey from Kumamoto University.

 

These are impressions you are looking for.

 

To archeologists, ancient earthenware is almost always packed full of treasure. This may seem logical since the pots may have held water, food or other historically valuable items. This time, however, the “treasure” was found not in the pot, but inside the pottery itself.

 

“Countless vacant holes on the surface of potsherds had been all but ignored until about 25 years ago,” said Professor Hiroki Obata, researcher of archeology from Kumamoto University, Japan. “Since then, however, the meaning and importance of these holes has become well understood. They can be the impression of seeds, nuts, insects or shells.”

 

From the cavities left by soybeans or adzuki beans which were mixed in the pottery during creation, it is possible to more correctly estimate the beginning of cultivation in the district. Impressions are an important key to understanding the lifestyle of those who lived in a particular area during a particular period. Furthermore, with a quantitative survey of the impressions, it is possible to extrapolate the range of the propagation and cultivation of the plants.

 

Professor Obata’s group examined impressions on the surface and from the inside of the potsherds from the Odake shell mound site in Toyama Prefecture, which contains artifacts from the early Jomon Period of Japan (5,300 – 3,500 BC). Using X-ray, CT and scanning electron microscopy they found more than 500 impressions, even though only 66 could be visually confirmed, of Egoma Perilla frutescens var. frutescens) seed related imprints on the surface. The impressions within the potsherds were unique to the period making them easily distinguishable from potsherds that had been created at another time.

 
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