Course of
Field Study of Cultures

Professor NAKAMURA Shinichi (Field Study of Cultures)

[Theme] From Chinese Archaeology to Comparative Archaeology

My research can be divided amongst the following three categories.

  • 1) Research of Chinese Neolithic cultures
  • 2) Research on the origin and developments of rice cultivation in Asia
  • 3) Comparative archaeological studies on social evolution

The first category, study of the Neolithic cultures of China and particularly the study of Neolithic cultures along the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, is the theme that I have been involved with since graduate school and could be said to form the basis for all my other studies. What I constantly strive for each day is not to be involved with Chinese archaeology as a mere onlooker or presenter, but rather to actively advance studies on the same grounds as other Chinese researchers. In doing so, it is not only essential that I visit China several times a year but also that I endeavor to understand the latest trends in research. Some of the projects I have been involved with as a head researcher are "Production and Distribution of Stoneware of the Liangzhu Culture,""Agricultural Archaeology of the Lower Yangtze Neolithic Cultures," and "Comprehensive Studies on Natural Relics Unearthed from Sites in the Mountains of Tianquan, Yuyao, Zhejiang province."

The findings of my research for my second theme regarding the origin and developments of rice cultivation in Asia were compiled in 2002 in the book "Ine no Koukogaku" (Douseisha). Research on rice cultivation in Asia encompasses a very broad region from the Indian subcontinent in the west to the Japanese archipelago in the east. Furthermore, I had to keep an eye for findings not only in archaeology but also in related fields such as agriculture, genetics, paleoenvironmentology, ecology, and ethnology. It is perhaps for this reason that in recent years, I have focused increasingly on interdisciplinary studies. When working with researchers from other fields, there are occasionally times when "we do not speak the same language." However, they also provide some eye-opening ideas or perspectives that an archaeologist would not think of; hence, it is very stimulating.

The third category is comparative archaeological research on social evolution. Comparative archaeology is a technique that compares the circumstances of multiple regions with regard to certain phenomenon, and attempts to discern both the universal aspects between several regions as well as the unique features of each individual region. My particular focus in this field is the origin of cities and nations. You could also describe it as research on the birth of ancient civilizations. Focusing mainly on China, my aim is to accurately place findings in Chinese archaeology within the greater framework of human history through comparisons with circumstances in other locales. I also continue to propose ideas related to comparative archaeology regarding the nature of the protohistorical, and especially Yayoi civilizations of Japan, from the perspective of a foreign researcher. There is a saying that states, "an outsider has the best perspective," and I believe that there are certain things that can be seen better from a perspective one step outside.

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