Cultural Evolution of Ritual Practice in Prehistoric Japan: The Kitamakura Hypothesis Is Examined

  • Misato Maikuma Nanzan University
  • Hisashi Nakao Nanzan University
Keywords: Yayoi, Kamekan jar burials, archaeology, developmental system drift, Evolution of ritual


Various disciplines, including evolutionary biology, anthropology, archaeology, and psychology, have studied the evolution of rituals. Archaeologists have typically argued that burial practices are one of the most prominent manifestations of ritual practices in the past and have explored various aspects of burial practices, including burial directions. One of the important hypotheses on the cultural evolution of burial practices in Japan is the kitamakura hypothesis, which claims that burial directions (including Kofuns and current burials) were intended to be oriented toward the north after the Kofun period under the influence of Confucianism or Buddhism. This hypothesis would be more plausible if burial directions were not oriented northward before the Kofun period. This research focused on the burial directions in the northern Kyushu area of the Yayoi period, i.e., the directions of the kamekan jar burials. The results are almost consistent with the hypothesis, although one notable exception is found, and its possible interpretations and implications are discussed.  

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