University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

Font Size: 
Analysis of relationship between archaeological site distribution and multiple environmental factors in the Jomon Period of Japan using GIS
Susumu Kato

Last modified: 2011-12-21


 The purpose of the present study is to form an integrative account for a number of environmental factors, to investigate what kind of factors influenced the decision making for choosing location of land used in a particular area or period in prehistoric times. In previous studies, the relationship between the selection of location and a single factor, such as access to topography and coast line transformation, and shell midden distribution has usually been considered. Although each factor for selection of site location was evaluated individually, the relationship between multiple environmental agents and location was evaluated individually, the relationship between multiple environmental agents and location of archaeological sites has not been considered. In this study, factors such as distribution of water source or land feature are considered in relation to archaeological site distribution. Present study evaluates multiple environmental factors considered together to see how the combination of multiple factors and the degree of contribution of each factor influenced the choice of site location. GIS is the most effective analytical tool to facilitate such study.

  The present study dealt with archaeological sites in Jomon period of Japan. Jomon Period continued from c. 15,680 cal.BP to c.2,800 cal.BP, and is classified into 6 phases: Incipient (15,680-11,250 cal.BP), Initial (11,250-7,300 cal.BP), Early (7,300-5,600 cal.BP), Middle (5,600-4,300 cal.BP), Late (4,300-3,200 cal.BP), and Final (3,200-2,800 cal.BP). Jomon Culture had subsistence basis on hunting_gathering, and was characterized by various types of cord_marked pottery. Many shell mounds were formed on the coast, and increasing degree of sedentism through time is observed.

Southwestern Kanto region, rich in archaeological sites, was selected as the study area. Changes through time in the pattern of settlement location were investigated. The sample number used in this study was, Incipient N-151, Initial N=2,375, Early N=2,566, Middle N=4,089, Late N=1,584, and Final N=206. We analyzed the links between the distribution of Jomon sites and the environmental factors (elevation, slope, aspect, subsurface geology, surface soil type, distance to water source etc.) for site selection in each phase in the Jomon Period by GIS.

 Results of the analysis indicate that archaeological sites distributed not only in southern aspects but also in northern aspect. Moreover, distributions of sites were different by slope. We found that the subsurface geology and the distance to water source also influenced the selection of the site location in prehistoric times. Archaeological sites tend to be located in areas close to water space in the Incipient Jomon Period compared to the sites in other periods. This is probably because the distance to water source was the most important factor in selecting  camp sites in relatively mobile life style in the Incipient Jomon Period. Increasing number of sites were located on the alluvium through time. This result shows that the changes in land use related to the increasing degree of sedentism during the Jomon Period.


muletiple environmental factors; GIS analysis; Jomon period; Pattern of settlement location; Sites distribution