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BeArchaeo: A transdisciplinary project for the study of the origins of Japan

The origins of Japan and the Japanese people are still shrouded in an aura of mystery, due to the lack of in-depth studies on the first three periods of prehistory and proto-history of the country.

The Neolithic period, or the Jomon period (13500 or 10000 or 8000 BC - 300 BC), saw the development of a ceramic production characterized by rope motifs, jomon precisely, and lithic technology. This was followed by an early Bronze Age, the Yayoi Period (300 BC - 300 AD) during which the penetration of agriculture from the continent was realized and the first forms of semi-organized society began to develop. Finally, the construction of the first megalithic tombs and the establishment of more complex hierarchical societies, started the so-called Kofun Period (IV - VI century AD). Or at least this is briefly the chronology accepted until recently, but it was not supported by data made solid by adequate scientific analyzes.

Today, the awareness of having to review the chronologies and the events connected to them, also leads to new hypotheses on the ways of development of Japanese society and on the origins of the so-called Yamato Dynasty.

So, who were the Yamato? What are their origins? When did the first cultural exchanges with the continent take place? What is their relationship with Korea? How did the power of some regional realities develop?

 

The project and the chosen methodology

The main core of BE-ARCHAEO is the archaeological excavation of the Tobiotsuka Kofun (Soja city in Okayama Prefecture) and challenging studies of other Kofun burial mounds and related archaeological material in ancient Kibi and Izumo area (present Okayama and Shimane Prefectures), focusing on the rituals, the regional relationships and the formation of ancient state in Japan.

Archaeologists (from both Europe and Japan), leaded by IRIAE and Okayama University, will collaborate with a large team of interlinked archaeometry experts (i.e.: chemists, physicists, biologists, geologists, petrographers, veterinary surgeons and soil scientists) to carry on a very advanced research focused on a major period of the old history of Japan. Journalists, video makers, web masters and IT experts will participate in all the steps of activities from the archaeological excavation to the laboratory, where the finds and all the different samples taken on field will be processed.

All the involved experts will contribute their disciplinary skills to grow up a new trans-disciplinary vision of archaeology combined with archaeometry. BE-ARCHAEO activities will be accessible and engaging to the general public through media communication and two final exhibitions will display the new storytelling - from the archaeological site to the museum through archaeology and science – generated by the project.

The research is innovative from the methodological point of view and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation staff exchange programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (grant agreement No. 823826).

The BE-ARCHAEO concepts are developed and implemented by a consortium of prestigious European academic (University of Turin, University of Lisbon, IRIAE) and private parties (TecnArt, Terra-Marine and Visual Dimension) and a partner institute in Japan (Okayama University).

The commitment of all parties in Europe and in Japan is quite significant in terms of faculty and staff members, who will be seconded for 175 months to all the involved parties and mostly to Japan, where the main activities will take place.

 

Goals to achieve

The objectives are mainly three:

  • The first is to study again the origins and the past of Japan through archaeological excavations and the fundamental contribution of scientific analyzes, providing a more precise chronology of the different periods and understanding how Japanese society has developed over time.

  • The second is to add a new project that will develop the already tested collaboration between Japan and Italy in the historical-archaeological-cultural context and extend it to a higher level, with Europe.

  • The third, to create two interactive exhibitions, one in Japan and one in Italy.

  • The fourth, to make a documentary / reportage that narrates the activities that will be carried out within the project over the years.

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