To stop or not to stop…

March 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Posted in History, Japan, Naming | Leave a comment
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In Japan! A month ago I read in a Lonely Planet Magazine that in Japan there was an indigenous group called Ainu, who came from Siberia. It was a cool surprises, as I liked the idea of stopping in Japan. But now I’m a bit confused, as the Wikipedia says the origin of this group is not clear at all. And it seems it is not going to be clear in the immediate future years, actually:

The origins of the Ainu have not been fully determined. They have often been considered Jomon-jin, natives to Japan from the Jomon period. “The Ainu lived in this place a hundred thousand years before the Children of the Sun came” is told in one of their Yukar Upopo (Ainu legends). Ainu culture dates from around 1200 CE and recent research suggests that it originated in a merger of the Okhotsk and Satsumon cultures.Their economy was based on farming as well as hunting, fishing and gathering.

Ainu men generally have dense hair development. Many early investigators proposed a Caucasian ancestry, although recent DNA tests have found no traces of Caucasian ancestry. Genetic testing of the Ainu people has shown them to belong mainly to Y-haplogroup D. The only places outside of Japan in which Y-haplogroup D is common are Tibet and the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.In a study by Tajima et al. (2004), two out of a sample of sixteen (or 12.5%) Ainu men were found to belong to Haplogroup C3, which is the most common Y-chromosome haplogroup among the indigenous populations of the Russian Far East and Mongolia; Hammer et al. (2005) tested another sample of four Ainu men and found that one of them (1/4 or 25%) belonged to haplogroup C3. Some researchers have speculated that this minority of Haplogroup C3 carriers among the Ainu may reflect a certain degree of unidirectional genetic influence from the Nivkhs, with whom the Ainu have long-standing cultural interactions.According to Tanaka et al. (2004), their mtDNA lineages mainly consist of haplogroup Y (21.6%) and haplogroup M7a (15.7%). A recent reevaluation of cranial traits suggests that the Ainu resemble the Okhotsk more than they do the Jomon.This agrees with the reference to the Ainu culture being a merger of Okhotsk and Satsumon cultures referenced above.

Some have speculated that the Ainu may be descendants of a prehistoric race that also produced indigenous Australian peoples. In Steve Olson’s book Mapping Human History, page 133, he describes the discovery of fossils dating back 10,000 years, representing the remains of the Jōmon, a group whose facial features more closely resemble those of the indigenous peoples of New Guinea and Australia. After a new wave of immigration, probably from the Korean Peninsula, some 2,300 years ago, of the Yayoi people, the pure-blooded Jōmon were pushed into northern Japan. Genetic data suggest that modern Japanese are descended from both the Yayoi and the Jōmon.

In the late 20th century, much speculation arose that people of the group related to the Jomon may have been one of the first to settle North America. This hypothesis is based largely on skeletal and cultural evidence among tribes living in the western part of North America and certain parts of Latin America. It is possible that North America had several peoples among its early settlers – these relatives of the Jomon being one of them. Kennewick Man is also cited at times as supporting this hypothesis.

Groundbreaking genetic mapping studies by Cavalli-Sforza have shown a sharp gradient in gene frequencies centered in the area around the Sea of Japan, and particularly in the Japanese Archipelago, that distinguishes these populations from others in the rest of eastern Asia and most of the American continent. This gradient appears as the third most important genetic movement (in other words, the third principal component of genetic variation) in Eurasia (after the “Great expansion” from the African continent, which has a cline centered in Arabia and adjacent parts of the Middle East, and a second cline that distinguishes the northern regions of Eurasia and particularly Siberia from regions to the south), which would make it consistent with the early Jōmon period, or possibly even the pre-Jōmon period.

Jomon and Yayoi are Japanese periods. A lot of new information here, I have looked for the words in bold too:

The Nivkhs (also Nivkh, Nivkhi, or Gilyak; ethnonym: Nivxi; language, нивхгу – Nivxgu) are an indigenous ethnic group inhabiting the northern half of Sakhalin Island and the region of the Amur River estuary administered by Russia. Nivkh were mainly fishermen, hunters, and dog breeders. The Nivkh were semi-nomadic living near the coasts in the summer and wintering inland along streams and rivers to catch salmon. The land the Nivkh inhabit is characterized as Taiga with cold snow-laden winters and mild summers with sparse tree cover. The Nivkh are believed to be the original inhabitants of the region deriving from a proposed Neolithic people migrating from the Transbaikal region during the Late Pleistocene.

The Nivkh suffered heavily from foreign influences, the first of which was the migration of the Tungusic peoples; latter Manchu and Chinese dynasties forced tribute upon its people. In the late 19th century, Russian Cossacks annexed and colonized Nivkh lands, where they are a small, often neglected, minority today. Today, the Nivkh live in Russian-style housing and with the over-fishing and pollution of the streams and seas, they have adopted many foods from Russian cuisine. The Nivkh practice shamanism, which is important for the winter Bear Festival, though some have converted to Russian Orthodoxy.

They number 5,287 (2002 Russian Federation census). Most speak Russian today, though about 10 percent speak their indigenous Nivkh language, which is considered an isolate language, though for convenience grouped with the Paleosiberian languages. The Nivkh language is divided into four dialects,though they are sometimes grouped with the nearby Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Altaic languages.

I haven’t found anything for Okhotsk and Satsumon. Everything is pretty confusing right now. Maybe I will have to take more things into account, such as way of living, religious believes, or material culture. Lets see what came then.


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