The Yagi Project Continued

Tue, 10/06/2015 - 10:14 -- atkins22

by: Emma Yasui


Image of Yagi site

When I started my master’s degree in 2009 I knew that I wanted to focus on archaeology in Japan, but was uncertain about the specifics.  I could not have predicted that over the next five years I would work on artifacts from the Jomon Period, start a PhD, and complete three research trips to Japan.  I definitely didn’t think I would ever find a topic that was focused enough to be a project, but then I was told about a collection of stone tools from the Yagi site being stored at the Royal Ontario Museum. I was unfamiliar with Jomon Period lithic technology, but I was soon hooked on the questions surrounding the Jomon and what they might have been doing with the variety of stone tools they made.  Yagi is then a very important part of my academic story, because it helped me to become an independent researcher.


Image of bagged pottery

 As I studied the Yagi artifacts I learned about the Jomon Period, Japanese archaeology, and the complications that can arise when using materials from an older project. We have a portion of the excavated artifacts, photographs, maps, field notes, and even the firsthand perspective from Dr. Crawford, but this represents only part of what the project produced. On my first trip to the Hakodate Jomon Culture Centre I spent much of my time sorting through crates that contained hundreds of bags of the remaining Yagi Project stone artifacts, along with the labels that gave me important contextual information. By the end of my visit I had built a database of the lithic assemblage held at the HJCC, and had gathered many of the coordinates and stratigraphic positionings associated with a group of provenience numbers (PNs) we had incomplete records of, since a notebook from one field season has yet to be located. Ultimately, this information can be added to the larger archive of the project, but will also form a working database that can be used for ongoing research. 


Image of bagged artifacts

Yagi is then a great example of how archaeological projects very rarely have clear and defined finishing points.  The potential for future work on a site does not really decrease as current day research is done, nor does it disappear if a collection or site goes unstudied for spans of time.  Not even storage facility fires and earthquakes can completely erase further opportunities to explore sites and assemblages. After the Yagi Project excavations ended, local archaeologists continued to conduct several decades of work at the site.  Both the project and subsequent Japanese excavations produced massive amounts of data and artifacts that can be revisited as questions and methods within archaeology change.  Well developed and accessible archives are then incredibly important, and it has been great to see the Yagi materials being recatalogued, 3D scanned, digitized, and presented to a wider audience.

Image of stone tools

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