Slab-Shaped Cruciform Dogu, One-Off 002
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Cruciform Dogu fragments have been found in the thousands, and how they have been disposed of hints at ritual or ceremonial use for these fascinating figures. In most cases, clay figures were broken, buried or discarded after they had served their purpose, this purpose, or purposes, is likely always to remain a mystery.
With some of these figures, it appears that they were broken and then deposited in separate locations, often tens of meters apart. Why this was happening is unclear. It creates questions that allow our minds to speculate, which seems apt as the original craftspeople demonstrated immense creativity while making the figures. That creative thinking now continues as we today try to figure out the illusive meaning behind these magnificent figures.
Due to the fragmentary nature of cruciform Dogu, we have not always had the luxury of a full figure when recreating these figures. We have therefore worked with several Dogu examples from the middle Jomon (2500BC-1500BC) period to reimagine what they may have looked like including examples from Sannai Maruyama, Isedotai and Oyu stone circles.
We made this replica as part of our work with the new Circle of Stones Exhibition that is now on show at the Stonehenge visitors centre. The exhibition is set in the prehistoric British landscape and allows visitors to enjoy some exquisite objects from Prehistoric Japan. It is the bringing together of two influential Prehistoric cultures in one space.
Please note that the colouring of these Dogu varies greatly due to the firing conditions. You will get a Dogu marked by the smoke and fire that forged her, and your Dogu will be one-of-a-kind.
Middle Jomon (2500BC-1500BC)
Smoke fired Terracotta
Approx. - Height 200 mm, width 140 mm, 40 mm depth
The roots of ceramic culture reach deep into Japan's ancient past, with the first ceramic vessels being hand formed by skilled hands around 14,000 years ago at the start of the Jomon period. This ancient cultural blossoming saw the creation of thousands and thousands of mind-blowingly beautiful objects in the form of Flame Pots and Dogu figures. It continued until sometime over 2000 years ago when the advent of rice agriculture and metalworking heralded the beginning of a new phase in Japan's history.
What are Dogu figures?
The written characters that make up the Japanese word Dogu mean "earth" and "spirit" or "Soil" and "Doll", depending upon who you ask, and they make up a fascinating collection of ancient ceramic figures that are most famous for representing the human form. More specifically, they are thought to predominantly represent female figures, although there are a few examples of Dogu being made in the form of animals and even plants.
What is so appealing about Dogu is that they represent a state of self-awareness within the ancient people that crafted them and this sense of self appeals to our modern sense of self. People love to connect and relate with other people.
What were Dogu used for?
The question of use may well be the most compelling of all the questions relating to Dogu figures and one to which it is unlikely we will ever have a clear answer. What we know about Dogu is that they have been found in large numbers and often in fragmented states that suggest they had been deliberately broken.
Archaeologists have found Dogu figures in houses, burials and middens from dates that span the vast expanse of the Jomon period; the number of Dogu figures recorded to date is 18,000.
What was life like in the Jomon era?
Jomon enthusiasts widely believe that the Jomon period was a time of abundance when people lived in harmony with nature, hunted and gathered food from the rich forests that made up their home. With all their needs attended to, it is said that they lived in unanimity with one another. In fact, Japan is thought to have enjoyed an unusually high population density during this period, seeing population numbers that were exceptional for a culture that had not yet seen the advent of agriculture.
What is the Circle of Stones Exhibition at Stonehenge?
The replicas we have handcrafted for this collection were made as part of our work for the Circles of Stone: Stonehenge and Prehistoric Japan exhibition. The new exhibition celebrates the culture of Prehistoric Japan through a stunning collection of objects from some of Japan's most exciting prehistoric sites. The display will walk you through the story of Japanese settlements, their incredible stone circles and the beauty of the middle and late Jomon craftsmanship. A period of time that was roughly the same time as the building of Stonehenge, two separate cultures leaving an indelible mark on this world.
Many thanks to Susan Greaney and Simon Kaner for their help in facilitating our visit to see the flame pots at the British Museum and for providing us with additional information throughout the project.
Completely hand-built from clays similar to that used by the original potters, this vessel has been fired in a wood fire to emulate the original's surface colouration. When there is evidence of potters' tool use, I have replicated such tools using stone, wood, shell, bone, and antler, based on information gained from marks on original artefacts.
We have fired this figure to emulate the ancient firing conditions. The original pot was fired in an open wood fire, in close contact with the fuel, a process that leaves its mark on the clay as variations in the surface colour. However, the low temperatures achieved in open firings also result in relatively weak ceramics, so this figure has been fired to a somewhat higher temperature to strengthen it, in a unique firing process that allows me to achieve an authentic appearance to the pot.
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