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Cambridge archaeologist secures €1.5m ERC grant for Japan Project

last modified Jul 31, 2018 10:22 AM
Dr Enrico Crema amongst recipients of a 2018 European Research Council starting grant

The ENCOUNTER project - Demography, Cultural change, and the Diffusion of Rice and Millet during the Jomon-Yayoi transition in prehistoric Japan – has been named as one of the 403 successful projects to be awarded a 2018 starting grant by the European Research Council.

Yayoi period jar / Credit: Creative Commons

The project will be investigating the Jomon-Yayoi transition, a pivotal moment in Japanese prehistory, which led local groups who relied predominantly on hunting, gathering, and fishing to adopt rice and millet farming and a package of associated cultural traits during the 1st millennium BC.

This process, triggered by migratory waves from the Korean peninsula, was far from being uniform. Different regions responded to the new culture in different ways; some immediately adopted the new cultural repertoire to its full extent, others embraced only certain elements, and still others resisted for over 1,000 years, generating cultural, linguistic and genetic variations that are still tangible in modern day Japan.

Principal investigator Dr Enrico Crema of the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge said, "I'm truly excited by this great opportunity offered by the European Research Council. The project will explore a fascinating topic using one of the richest archaeological datasets in the world.”

“It will also provide an opportunity to work with Japanese colleagues, which will encourage the development of new ideas and enhance our understanding of a defining moment - the encounter between farmers and hunter-gatherers - that we observe in the archaeological record across the globe."

Map showing one of the proposed routes of wet-rice farming in Japan suggested by the literature which will be assessed as part of the project. / Image credit: Adapted from Kobayashi, K. 2009. Kinkichihoito no chiiki he no kakusan. in: Nishimoto, T. (Eds.). Yayoi-jidai no hajimari to sono nendai, Yuzankaku, Tokyo, pp. 55–82. (In Japanese)


The research team, composed of members from the University of Cambridge, University of York, and several Japanese institutions including the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, will employ computational methods to reconstruct demographic changes, biomolecular techniques to examine food residues from pottery, and an array of 'big data' analyses to study the pattern and the process of this major cultural event.

The grant will create 3 post-doctoral researcher positions (2 in Cambridge and 1 at the University of York) as well as 1 PhD studentship at Cambridge.

The full list of successful projects in the 2018 round can be found here

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