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Shinano River Project

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The Shinano Project is investigating the development of historic environments along the longest river drainage in Japan, comprising the Chikuma and Shinano River systems. The first phase of the project was focused on the excavation of the Sanka site in the city of Nagaoka, Niigata prefecture, and an assessment of the known archaeology along the river. This site dates to the Middle Jomon (c. 3500-2500 BC) and has produced some of the earliest examples of Flame-style pottery (kaen doki). The project is being directed through the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and is being undertaken in conjunction with the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History and the Nagaoka Municipal Science Museum. Ongoing analysis includes AMS dating (at the University of Tokyo), analysis of the chemical composition of the clays used to make Flame pots (at American University, Washington DC), and the processing of archaeobotanical and soil micro morphological samples taken during the excavation. The Cambridge-based component of the research is investigating the metastable ecosystems of around Sanka and at other locations along the river. Publication of the first phase of the project is currently underway and a second campaign of fieldwork at Sanka is being planned. The project has received funding from the British Academy, with further research, especially into the Jomon dogu figurines from the area, was funded as part of a broader AHRC project investigating dogu.

As a participant in this project, Liliana Janik is looking at the cultural categorisation of the natural landscape in visual art (figurines, masks and pottery) and environmental proxies in establishing non equilibrium environments in the Holocene Shinano and Chikuma river systems in Japan.