Jōmon pottery dates back 13,000 years and was the first type of pottery to be developed by early human societies on the Japanese archipelago. Before then, people used vessels made of other materials, such as tree bark or animal skins. The introduction of watertight, earthenware vessels that could be used for cooking over an open flame brought major changes in people’s eating habits. People were able to eat things that had previously been inedible because they were too tough or could not be eaten raw.
The Jōmon period (ca. 11,000 BC–5th c. BC) lasted for more than 10,000 years. Its most richly decorated pottery was produced in the Middle Jōmon period, like this example. This era, in which large settlements were established in numerous locations centering on eastern Japan, could be called the height of the Jōmon period.
Take a closer look at this pot. It has a large mouth and tapers slightly before swelling into a curve that then narrows down to its base. Its size suggests that it was used for storage rather than being regularly carried from place to place. It may have held fruits or nuts. The surface of the pot is scored with lines seemingly made using a fine piece of vertically split bamboo and is decorated with patterns including vertical stripes and spirals. Its large size and the three-dimensional ornamentation of its surface make this pot an excellent example of the characteristics of earthenware from the Middle Jōmon period.