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From the Embodied to the Ethereal: Tooth Extraction as a Reflection of Time, Agency, and the Persistence of Social Presence after Death in Late/Final Jomon Period Hunter-Gatherers from the Atsumi Peninsula, Japan.

Hunter-gatherer social complexity has long held an important role in anthropological discourse. Initial interest in hunter-gatherers was rooted in the production of a binary opposition to industrial capitalism or romantic ideations of life prior to the corrupting forces of socioeconomic inequality (Barnard 2014; Pluciennik 2002). Evolutionary approaches to hunter-gatherers emphasize limited complexity in terms of socioeconomic exploitation and symbolism (Frazer 1890; Morgan 1877). As a whole, these emphases have captured the attention of scholars by producing a holotype of human social organization (Blurton Jones 2006; Marlowe 2002). However, the coordination of identities over the life course is frequently missed when categorial variables are targeted with the underlying goal of demonstrating relative social complexity in a progressive framework. Here, "coordination of identities" refers to the ways in which symbolic aspects of the self unfold over the course of an individual lifetime and help reveal what Cannon (2011:1) refers to as "ideologically structured actions." Factors such as body modification, material goods, and the developmental process may be melded to reveal the ways in which identities are produced, reproduced, and maintained over the course of a lifetime and across the threshold of death. The coordination of identities, thus, refers to the ways in which multiple scales of lived experience may be integrated to evaluate the worldviews, cosmologies, and perceptions of hunter-gathers. This study reports on the ontology of ritual tooth extraction in hunter-gatherers from the Late/Final phase (4300 to 2500 B.P.) of the Jomon culture on the Atsumi Peninsula, with the expressed goal of better clarifying the coordination of these scales within the human life course.

Studies of archaeological mortuary practices emphasize age distinctions in body treatment as evidence for achieved identities, whereas elaborate bodily and mortuary treatments for pre-adults reflect ascribed identities (Binford 1971; Brown 1981; Nakamura 1998, 1999; Rothschild 1979). This approach treats biological maturation and mortuary practices as variables used to help categorize populations according to ranked attributes of complexity. However, age and maturation are social events that must also be interpreted within ontological contexts. For example, bioarchaeologists advocate for the study of bodily treatment within social frameworks that transcend categorizations associated with linear views of social complexity and instead speak to transformational stages in the life history of individuals (Gowland 2006; Halcrow and Tayles 2008, 2011). It is also noted that mortuary treatment is found in hunter-gatherer pre-adult burials in the absence of ascribed leadership, and that this process represents social perceptions of the life cycle symbolized in death (Justice and Temple 2018; Yamada 1997). Numerous studies demonstrate clear age-based delineations in mortuary practices, and some even portend flexibility/resilience in response to cultural transitions (Gowland 2006; Justice and Temple 2018; Sofaer Dervenski 2000). These findings suggest that the exploration of maturation in the archaeological mortuary record is an important component to reconstructing transformational periods in past human life cycles, and the treatment of maturation in the archaeological mortuary record carries important symbolic information regarding social practices across time and space.

Bioarchaeology and the Human Life Span

Recent bioarchaeological reviews of the human life span remain critical of an approach that treats age as a timeline and singularly contextualizes this timeline in association with mortuary practices or other socially prescribed treatments of the body (Sofaer 2011). At issue is the "layer-cake" approach adopted by bioarchaeologists in the reconstruction of social age, specifically the integration of social age and chronological age when age-at-death estimations are mapped onto archaeological evidence for social practice causing two separate conceptualizations of identity to be merged. One solution to this problem is a philosophical approach that interacts with physical, personal, and social being as components of the life span (Sofaer 2011).

These components of the life span are derived from the work of Rom Harre (1991), who divides being into three components: physical (birth to death), personal (late infancy/early childhood to senility), and social (pre-conception to after bodily death). Physical being references the corporeal life span, tied to the exigencies of birth, death, and biological instances marking the passage of time (Harre 1991). In bioarchaeology, the estimation of age at death is performed using biological phases of development and degeneration (Ubelaker 1989). Thus, the physical life span may be explored using age-at-death estimations as a useful proxy. The social being represents the continuum of identity expressed by individuals, often taking shape before birth and persisting after death (Harre 1991). Archaeological mortuary practices are referential of the social components of individual identity that persist through the actions of the living (Carr 1995; Parker Pearson 1982; Shanks and Tilley 1982). These components may include evidence for grave goods, funerary feasting, treatment of the body during extra-personal periods (e.g., fetal remains), or spatial orientation within a cemetery.

Personal being represents individual and societal consciousness of the self, and therefore the capacity for self-determination (Harre 1991)--analogous to the body politic, which references the regulation and control of bodies at many levels of practice (Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987). Personal being is associated with the onset of self-awareness and ends with the loss of mental proprioception (Harre 1991). In terms of bioarchaeology, the personal life span may be observed through skeletal evidence of behaviors that demonstrate the ability to choose between alternatives during life (Sofaer 2011). Alternately, the personal life span may be illustrated in death if symbols associated with mortuary practices reflect a deeper resonance of individual capacity to consciously choose or regulate the composition of the body. Mortuary practices may be referential of personal life spans if the treatments interact with communal awareness of individual agency.

Tooth Extraction and Jomon Biocultural Context

Alterations of the body demonstrate the transformation of social identity into the physical being, which then acts as a symbolic message to the viewer and may also be tied to a broader performance, either public or private (Joyce 2005). Tooth extraction is a form of physical alteration that is immediately observable and symbolically conveys information about individual identity (Hrdlicka 1940; Milner and Larsen 1991; Robb 1997; Stojanowski et al. 2014). The practice is shaped by a performance that holds inherent symbolic and transformational value--identities are reshaped following the event, transforming the relational boundaries of the individual (Milner and Larsen 1991; Pietrusewsky and Douglas 1993). Placing tooth-extraction practices into detailed developmental context helps evaluate the ontological nature of this embodied process, literally the transformation to a social identity that is codified into the physical being and how that being may unfold across the life span (Pietrusewsky and Douglas 1993; Robb 1997; Sofaer 2011; Tayles 1996). Tracking the interaction of tooth extraction with physical, social, and personal life span in the archaeological record allows for the exploration of these interactive spheres of social complexity with symbolic indicators of identity. This study evaluates differential expressions of the life span among individuals with varied styles of tooth extraction during the Late/Final phases of the Jomon period.

Jomon culture dates to approximately 16,400 B.P. and is named for impressions on ceramics produced by a cord-wrapped dowel (Habu 2014). Jomon populations occupied the entirety of the Japanese islands and were involved in a diverse hunting, fishing, and gathering economy with evidence for adaptation to regional landscapes (Akazawa 1999). This culture was subsumed into a larger cultural and socioeconomic system associated with migrations from the East Asian continent and the introduction of wet-rice agriculture in southwestern Japan around 2500 B.P. (Hudson 1999; Imamura 1996; Tsude 2001). This process is differentiated in Hokkaido, where Jomon culture persists through the Epi-Jomon and Satsumon periods, particularly in the southeastern portion of the island (Imamura 1996). Jomon persistence is further documented in the cultural practices and genetic ancestry of modern Ainu communities (Adachi et al. 2018; Kanzawa-Kiriyama et al. 2017; Okada 1998; Yamaura and Ushiro 1999).

Bioarchaeological evidence for maturation and identity among Jomon hunter-gatherers is evaluated according to relationships between age at death and diet, growth disruption, and mortuary practices (Temple 2016, 2018; Tsutaya et al. 2016; Yamada 1997). One remarkable indicator of identity in Jomon communities is tooth extraction. Patterns of tooth extraction observed among Jomon people include those with antemortem removal of both mandibular canines (2C) or four mandibular incisors (4I; Fig. 1). Previous studies argued that tooth extraction reflected postmarital residence, identifying individuals with the 4I style of tooth extraction as local residents based on more frequent occurrences of grave goods (Harunari 1986). Differences in extraction styles between males and females are not found in a number of studies; as a result, interpretations regarding postmarital residence patterns are not sex-specific (Funahashi 2003; Harunari 1986; Harvey et al. 2017). The postmarital residence hypothesis was rejected by biodistance and strontium isotope analysis (Kusaka et al. 2009; Tanaka 1998, 2001; Temple et al. 2011). Findings from Late/Final Jomon period sites in the Kanto and Tokai regions suggest that these indicators of identity were concomitant with age (Funahashi 2003; Temple et al. 2011), while careful analyses of funerary treatment suggests that a select few individuals with both 4I and 2C styles of tooth extraction were found buried with grave goods furnished from animal remains, though individuals without tooth extraction were also buried with some of these materials (Funahashi 2010; Harunari 2002; Kiriyama and Kusaka 2017; Yamada 1997). Despite these findings, it is important to emphasize that tooth extraction is a distinctive behavior that draws immediate attention to the individual, and on this basis, as well as that associated with grave goods, individuals with tooth extraction are often thought to have been distinct members of the Late/Final Jomon community (Harunari 1986; Harvey et al. 2017). Drawing upon findings that suggest tooth extraction appears at a particular stage in the life course and that these individuals were frequently affiliated with grave goods, this study tests the hypothesis that the presence of tooth extraction interacted with the physical, personal, and social life span of prehistoric Jomon people and that these interactions may differentiate individuals with tooth extraction from those without. Testing this hypothesis allows for an evaluation of the ways in which identities were coordinated around tooth extraction, specifically exploring how the social, personal, and physical life spans of the individual were produced and reproduced.

Materials and Methods


This study collected data from three archaeological sites located on the Atsumi Peninsula along the Mikawa Bay on the Pacific Coast of Central Honshu Island, Japan. The sites include Ikawazu, Inariyama, and Yoshigo (Fig. 2). There is great diversity in the formation process of Jomon period sites, which produces remarkable inter- and intraregional heterogeneity in culture and biohistories (Akazawa 1986; Sawada et al. 2008; Temple 2007). As a result, it is important to compare site-formation processes between the three sites considered here to ensure a reasonable scale for comparability and combining data.

Kobayashi (1992) divides Jomon period sites into six distinct categories. Pattern A reflects the "model Jomon village" and includes 100 or more pit dwellings, tools used for both functional and ritual purposes, and several styles of pottery. Pattern A sites also have cemeteries with carefully delineated boundaries between the living and spiritual worlds. The diversity of tools and pottery as well as accumulations of human skeletal remains and number of pit dwellings are important in demonstrating long-standing occupation of the sites.

The Ikawazu site was excavated in 1922 by Professor Y. Koganei, and again from 1936 to 1937, from 1957 to 1959, and in 1984 by Professor H. Suzuki as well as local archaeological firms. Animal remains suggest that boar was hunted throughout the year (Niimi 1991). Annuli of shellfish and estimated ecological potential of other aquatic species demonstrate the yearly availability of these resources (Takahashi et al. 1998). Tools at the site include bone fishhooks, stone arrowheads, stone sinkers, deer antlers placed near the right ilium of individuals in burial, shell bracelets worn in mortuary contexts, and stone axes. Radiocarbon dating of human skeletal remains from the Ikawazu site suggests an occupation between 3070 and 2440 B.P. (Kusaka et al. 2015). These findings indicate that the Ikawazu site was associated with long-term occupation and that the site formation is consistent with settlement Pattern A. Ikawazu is similar to Inariyama in scale and smaller than Yoshigo.

The Inariyama site is also located on the Atsumi Peninsula and was excavated by Professor K. Kiyono in 1922 (Kiyono 1969). Pottery styles at this site include designs associated with the Final Jomon period and clay figurines related to ritual function. Tools of functional and symbolic importance also were found at this site. Some examples of these tools include stone axes, stone arrowheads, stone weights, aligning stones, bone hooks, deer antlers placed near the right ilium of individuals, and processed animal remains included in graves. The site features a large number of pit dwellings. In addition, radiocarbon analysis of the site suggests that it was occupied between 3000 and 2300 B.P. (Kusaka et al. in press). Overall, the Inariyama site appears to fall into a similar category as the Ikawazu and Yoshigo sites (Pattern A) inasmuch as it was occupied over a long period of time. However, the scale of the site is smaller by comparison.

The Yoshigo site was excavated by Professor K. Kiyono in 1922 and 1923 and by the Commission for Protection of Cultural Properties in 1950 (Kiyono 1969; Saito et al. 1952). Tools excavated from the site include stone axes, stone arrowheads, stone weights, aligning stones, bone hooks, shell bracelets, pendants made from boar tusk, deer horns placed near the right ilium of individuals within mortuary contexts, and a plethora of additional artifacts relating to the functional and symbolic landscape of this community. Pottery included Types I and II of the Late Jomon period, three types from the Final Jomon period, and possibly a Yayoi period pottery style that diffused into the area from southwestern Honshu (Saito et al. 1952). Radiocarbon dates of mollusk shell and human skeletal remains place the occupation of the site between 3300 and 2800 B.P. (Kusaka et al. 2009; Watanabe 1966). These findings suggest that Yoshigo fits within the Pattern A schematic of site formation.


Harunari (1986) identified two primary styles of mandibular tooth extraction in the Late/Final phase of the Jomon period resulting from a phased process. First, individuals removed maxillary canines. In a subsequent step, two mandibular canines or all four mandibular incisors were extracted. For the purposes of this study, two primary styles of mandibular tooth extraction identified by Harunari (1986) are included: two mandibular canines (2C) and four mandibular incisors (4I). Tooth extraction was identified in association with uniform closure of the alveolus at all locations of removal. In some cases, evidence for traumatic extraction of teeth was observed as small, bead-shaped remnants of tooth root within alveolar bone (Takenaka et al. 2001). Bioarchaeologists also identify tooth extraction by repetitive, symmetrical patterns of tooth loss in the absence of significant oral infection and involving all possible age categories (Hrdlicka 1940; Pietrusewsky and Douglas 1993; Tayles 1996). All cases included in this study relied on similar diagnostic criteria, involving patterned symmetrical tooth loss with uniformly healed alveoli combined with a select few instances of roots trapped in the alveolus. In some instances, individuals with partial or incomplete forms of the 4I style of tooth extraction were also identified. These individuals all originated from the Yoshigo site and were not included in this analysis due to the obscure nature of tooth-extraction style.

The number of individuals with estimated age at death is listed in Table 1 by site and tooth-extraction style. Age-at-death estimates are used to evaluate physical life span in this study. Age at death in adults was estimated using transition analysis as applied to the auricular surface and pubic symphysis. Transition analysis divides the pubic symphysis and auricular surface into multiple regions so that phases of senescence are explored as components of the anatomical structure because phases of degeneration are not uniform across these elements (Boldsen et al. 2002). The method avoids mimicry of the reference sample by deriving the probability of a senescent phase of degeneration in the pubic symphysis or auricular surface at a given age: Pr([c.sub.j]|a). In this probability function, [c.sub.j] is the set of skeletal traits observed in the j-th individual, and a represents the probability of death at a particular age given the features observed in the individual (Boldsen et al. 2002:76). This probability function is the inverse of the assumed regression that derives age estimates as a dependent value of degenerative phases from reference samples, as the preponderance of individuals within a particular age group increases the likelihood that individuals in this phase will be assigned to that age category. Here, age (Pr(a|[c.sub.j])) can then be estimated based on Bayes' theorem and the use of an informed prior. Transition analysis collates this information into a logit or proportional odds model that estimates age at death. Morphological features of the pubic symphysis and auricular surface were recorded according to protocols published by Boldsen et al. (2002). These features were entered into the ABDOU 2.1.046 software program, which calculates point estimates and 95 percent confidence intervals for the age at death of each individual. An informed prior derived from archaeological samples was chosen.

Age at death in pre-adults was estimated by comparing phases of permanent tooth formation to charts of dental maturation (AlQhatani et al. 2010). Tooth-formation stages were observed using radiographic analysis of the mandible. Radiographs were produced using a NOMAD PRO 2 (Aribex, Provo, Utah) handheld x-ray device and a Dr. Suni Plus intraoral digital light sensor (Suni, San Jose, California). Maturation charts provide average ages of attainment for tooth-formation stages, and these estimates were averaged across all available teeth for each individual as recommended by Smith (1991).

Finally, in some instances, age at death could not be estimated using tooth formation and emergence or transition analysis. In these cases, fusion of secondary centers of ossification including the femoral head, femoral condyle, iliac crest, medial clavicle, distal humerus (lateral epicondyle, medial epicondyle, and trochlea), and humeral head were recorded as fully fused, in the process of fusing, or not fused. Age ranges were then produced based on reference standards (Buikstra and Ubelaker 1994; Scheuer and Black 2004).

One persistent theme in the archaeological mortuary practices of Jomon people from the Atsumi Peninsula region is the use of animal implements as grave goods (Fig. 3). Animal implements are defined as artifacts found in the context of burial that are derived from animal remains or fashioned into animistic shapes (Justice 2017). Animal implements at the sites in this study include the remains of deer, monkey, boar, fish, and mollusks in the grave, and are often affixed to the body. The presence or absence of animal implements within these graves was recorded directly from archaeological databases for the sites (Kiyono 1969; Koganei 1922). Animal implements were matched to catalog numbers for each burial and listed as present or absent in association with tooth-extraction style.

Hip ornaments are another persistent theme in the archaeological mortuary record of Late/Final Jomon people from the Atsumi Peninsula that may act as symbols of the personal life span (Fig. 4). Hip ornaments are shed deer antlers and are found near the right ilium of individuals within the grave (Harunari 1986). At least five styles of hip ornaments have been recorded from the archaeological mortuary record (Kiyono 1969). Hip ornaments are recovered from a small percentage of burials, and the intentional use of these items is demonstrated through purposeful spatial arrangement within graves. In addition, a recent study from the Yoshigo site suggests that individuals buried with hip ornaments ate a distinct diet from those without these ornaments (Kiriyama and Kusaka 2017). Thus, for the purposes of this study, these artifacts are used as symbols of the personal life span. This study recorded the presence of hip ornaments from detailed archaeological excavation records for the Yoshigo, Ikawazu, and Inariyama sites (Kiyono 1969; Koganei 1922). These were matched to catalog numbers for each burial and listed as present or absent in association with tooth-extraction style.

The number of individuals with and without grave goods is listed in Table 2 by tooth-extraction style. Tooth-extraction practices are plotted against estimated age at death for all Jomon individuals. Emergence of tooth extraction along the physical life span is identified using this method. The association between tooth extraction, personal life span, and social life span was explored using multiple correspondence analysis (MCA). MCA output includes a two-dimensional display that graphs the relationship between columnar and row variables, with greater proximity indicating stronger association (Greenacre 1981). This graphical depiction of contingencies between row and columnar variables for nominal data involves a singular test, lowers the risk of a Type I error, and conveniently displays the relationships between row and column variables in graphical form. In MCA, variation between columns and rows is condensed into two dimensions each yielding eigenvectors that express the amount of variation explained by each dimension (Greenacre 1981). These dimensions represent "deconstructed" chi-square statistics, where the eigenvector for each dimension yields a specific percentage of the chi-square value and represents the relative strength of association between row and column variables. Similarity in location along these axes suggests greater contingencies between the column and row variables. Two styles of tooth extraction (4I, 2C) and the absence of tooth extraction were listed as column variables, while row variables were defined as individuals buried with animal implements, individuals buried with hip ornaments, and individuals lacking grave goods.


Age estimates for pre-adults and point estimates of age at death in adults are shown in relation to tooth extraction in Figure 5. Individuals with type 4I and 2C tooth extraction range in age between 12.0 and 85.0 years. Individuals without tooth extraction range in age between 9.0 and 83.0 years. Tooth extraction first emerges at 12.0 years and is absent in all individuals aged greater than 9.0 and less than 12.0 years.

Results from the MCA are depicted in Figure 6. Results of the combined chi-square analysis were statistically significant ([chi square] = 9.8; p [less than or equal to] 0.05; df = 4). Dimension 1 explains 86.92% of the variation in the data. Dimension 2 is associated with 13.08% of the variation in the data. The relative inertia of Dimension 1 is 0.049, while the inertia in Dimension 2 is 0.007. This finding suggests that relationships observed in Dimension 1 have seven times the explanatory power as those seen in Dimension 2. These results suggest that differences and similarities along Dimension 1 represent strong associations between row and column variables, while contingencies in Dimension 2 have comparatively weaker statistical power. All groups are associated with a lack of grave goods in Dimensions 1 and 2. This result reflects data reported in Table 2 illustrating that the vast majority of burials did not include grave goods. Individuals with 4I and 2C tooth extraction are located closer to animal implements in Dimension 1 than those lacking tooth extraction and are substantially closer to this variable in Dimension 2. This finding is consistent with results reported in Table 2, which document that a select few individuals with 4I and 2C tooth extraction received animal implements in burial, while those lacking tooth extraction did not receive animal implements. A strong association is observed between individuals with 4I tooth extraction and hip ornaments. Individuals with 2C tooth extraction and those lacking tooth extraction are located farther from the hip ornament variable. This result is of interest because it demonstrates close association between individuals with 4I tooth extraction and hip ornaments, even though these individuals were not the only members of the sample to receive these items in burial. The strength of the association is, however, contingent on the relative frequencies of these items in each tooth-extraction group.


Tooth extraction and the physical life span

Results of this study suggest that tooth extraction reflects an identity that was attained after 12.0 years of age. These results are consistent with previous studies that found tooth extraction was associated with age in Late/Final Jomon period hunter-gatherers (Funahashi 2003, 2010; Temple et al. 2011). The results differ from those reported by Temple et al. (2011) because that study applied correspondence analysis to widely defined age groups. While useful in explaining tooth extraction as a process based on age, this earlier work did not successfully identify the emergence of this transformative event. Work by Funahashi (2003, 2010) includes the Yoshigo and Inariyama sites as well as the Tsukumo site and argues that this process appears in individuals around 13.0 years of age, with some potentially earlier cases recorded around 10.5 years. The slight difference in ages reported by Funahashi (2003, 2010) and in this study likely are due to use of radiographs of tooth crown and root formation to estimate age in pre-adults. By comparison, Funahashi (2003, 2010) estimated age at death using tooth emergence. Tooth emergence may produce more ambiguous results, particularly during the late stages of childhood and early stages of adolescence due to the presence of a mixed dentition (Smith 1991). Overall, however, the differences in chronological age estimated by this study and Funahashi (2003, 2010) are negligible and point toward a ritual process that is contingent upon development.

Evidence for the emergence of tooth extraction over the Jomon life course suggests that this process represents a transformational event. Here, the term "transformational" is used to intentionally highlight the fact that individuals who experience tooth extraction enter into identities that are distinct from earlier points in life. This process is exemplified through ethnohistoric studies of indigenous Hawaiians (Pietrusewsky and Douglas 1993). Tooth extraction was practiced during mourning ceremonies for chiefs. The practice was used to signal close relationships with chiefly leaders and, most importantly, symbolize the transition to an identity of bereavement/affiliation following these deaths. Reports from the Khok Phanom Di site (4500 to 3000 B.P.) in Thailand illustrate a similar pattern of tooth removal (Tayles 1996). Extraction of mandibular teeth was restricted to older individuals, while the removal of maxillary teeth is recorded as early as 15 years. The exact nature of tooth extraction in prehistoric Thailand is elusive, though the delineation of age at death in relation to tooth extraction clearly emphasizes the transformational nature of this practice over the physical life span. In another case, individuals from Cambodia express tooth-extraction patterns that represent stepped processes across the life span, with maxillary teeth removed prior to mandibular teeth (Domett et al. 2013). Tooth extraction in these samples also may have been associated with the unfolding of new identities (e.g., marriage, adulthood, or mourning). Previous studies argue that, among prehistoric Jomon hunter-gatherers, this relationship reflects ceremonial rights of passage, with specific reference to marriage, birth of offspring, or ritual mourning (Funahashi 2003; Harunari 1986). It is worth pointing out that the mandibular canine emerges between 10.5 and 12.5 years of age, while the maxillary canine emerges around 12.5 years (AlQhatani et al. 2010). Maxillary canines are often removed prior to 4I or 2C tooth extraction (Funahashi 2003; Harunari 1986). Given that the earliest ages for tooth extraction that were captured by this study are around 12.0 years of age, it is likely that this procedure was timed to the earliest point of canine emergence. In this sense, tooth extraction appears tethered to the physical life span, not in terms of years, but instead symbolized by the emergence of teeth.

The interaction between tooth extraction and age at death demonstrates a strong association between the physical life span and tooth removal. Previous studies downplay the interaction of physical life span with social events, emphasizing the culturally defined aspects of the lived experience. However, it is important to point out that personal and social interactions with the living body, while culturally defined, are negotiated around a series of contingencies. For example, tooth extraction cannot be completed until all permanent teeth incorporated by this practice have emerged. An obvious yet important point to make is that tooth emergence varies in cross-cultural context (Guatelli-Steinberg 2009). However, tooth emergence still occurs according to reasonably narrow ranges within populations and is governed by a series of well-coordinated biological signaling cascades related to tooth formation. For example, the gene families within the dental follicle are expressed at different times: those that are initially expressed (CSF-1, EMAP-II, MCP-1, SFRP-1) govern bone and root (of an erupted deciduous tooth) resorption, and those that are secondarily expressed (OPG, RANKL, VEGF, TNF-[alpha]) govern formation of bone around a tooth root within the alveolar crypt (Cielenski et al. 1994; Liu and Wise 2007; Marks et al. 1983; Wise and Fan 1989; Wise and King 2008; Wise and Yao 2003; Yao et al. 2006). Tooth extraction is, therefore, developmentally contingent and tethered to the physical life span of individuals. It is, therefore, likely that teeth, which emerge at different times between individuals, were symbolic record keepers of time in association with unfolding of identities in these communities.

Tooth extraction and the social and personal life span

Multiple correspondence analysis found associations between a lack of grave goods and all three tooth-extraction categories (4I, 2C, absent). This observation is consistent with archaeological studies suggesting little evidence for elaboration in ceremony or mortuary ritual among Jomon people from central and southwestern Honshu (Habu 2004; Imamura 1996; Nakamura 1998, 1999) and with more recent studies that argue for increasing investment in mortuary ritual during the Late/Final Jomon period (Kawashima 2011; Kobayashi 1992; Nakamura 1998, 1999). Few individuals have grave goods at these sites, but this represents an increase from earlier periods. It is, however, important to note that mortuary practices and corporeal modifications may also be produced through the aegis of agency, as strategies for social affiliation are aimed at visual symbols in life and death (Hodder 1982; Parker Pearson 1982; Shanks and Tilley 1982).

In prehistoric Cambodia only a select few individuals with tooth extraction (n = 6) were interred with grave goods, and no specific pattern could be identified within this limited sample (Domett et al. 2013). Similarly, tooth modification (notching, filing) among Pre-Classic Mayan death assemblages is observed among individuals buried in elite tombs (see below) but also among those lacking elite burial treatment, including a paucity of grave goods (Geller 2006). Geller (2006) notes that tooth modification may have altered social perceptions as individuals sought socio-symbolic affiliations with elite identities. Similar strategies of affiliation are found in populations that extract teeth during mourning ceremonies in an effort to symbolize propinquity with the deceased (Pietrusewsky and Douglas 1993; Robb 1997). These findings suggest that tooth extraction may have served as a symbolic social strategy aimed at deeper communal affiliations during the Late/Final Jomon period and explain why the majority of individuals with tooth extraction lacked grave goods.

Several intriguing associations with grave goods were also revealed by the MCA. Individuals with 4I and 2C tooth extraction were located more closely to the presence of animal implements when compared to those without tooth extraction in Dimensions 1 and 2. Animal remains represent the objectification of memory in hunter-gatherers, as these objects have unique ontologies that recall how each object came into being (Ingold 2005). Ethnohistoric research highlights the Ainu belief in the eternality of human and animal souls as well as ideations of the body as a temporary vessel for the soul (Obayashi 1997). Animal figurines and remains were often used to promote interactions with the Ainu spirit world (Fujimura 1999). In addition, ethnohistoric studies of Ainu mortuary behavior document burial with personal goods, including utensils and tools for use in the afterlife (Fujimura 1999). Clay figurines found at ritual centers represent animals from the Jomon diet (Matsumoto 2011; Nagamine 1986). Faunal remains found as mortuary offerings or affixed to bodies in this study were associated the Jomon subsistence spectrum (Akazawa 1999). These findings indicate deep philosophical relationships between humans and animals, while emphasizing the possibility that the ontologies of animal remains were anchored to memorable events.

Tooth modification is an exceedingly painful event, one that is inscribed in the body of recipients, serving as a permanent memory of the event and a symbol to individuals who observe the modification. Geller (2006) argues that these events are cumulative over the life course of individuals rather than idiomatic references to the ritual. For example, some Pre-Classic Mayans with tooth modification were buried in elite tombs, suggesting that tooth modification as a practice may encode deeper and emergent aspects of the social life span. Thus, the emergence of tooth extraction and association with material symbols represents an ontological problem. Ingold (1998) establishes that hunter-gatherers are defined in part by cyclical interactions with nature, including reciprocal relationships between animals and humans in the living and spirit world. These relationships are often symbolized in amulets, which are defined as charms that belong to individuals and are frequently worn on the body or sewn into clothing (Hill 2011). Animal remains worn as amulets or found in funerary contexts are frequently associated with ritual treatment of deceased animals and are often believed to provide supernatural agencies to humans (Hill 2011). This association is of particular significance given the placement of animal implements within the grave and on the body. Boar tusk pendants (Fig. 3C) are, for example, found along the humeral or tibial shaft of individuals (Koganei 1922). Monkey radii are found near the mastoid process and likely functioned as earrings, while shark teeth are found at similar locations (Kiyono 1969; Koganei 1922). In addition, conical shells (Fig. 3B) are found encircling radial and ulnar diaphyses, indicating that these items were worn as bracelets (Kiyono 1969; Koganei 1922). Among populations where cyclical relationships with the natural world define the socioecological and ceremonial realms, it is possible that the incorporation of these implements into daily appearance reflects the unique ways in which identities continued to unfold over the life span for a select group of individuals with tooth extraction. The further incorporation of these distinctive motifs into the mortuary ritual allows for the persistence of identity following death and represents a unique component of the social life span for this select group.

MCA also found associations between individuals with 4I tooth extraction and hip ornaments in Dimension 1. The results of this study are similar to those that repeatedly find association between individuals with 4I tooth and hip ornaments (Harnuari 1986), suggesting that the personal life span of these individuals was distinct. It is, however, important to point out that hip ornaments also accompany 2C individuals and those with a lack of tooth extraction (Table 2; Funahashi 2010; Harunari 2002). Deer antlers in an L-shape were more frequently buried with 4I individuals, and those with a Y- or V-shape were more frequently found among individuals with 2C extraction (Harunari 2013). Recent radiocarbon dates for the Inariyama shell mounds suggest that individuals with 4I tooth extraction occupied the same site for a longer span of time than individuals with 2C extraction (Kusaka et al. in press). If true, associations between 4I tooth extraction and hip ornaments may simply reflect long-term occupation of a persistent landscape rather than an elite identity associated with 4I tooth extraction. Radiocarbon dates applied to individuals with tooth extraction from the Yoshigo and Ikawazu sites may help further address this problem.

Ontology and personhood in Jomon society

Yamada (1997) references "spheres of interaction" in the ontology of personhood in Jomon society as viewed from archaeological mortuary practices. In so doing, the work acknowledges the deeper relational process of social maturation manifest in the archaeological mortuary record. Here, burial in jars or in the presence of adult females and males is associated with the social life span. Those individuals who achieve a particular age undergo transformation in identity and are memorialized through spatial affiliation in death. This study provides evidence for continuity in these patterns of social maturation. Individuals experience tooth extraction soon after the emergence of permanent canine teeth, and once tooth extraction occurs, the social life span of these individuals may be commemorated with animal implements that acted as stylistic motifs. These findings indicate that Jomon identities were symbolized by constantly unfolding relationships beginning at the earliest stages of life and persisting after death.

Previous studies focus on the achieved versus ascribed nature of leadership in past Jomon communities supported by children or adolescents buried with archaeological grave goods (Nakamura 1998, 1999). Unfortunately, the processual interpretation of Jomon mortuary practices endeavors to classify the population in terms of complexity rather than to elucidate the nature of individual life spans or how identities were relational with respect to the human life span. Results from this study do not support the existence of simple classificatory boundaries associated with the body, life span, and archaeological mortuary practices. Instead, the spheres of interaction model is supported by this research, specifically the idea that Jomon identity was relational over the course of development and that this relationality included aspects of the physical, social, and personal life span interacting with tooth extraction. These spheres of interaction are specifically illustrated through evidence that suggests the practice of tooth extraction was contingent on physical life span, yet also included subsets of individuals buried with grave goods that symbolize persistence of social presence after death or reflect individual agency.

This work adds to a growing literature that is demonstrative of unique and complex manifestations of identity, worldview, and cosmologies in the ontology of personhood among hunter-gatherers (Cannon 2011; Hill 2011; Janik 2011; Justice and Temple 2018; Yamada 1997). These works demonstrate that the biological, personal, and social life spans exist as distinct units of time among hunter-gatherers and that symbols of identity were relational, interacting with multiple spheres of the individual life span. The findings reported here suggest that embodied indicators of identity and mortuary treatment transcend the concept of achieved versus ascribed components of identity and even the simple milestones alluded to in the layer-cake approach to human life span. Instead, these practices are part of a relational process of maturation and, when interpreted within the context of living bodies, they produce evidence for transformational stages in identities that were further tethered to the social and personal aspects of being. The coordination of these life spans among the Late/Final Jomon period hunter-gatherers from the Atsumi Peninsula region illustrates a population with life spans that transcend death and interact with symbols of communal resonance. Thus, individuals with and without tooth extraction were members of a social landscape that was highly coordinated. The continued exploration of the ontology of identities within hunter-gatherer communities will yield a more comprehensive picture of these populations as dynamic, complex members of the human story.


This study explored the interaction between tooth extraction and the multifaceted spheres of life span among Jomon hunter-gatherers from the Atsumi Peninsula region of Japan. Tooth extraction interacts with the physical, social, and personal life spans of individuals--the different styles of tooth extraction appear around 12.0 years of age and are associated with the emergence of canine teeth. These results suggest that the process of tooth extraction may have been timed according to physiological milestones as opposed to chronological age. In addition, individuals with and without tooth extraction were associated with a lack of grave goods. This finding is highlighted, as it suggests that tooth extraction may be attributed to a symbolic form of social affiliation rather than a direct expression of elite identities. By contrast, a select group of individuals with tooth extraction were interred with animal implements. This pattern suggests that the practice of tooth extraction was only one part of an ever emerging set of identities highlighted by the use of decorative motifs in a select subset of individuals. Finally, individuals with 4I tooth extraction are associated with indicators of the personal life span (hip ornaments); these are not exclusive to the group, however, so this inclusion simply may reflect long-term occupation of persistent landscapes.

These findings are of interest to practitioners of hunter-gatherer bioarchaeology and archaeology. The results demonstrate that tooth extraction transcends archaeological conceptualizations of achieved and ascribed identities or simple set points regarding the materialization of identity along a linear time scale; instead, they illustrate the unique and diverse pathways of the life course in hunter-gatherer communities. When evaluated within the contextual backdrop of being, the human life span and its attendant symbols may be understood as important building blocks to social worlds in the past. Findings from this study, for example, demonstrate that embodied symbols of identity within hunter-gatherers are associated with the passage of time but may garner additional meaning across the life span in terms of social presence. These results suggest a high degree of coordination in the ontological landscape of hunter-gatherer populations and argue that these aspects of the lived experience must be evaluated in studies of social complexity.


I thank Masato Nakatsukasa for access to and assistance with the skeletal collections in the Laboratory of Physical Anthropology at Kyoto University. I additionally thank Reiko Kono, Yousuke Kaifu, Kenichi Shinoda, Kazuhiro Sakaue, Hideaki Kanzawa, and Ms. Nakatsuka for access to and assistance with the skeletal collections at the National Museum of Nature and Science (Tsukuba). Nawa Sugiyama and Soichiro Kusaka graciously assisted by helping with Japanese translations. Soichiro Kusaka kindly allowed access to a database of grave goods compiled for the Ikawazu site. I am grateful to two anonymous reviewers, the associate editor, and Brenda J. Baker for providing comments that greatly improved this manuscript. This work was funded by the National Geographic Society (9780-15).

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Daniel H. Temple (a*)

(a) Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444, USA

(*) Correspondence to: Daniel H. Temple, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Robinson Hall B, Room 305, George Mason University, MSN 3G5, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444, USA


Received 23 January 2018

Revised 13 July 2018

Accepted 09 August 2018

DOI: 10.5744/bi.2018.1023

[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article]
Table 1. Number of Individuals with Point Estimates for Age at Death
and Observable Alveoli Listed by Site and Tooth-Extraction Style.

Site       No Extraction  4I Style  2C Style

Ikawazu          0            5        0
Inariyama        2            8        7
Yoshigo         23           31       12
Total           25           44       19

Table 2. Number of Individuals with Grave Goods Listed by
Tooth-Extraction Style.

Grave Goods        No Extraction  4I Style  2C Style

None                    24           50        48
Animal implements        0           14         4
Hip ornaments            5           12         6
Total                   29           76        58
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