December 30, 2008

Craniofacial study of the Jomon of Japan

American Journal of Physical Anthropology doi:10.1002/ajpa.20985

Regional differences in craniofacial diversity and the population history of Jomon Japan

Tsunehiko Hanihara, Hajime Ishida


The people associated with the Jomon culture, the Neolithic inhabitants of Japan, are one of the key groups in the population history of East Asia, because they retain many archaic characters that may be traced back to Eurasian Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. In this study, the regional diversity of the Jomon skeletal series was estimated by applying the R-matrix method to 34 craniofacial measurements. The patterns of intraregional variation indicate little effect on the genetic structure of the Jomon from long-term gene flow stemming from an outside source. The regional diversities were further estimated by pooling all individuals into regional aggregates, and by computing the mean variance within local groups in each region. Although the pattern of phenotypic variation differs depending on the unit of analysis, the gradient of the diversity retains its identity. The Hokkaido region, the northernmost part of the Japanese archipelago, has the highest variance, followed by the regions of eastern Japan, while the southwestern regions have the lowest variance. These findings suggest that the Jomon ancestors of the northern part of Japan might have expanded southward to Honshu Island. Global analyses including samples from Eurasia, Africa, and Australia dating roughly to the same chronological periods as those of the Jomon samples, indicate that the Jomon cranial series share part of their ancestral gene pool with early northeastern Asians. The present findings support the archeologically suggested population growth and expansion in the northern half of the Eurasian continent during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene periods.



  1. Interesting study. Take a look at the Ainu Rebels and you can see lots of features that look like Native Americans or even Europeans. Take a look at

  2. I've copied this over from Afarensis' blog. I believe she has a very good point.

    "Since the demented gerbil that runs VISTA won't allow me to comment on Dienekes' site, I thought I'd try it here. That study of Jomon craniofacial diversity suggests that since the greatest diversity is found around Hokkaido, the northernmost part of the Japanese archipelago, and the southwest has the least diversity, that the Jomon ancestors must have arrived first in the north and expanded toward Honshu Island in the south. My observation is that while this is usually the interpretation for continents, I think it makes less sense for islands. Here, I tend to think the pattern of migration may well have been from the south to begin with. Then with successive waves, each new group pushed the previous group(s) toward the north. In the end there were more different folks in the north because of that reason, not because they started off in Hokkaido. That's because back in the late Pleistocene, they could have come to Honshu island from the mainland by boat, where the climate was not too bad. But up in the north, where it was connected to the mainland, there was this nasty glacier covering up everything. At least, that's the way it looks on the maps I've seen. And I don't think the people back then were well adapted to living on ice sheets. That's the Gainer hypothesis anyway.

    Posted by: DianaGainer | January 3, 2009 3:29 PM"

  3. The Hokkaido Jomon, if I remember correctly, show genetic and cranio affinities with present-day mainland Siberians. Yes, the Jomon were more diverse up there, hehe.


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