Japan's Jomon period lasted around 10,000 years. There are many extant examples of Jomon pottery, but the most lavishly decorated items were produced during the Mid-Jomon period, from 3000 to 2000 BC. This period is said to mark the high point of Jomon culture, when large villages began to proliferate across eastern Japan and elsewhere.
This deep bowl is characteristic of objects found in the region around the southern part of modern-day Nagano prefecture. Paired protuberances adorn the flared mouth of the bowl, while a handle resembling a woven rope is affixed to the long body. The surface is divided up in criss-cross fashion by thick clay cords, with the demarcated spaces decorated with abstract motifs that may represent flora and fauna. The sheer size also adds to the stunning power of this design.
Deep bowls were mainly used for cooking. It is thought the larger bowls were used for storage, but as with this example, some had their bases removed and were used as umegame, or coffins used to bury infants. For the Jomon folk, earthenware vessels were not merely for cooking and storage; they were also used when offering up prayers or laying someone to rest.
The Jomon period marked the dawn of Japanese art. With its unusual designs and formations, Jomon earthenware occupies its own special niche in the history of world pottery. We hope your enjoyment of this exhibit is enhanced by an understanding of the culture that produced it.