Cultural History of PaleoAsia

Scientific Research on Innovative Areas,
a MEXT Grant-in-Aid Project

A02: Dynamism of human behavior during the dispersal of Homo sapiens into Asia

Research Organization

Team Leader
  • Seiji Kadowaki, Lecturer
    Prehistoric Archaeology, Nagoya University Museum, Nagoya University, Japan
  • Masami Izuho, Associate Professor
    Geoarchaeology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan
  • Rintaro Ono, Associate Professor
    Maritime Archaeology, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan
  • Yuichi Nakazawa, Assistant Professor
    Palaeolithic Archaeology, Faculty of Medicine, Hokkaido University, Japan
  • Keiichi Takahashi, Deputy Director-General
    Vertebrate Paleontology, Lake Biwa Museum, Japan
  • Yuichi Naito, Reserch Fellow
    Evolutionary anthropology, Chronology, Nagoya University Museum, Japan
Overseas Collaborators
  • Donald O. Henry, Professor Emeritus
    Department of Anthropology, University of Tulsa, USA
  • Byambaa Gunchinsuren, Vice President
    Institute of History and Archaeology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Mongolia
  • Alfred F. Pawlik, Professor
    Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines
Invited Researchers
  • Takashi Nakazawa, Professor
    Division of Natural Sciences, Research Group of Chemistry, Nara Women’s University, Japan


Research Objectives

Recent archaeological studies suggest that biological and cultural origins of Homo sapiens do not necessarily coincide with each other. Although it is widely accepted that biological features of Homo sapiens are mostly derived from a part of populations in Africa ca. 200 kya, there are ongoing debates regarding the formative processes of cultural and behavioral characteristics of Homo sapiens. The PaleoAsia project aims at clarifying the formative processes of cultural and behavioral characteristics of Homo sapiens during their spread into Asia. To provide data directly related to this purpose, the Research Team A02 conducts systematic collections and analyses of archaeological records about human behavior during the dispersal of Homo sapiens into Asia. The analyses aim to show cultural/behavioral diversity within Asia and its diachronic patterns. The results of the analyses will be integrated with the data from other research teams to describe regional patterns in the appearance of modern human cultures in Asia and explain the patterns as historical processes.

Research Methods

To study human behavioral dynamics during the dispersal of Homo sapiens into Asia, we use archaeological sites dated to ca. 100–20 kya (part of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic periods) as main sources of data. We collect new records by investigating archaeological sites in several key areas, such as West Asia, North Asia, and Southeast Asia. These original data are complemented by literature survey for previous and ongoing archaeological studies about human behaviors in various parts of Asia.
Using these archaeological records, we analyze past human behavior by focusing on several aspects including 1) tool production (mainly lithics), 2) resource utilization (land and aquatic resources), 3) settlement and mobility patterns, and 4) social relations (as expressed in burials, hearths, and symbolic objects). The analyses of these behavioral aspects aim to clarify their geographic diversity and diachronic changes.
We then interpret the results of the analyses by integrating data about the dispersal patterns of Homo sapiens into Asia (provided by Research Team A01) and paleoenvironmental data (provided by Research Team A03) in order to discuss a question of how modern humans maintained or changed their cultures (through innovations or contacts with indigenous populations) during their dispersal into Asia. The appearance of modern human cultures in Asia is expected to show diverse regional patterns, which are then examined for underlying processes by incorporating mathematical models and culture anthropological theories (Research Teams B), which employ quantitative methods and ethnographic examples to examine human behavior, such as human dispersal, environmental adaptation, and cultural contacts.

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