◆Unearthed Figures ~ The Molding of Prehistoric Japan and Balkan Region
High attention paid to Jomon Dogu in Britain
Britain is now in "Dogu (Earthen figures) fever." For example, an exhibition called "The Power of Dogu" was held at British Museum from September to November last year, in which 67 pieces of Jomon Dogu were introduced from Japan, and about eighty thousand people in all visited it.
The current curator of British Museum is Mr. Neil MacGregor who has made his appearance over the radio since about three weeks ago for about 15 minutes three times a day from Monday to Friday. The title of the program is "A History of the World in a 100 Objects," introducing 100 pieces of objects from British Museum collection to build a new world history. The tenth object he introduced was Japan's Jomon earthenware. So many people listened to the program, leading the words "Jomon" and "Dogu" to become well known in Britain.
European figures and Japan's Dogu
The oldest earthen figure discovered in Europe is a little fragment discovered at a certain historic site in Czech and made about 27,000 years ago. But no other pieces of earthen figures have been found. So it is supposed that people began to make figures regularly in the Balkan Peninsula in the Neolithic Era about 8,500~4,500 years ago.
The history of Japan's Dogu is older. People already made Dogu in Jomon Times about 16,000~2,500 years ago. Fragments of earthen figures made 15,000~16,000 years ago were discovered at Odaiyamamoto-Ichi Site in Aomori Prefecture. But European archaeologists say it is unbelievable because the use of Dogu is considered in Europe to begin in farming age. But some archaeologists have begun to consider recently that it's more important to pay attention to points of similarity that people of both regions made such goods in settlement life period.
A comparative exhibition of Japan and Balkan Peninsula
The project team composed of specialists belonging to Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts originally considered holding two exhibitions. One is the exhibition held at British Museum "The Power of Dogu: The Molding of Prehistoric Japan" and the other is the exhibition to be held from June 22 to August 29 this year at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts of University of East Anglia in Norwich City in eastern England "Unearthed Figures: The Molding of Prehistoric Japan and Balkan Region." We plan this year to hold a comparative exhibition of Japan's Dogu and Balkan Peninsula's figures.
The Sainsbury collection possessed by The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts include more than 300 pieces of various arts Sir Robert Sainsbury and his wife Lisa collected from 1930's. Among them Dogu in Jomon Times Lisa Robert collected is included. Among various collections the most excellent is probably the Dogu collection of Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, I think.
Main contents of the exhibition "Unearthed Figures"
So far the study on the four countries Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Greece located around the Danube in East Europe has been tackled, but scholars couldn't enter former Yugoslavia such as Macedonia, Albania. Since about ten years ago after disturbances ended archaeologists of universities became able to enter the countries for study. We are to display some earthen figures unearthed in Albania at summer exhibition for the first time.
There are many people in Britain who are interested in Japan's cartoons and animations. This is a character called "Shakoman." Dogu taken up this way, I think ordinary people who don't know archaeology so much can become more interested in.
We prepared a cartoon tea corner in an exhibition room called "Asahi-Shinbun Display" located in the left side of British Museum entrance contemporaneously with the exhibition "The Power of Dogu" and exhibited an archaeological cartoon "Munakata-Kyoju-Denkiko (Literally Professor Munakata's Biography)" by Yukinobu Hoshino, a cartoonist of Hokkaido there. He visited London during the exhibition and drew various pictures in British Museum. We exhibited all his pictures in the exhibition room. All visitors were interested in Dogu. I think we would take up such a new way to display when next exhibition time comes this year.
Earthen goods at Kosovo Museum
We are to display earthen goods possessed by National Museum of Kosovo on this year's exhibition. Kosovo became independent in 2008 after years of disturbances with former Yugoslavia.
When I visited newly constructed National Museum of Kosovo about one year and a half ago to find just several pieces of displays. I asked the reason to the curator. According to him, about ten years ago a museum in Kosovo lent about 900 pieces of cultural properties as the national museum in Belgrade was to hold an archaeological exhibition in the country level. But a month later a war broke out between former Yugoslavia and Kosovo. He said that's why the cultural properties don't come back yet.
A replica of The Goddess of Pristina figure, an earthen goods made in the Neolithic Era in Kosovo, is exhibited at the Diet Building of Kosovo.
Archaeology and today's society
3 pieces of earthen figures, Japan's national treasure, were exhibited at Dogu exhibition held at British Museum last year and the importance of ancient properties in Jomon Times was confirmed. Particularly "Chuku-Dogu (An earthen figure with empty interior)" unearthed at Chobonaino Site was exhibited even at G-8 Summit Meeting in 2008 as Hokkaido culture.
I think it's an interesting theme why such ancient stuffs are regarded important in today's society. Now Sannai-Maruyama Site and other sites in northern Tohoku and southern Hokkaido aim at world cultural heritage entry. The face itself is an interesting subject to consider the relations between archaeology and today's society.
Exhibition relating events
The exhibition "Unearthed Figures: The Molding of Prehistoric Japan and Balkan Region" is held from June 22 to August 29. I think probably various people will come from Europe and various archaeologists will visit from the Balkan Peninsula. So I think now various activities to be made in Norwich City.
We have a big library in Norwich City. I think I would hold an exhibition at the library, showing what an ordinary archaeology of Japan and the Balkan Peninsula is. A symposium is also scheduled to be held before June's opening ceremony.
We held a workshop regarding Sannai-Maruyama Site and world heritage in The Society of Antiquaries, the oldest archaeological association in Britain, at the autumn exhibition last year. Participants included Mr. Michio Okamura, Yasuhiro Okada, superintendents of educational affairs in Aomori Prefecture, staffs of universities in London and British Museum. The workshop was so good that I think I'd like to consider such a theme this summer, too.
(Translated by Junzo Miyamoto)