Dogū (土偶?)(meaning "clay figures") are small humanoid and animal figurines made during the late Jōmon period (14,000–400 BC) of prehistoric Japan.A Dogū come exclusively from the Jōmon period. By the Yayoi period, which followed the Jōmon period, Dogū were no longer made. There are various styles of Dogū, depending on exhumation area and time period. According to the National Museum of Japanese History, the total number found throughout Japan is approximately 15,000. Dogū were made across all of Japan, except Okinawa. Most of the Dogū have been found in eastern Japan and it is rare to find one in western Japan. The purpose of the Dogū remains unknown and should not be confused with the clay haniwa funerary objects of the Kofun period (250 – 538).
Some scholars theorize the Dogū acted as effigies of people, that manifested some kind of sympathetic magic. For example, it may have been believed that illnesses could be transferred into the Dogū, then destroyed, clearing the illness, or any other misfortune.
Dogū are constructed of clay and are typically 10 to 30 cm high. Most of the figurines appear to be modeled as female, and have big eyes, small waists, and wide hips. They are considered by many to be representative of goddesses. Many have large abdomens associated with pregnancy, suggesting that the Jomon considered them mother goddesses. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these figurines "suggest an association with fertility and shamanistic rites". Made from clay, these figurines were fashioned into fascinating shapes. The dogū tend to have large faces, small arms and hands and compact bodies. Some appear to wear goggles or have "heart-shaped" faces. Most have marks on the face, chest and shoulders, which suggest tattooing and probable incision with bamboo.
- "heart shaped (or crescent-shaped eyebrow) type" figurine
- "horned-owl type" figurine
- "goggle-eyed type" (Shakōki-dogū) figurine
- "pregnant woman type" figurine
The Shakōki-dogū (遮光器土偶?) are dogū created in the Jōmon era, and are so well known that when most Japanese hear the term dogū, this is the image that comes to mind. The name "shakōki" (literally "light-blocking device") comes from the resemblance of the figures' eyes to traditional Inuit snow goggles. Another distinguishing feature of the objects are the exaggerated, feminine buttocks, chest and thighs. Furthermore, the abdomen is covered with patterns, many of which seem to have been painted with vermilion. The larger figures are hollow, presumably in order to prevent cracking during the firing process.
Unbroken figures are rare, and most are missing an arm, leg or other body part. In many cases, the parts have been cut off. One theory is that parts of the figures may have been cut off in fertility rituals.
These types of dogū have been found in the Kamegaoka Site in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture; the Teshiromori Site in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture; the Ebisuda Site in Tajiri, Miyagi Prefecture; and the Izumisawa Kaizuka Site in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. All the sites listed have been designated as Important Cultural Properties.
Due in part to the enigmatic nature of the figurines, there have been numerous theories of non-scientific nature regarding their ornate appearance with some speculating that the physical appearance is connected to the suits and equipment of modern day astronauts. One proponent in particular, Erich von Däniken, has written how the dogū (referred in the text as the "Japanese statue of Tokomai") "...has modern fastenings and eye apertures on its helmet", an attribution made as part of the final chapter of his 1968 publication Chariots of the Gods? despite lacking any evidence for the claim.
There are also disparities in the varieties of dogū, with only a portion of the figures having the characteristic goggle-like eyes which is most cited by ancient alien theorists.
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- Jōmon period, Japan
- National Treasures of Japan
- Tokyo National Museum
- Venus figurine, a type of clay figure found in archeological cultures throughout the world
- Out-of-place artifact
- A.^ In the Japanese language dogū is also a generic term for any humanoid figure made of clay. The prehistoric clay figures of Eastern Europe, such as the Pit–Comb Ware culture, are also referred to as dogū.
- "土偶" [Dogū]. Dijitaru Daijisen (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
- "Jōmon figurines". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- "土偶" [Dogū]. Kokushi Daijiten (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 683276033. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- Nakajima, Toshio (1943). 石器時代土偶の乳房及び下腹部膨隆に就いて [On the Breasts and Swollen Hips of Stone Age Dōgu] (PDF). Jinruigaku Zasshi (in Japanese) (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Jinrui Gakkai) 58 (7): 294–295. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
- von Däniken, Erich. Chariots of the Gods?. Bantam Books, 1968.
- "土偶" [Dogū]. Nihon Kokugo Daijiten (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- Tokyo National Museum
- The National Museum of Japanese History
- Dogū from the Jōmon period, a photographic imagery database—Tokyo University, Japan
- Review of recent exhibition of Dogū at the Tokyo National Museum
- British Museum exhibition of Dogū from Japanese museums, 2009