Jomon Dogu


During the Jomon period in Japan which began as early as 13,000 BC, Neolithic hunters and gatherers created figures of clay. These wonderful, expressive figures are called Dogu (pronounced dough-goo). They took intriguing forms – some with heart shaped faces or triangular pointed heads. Some squat, perhaps in childbirth, others appear to be praying while some even seem to wear goggles and spaceperson attire. Many dogu have recognizably female characteristics with swelling breasts and hips, not unlike the fertility figures common in other cultures. Size ranges from two inches up to nearly two feet for the larger dogu.

There is much debate about what dogu meant to the Jomon people and how they were used. It appears that these figures were purposely broken by the people and then somehow used in rituals or possibly as healing devices. One theory is that the dogu acted as effigies of people and manifested some kind of sympathetic magic. For example, it may have been believed that illnesses could be transferred into the Dogu, then destroyed, clearing the illness or other misfortune. At any rate, the ritual destruction of dogu has made them quite rare.

These figures have been discovered in all parts of Japan with northern Japan yielding the most variety. Some dogu are known as the “goggles type.” Their eyes resemble snow goggles worn by Inuit people to protect their eyes against the sun’s reflection on snow. Many of these goggle-donning dogu also appear to be in outer-space garb complete with riveted suit, helmet and face mask, thus fueling arguments that the dogu are actually representations of ancient aliens.

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