Changing relationship between the dead and the living in Japanese prehistory

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this paper is to propose a new insight on the changing burial practice by regarding it as a part of the cognitive system for maintaining complex social relationships. Development of concentrated burials and their transformation in Japanese prehistory are examined to present a specific case of the changing relationship between the dead and the living to highlight the significance of the dead in sociocultural evolution. The essential feature of the burial practices observed at Jomon sites is the centrality of the dead and their continuous presence in the kinship system. The mortuary practices discussed in this paper represent a close relationship between the dead and the living in the non-hierarchical complex society, in which the dead were not detached from the society, but kept at its core, as a materialized reference of kin networks. This article is part of the theme issue 'Evolutionary thanatology: impacts of the dead on the living in humans and other animals'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170272
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1754
Publication statusPublished - Sept 5 2018


  • Ancestor worship
  • Jomon period
  • Kinship
  • Mortuary practice
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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