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Edible Origins: Finding Food, Symbols and Society in Early East Asia

Panel Discussion: ARF Special & Workshops: Other UCB Archaeology | April 23 | 4:30-6:30 p.m. |  Hearst Museum of Anthropology


June-Jeong Lee, Anthropology, Seoul National University

Lisa Janz, University of Arizona; Seungki Kwak, University of Washington

Junko Habu, Anthropology, UC Berkeley

Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS), Center for Korean Studies (CKS), Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), Center for Chinese Studies (CCS), Archaeological Research Facility, Academy of Korean Studies


Featured Speaker: June-Jeong Lee, Seoul National University
"Food Production in Korea: Its Socioeconomic and Symbolic Meaning"
The mysteries of Northeast Asia's prehistoric migration, exchange, and development are explored through an examination of when and how the first domesticated plants and animals were introduced to Korean peninsula. The adoption of first domesticates, such as rice and swine, was not only an economic breakthrough, but resonated across the realms of the social, political, and symbolic life of the community.

Panelist/Speaker: Junko Habu, University of California, Berkeley
"Jomon Food Diversity and Long-term Sustainability: Lessons from Prehistoric Japan"
This presentation focuses on the mechanisms of settlement growth and decline in complex hunter-gatherer societies of prehistoric Japan. Early and Middle Jomon (ca. 6000=4000 years ago) archaeological data from northern Japan indicate that the loss of food diversity and an expansion of the scale of society may have negatively affected long-term sustainability of prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies. Through an examination of this case study, it is argued that archaeology is critical in our understanding of long-term human-environmental interactions.

Panelist/Speaker: Lisa Janz, University of Arizona
"Dune-Dwellers: Post-Glacial Hunter-Gatherers and Early Herders in Mongolia"
New analysis of old archaeological collections from the Gobi Desert indicate that following the last Ice Age, between about 8000 to 3000 years ago, hunter-gatherers began to intensively occupy and exploit dune-field/wetland environments across the arid steppes and deserts of Northeast Asia. This oasis adaptation overlaps with the Early Bronze Age and the rise of nomadic pastoralism in Mongolia. Several intriguing clues suggest that dune-dwelling hunter-gatherers may also have been the first herders, raising questions about their relationship with neighbouring agriculturalist and pastoralist groups.

Panelist/Speaker: Seungki Kwak, University of Washington
"Tracing prehistoric subsistence: Application of Organic Geochemistry Analyses on Potsherds from Ancient Korean Peninsula"
This study attempts to understand prehistoric human subsistence in Korean peninsula using organic geochemistry analyses on potsherds. Organic geochemistry Analyses has contributed to archaeology in various cases including ceramic studies since its initial application. While other approaches are focusing on reconstructing the ancient pot function such as use-wear analysis and ethnographic studies, organic geochemistry analyses on archaeological ceramics endeavor to be precise about types of food groups that was cooked or stored within a pot by attempting to isolate and identify the specific organic compounds trapped in the fabric of its wall. Since organic compounds are often preserved in direct association with archaeological ceramics, organic geochemistry analyses have become an important method of investigation which archaeologists use to better understand the function of ceramic artifacts and local diets. If we conduct these analyses on the pottery from different locations, we will be able to understand past subsistence behaviors even in the absence of faunal or floral remains. The direct examination of the remains of resources in the Korean peninsula is limited to shell middens, because the high acidity of sediment does not allow long-term preservation of bone or plant remains. Therefore, organic geochemistry analyses could be the most suitable method in this setting. This research will provide a unique chance to understand ancient subsistence through the direct examination of potteries: the most wide-spread material culture in the prehistoric Korea.


ieas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-2809