Jomon pot


  • Group of Jōmon pottery

    Group of Jōmon pottery


On display

Rooms 92-94

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Jōmon pot

From Japan, early Jōmon period, about 5,000 BC

Skill in pottery has been an important defining aspect of Japanese culture from earliest time.

There are pottery fragments from Aomori in northern Japan which date from about 14,500 BC, and are believed to be among the oldest yet discovered anywhere in the world.

So-called 'Jōmon' wares were first discovered in 1877 at a site known as the Ōmori shell-mound near Tokyo. Those examples were so named by an American archaeologist, Edward S. Morse.

Jōmon means 'cord pattern' and the term describes the characteristic surface patterns that were made with a twisted cord. The name was later applied to the long period of well over 10,000 years of prehistory in the Japanese archipelago.

The Jōmon peoples were predominantly hunters, fishers and gatherers and their pots were mainly used for boiling food and for eating.

This bowl, which originally had a lid, has a well-defined rim decoration of marks jabbed with a stick, bone, or finger-nail. The main body has cord decoration.

The inside has been lacquered, probably sometime in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, when the vessel was briefly used as a mizusashi (water jar) for the Tea Ceremony.



The Japanese islands have been inhabited for more than 30,000 years.

Japan world culture

Jōmon period (about 10,000 BC - 300 BC)

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Object details

Height: 15 cm
Width: 17 cm


Asia OA+20

Rooms 92-94: Japan


    L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in the British Museum(London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

    I. Freestone and D. Gaimster, Pottery in the making: world-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    W.K. Barnett, and J.W. Hoopes (eds.), The Emergence of Pottery: Technology and Innovation in Ancient Societies (Washington, 1995)

    J. Habu, Ancient Jomon of Japan (Cambridge, 2004)

    T. Kobayashi, Jomon Reflections: Forager Life and Culture in the Prehistoric Japanese Archipelago (Oxford, 2004)

    Y. Kuzmin, Chronology of the earliest pottery in East Asia: progress and pitfalls. Antiquity 80, 362-371. (2008)

    K. Mizoguchi, An Archaeological History of Japan (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002)

    P. Rice, ‘On the Origins of Pottery’, Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 6 (1999) 11–54.