- Daisuke Okui
World Heritage Site, Sannai-Maruyama Ruins, a Huge Jomon Period Settlement that Defies Conventional
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About the Sannai-Maruyama Ruins
The Sannai-Maruyama Ruins is a large Jomon settlement located in Aomori City that was settled for approximately 1,700 years during the early to middle Jomon Period (approximately 5,900 to 4,200 years ago). The excavation of buildings, tombs, embankments, and roads, as well as a vast number of earthenware and clay figures, and animal and fish bones that reveal the Jomon people's diet, has led to the discovery that the Jomon people had a systematic approach to village development and the use of natural resources. Research continues to this day.
Visitors can see the reconstructed building at the site, and also visit the "Sanmaru Museum," a permanent exhibition room in the adjacent Jomon Jiyuukan, to view excavated artifacts and exhibits that recreate life in the Jomon period.
The site was registered as a World Heritage site in 2021 as a component of the "Jomon Prehistoric Sites in Northern Japan”.
What is "Jomon Prehistoric Sites in Northern Japan"?
The "Jomon Monuments of Hokkaido and the Northern Tohoku Region" was recommended for inscription on the World Heritage List in June 2021 and officially inscribed as a World Heritage site in July. The site consists of 17 Jomon sites (6 in Hokkaido, 8 in Aomori, 1 in Iwate, and 2 in Akita) dating from 15,000 to 2,400 years ago, including villages, cemeteries, and sites of rituals and ceremonies in southern Hokkaido, Aomori, and Iwate prefectures, as evidence of the oldest human activity in the world during the late Ice Age.
How to get to the Sannai-Maruyama ruins
From JR Aomori Station
Take the city bus bound for the Sannai-Maruyama Ruins or the "Nebutan-go" shuttle route bus, which takes you to major tourist facilities, for a 30-40 minute ride.
From JR Shin-Aomori Station
Take the "Nebutan-go" shuttle route bus from the East Exit stop, which takes approximately 15 minutes.
It takes about 5 minutes (2 km) from the Aomori I.C. on the Tohoku Longitudinal Expressway and about 30 minutes (8.5 km) from Aomori Airport.
Three points to see at the Sannai-Maruyama Ruins
Restored The large pillared building
The large pillared building that symbolizes the Sannai-Maruyama Ruins was moved to a new location and reconstructed based on the six holes that were discovered. Although it is not known for what purpose it was built, it is thought that it may have been related to the Jomon people's worldview and thought.
The six holes were dug 4.2 meters apart, each about 2 meters in diameter and more than 2 meters deep. A chestnut wood post one meter in diameter remained unrotted at the bottom, suggesting that a pillar more than 10 meters high had been erected. The original holes can also be visited.
*Touring may be partially restricted due to construction work to extend the life of The large pillared building.
The largest pit dwelling ruins in Japan
Opposite The large pillared building are the remains of the largest pit dwelling ruins in Japan, measuring 32 meters in length and 9.8 meters in width. These large pit dwelling ruins are often found near the center of settlements, and there are theories that they were assembly halls, communal workshops, or communal residences.
This building, reconstructed from the remains, is thought to have been a meeting place. Inside, there remains a place where a fire was cooked, and it is assumed that it served as a heating and lighting system.
More than just a dumping ground? Embankment
Embankment is a place to dump the soil, earthenware, stone tools, and other domestic wastes from the digging of pit buildings and post holes, which are piled up to form small piles. A large amount of earthenware and stoneware, as well as clay figures, jade, and other items related to rituals, have been excavated from inside.
In the southern fill, which is about 1,000 years older than the northern fill, jade from Niigata, obsidian from various parts of Japan, and amber from Iwate have been found, providing a glimpse into the rich trading culture of the Jomon period.
Three highlights of the Sanmaru Museum
The Sannai-Maruyama Ruins Center consists largely of the Ruins Area and the Jomon Jiyuukan (Archaeological Center). The Jomon Museum has a Jomon Theater, a permanent exhibition room (SANMARU MUSEUM), a special exhibition room, the Jomon Big Wall with 5,120 pieces of Jomon pottery scattered on its 6 meter high wall, a hands-on workshop, a museum store and restaurants, allowing visitors to learn and experience the Jomon culture.
The Sannmaru Museum displays approximately 1,700 artifacts excavated from the Sannai-Maruyama ruins, including approximately 500 important cultural properties, and also provides visitors with easy-to-understand explanations of various aspects of Jomon life using dolls.
One of the largest plate-shaped clay figures in Japan
The largest plate-shaped clay figurine in Japan, measuring approximately 32 cm in length and displayed in the Jomon People's Heart Corner, is a must-see. Designated as an Important Cultural Property, it is well preserved, and its face, chest, and navel can be clearly seen.
Jomon pochette, a technique that is still used today
Jomon pochette is the common name for small baskets made of woven cypress bark, and walnut shells have been found inside. The pochette is woven with ajiro, a general term for thinly processed wood, bamboo, grass, or other plant material woven in alternating rows and columns. This technique is also used in akebi vine work, one of Aomori Prefecture's traditional handicrafts.
Large jade beads showing the extent of trade
The Sannai-Maruyama Site has been confirmed to contain 47 jade artifacts, including rough stones, unfinished artifacts, and finished products, suggesting that it may have been the only site in the cylindrical earthenware culture (Early and Middle Jomon Period) of Hokkaido and the Northeast that was processed within a village and served as a distribution center. Jade was transported from the Itoigawa area in Niigata Prefecture, some 600 km away.