The introduction of rice and millet farming to Japan during the Yayoi period (2,800-1,750/1,700 BP) was a significant turning point in Japanese history that subsequently led to the emergence of early states in the archipelago. Rice and millet agriculture were introduced via a migrant community from the continent coming into Japan, entering in the west, and moved steadily east interacting with the existing complex hunter-gatherers, the Jomon people. This spread of agriculture was not uniform across Japan. Academics assume that this was due to environmental variation in the landscape, but none have actually tested this hypothesis. My part of the Encounter project seeks to determine how environmental and social factors impacted the spread of culture, specifically agricultural cultivation of rice and millet, and settlement patterns across the landscape. I am using a theoretical framework of Ideal Free Distribution, which examines habitat suitability and population data. This involves characterising the nature of environmental variation so that I can later study it in conjunction with population data. To characterise habitat suitability, I am looking at the ecological niche of rice and millet using multiple kinds of ecological modelling, examining temperature, precipitation, and other environmental factors, as well as looking at historic rice yields as a proxy for suitability. Preliminary results indicate past settlement location cannot be explained by the location of the ideal habitat for rice and millet (established based on temperature), as the regions where it was adopted later have similar temperature niches to those that adopted it earlier.
Leah Brainerd is a computational archaeologist, with interests in the use of quantitative analysis, modelling in archaeology, and cultural evolution. She is a PhD student in the Department of Archaeology and a part of the Encounter Project, which is looking at the Jomon-Yayoi transition in Japan and the migration of people and culture occurring throughout this period. Her research aims to explore, in-depth, exactly which processes were at work in the dispersal of the agricultural package introduced during the Jomon-Yayoi transition. In particular, the project will be examining environmental and social factors that impacted the spread of agriculture, selection of settlement location, and resulting settlement patterns during the Early/Middle Yayoi period. Leah has an MSc in Computational Archaeology from UCL looking at urban tissue in Early Islamic Merv, Turkmenistan using ABM modelling and a BA in anthropology from McGill university.