If you are interested in the remains of prehistoric Japan, particularly during the Jomon period, one thing that will most likely fascinate you is the so-called Dogu figurines, which have been a part of their culture.
What are they? Simply put, these figurines look like a combination of humans and animals made out of clay. They come with big heads and eyes that were creatively made. In general, there are four types: heart-shaped, horned-owl, pregnant woman, and goggle-eyed. These creations had made the Jomon people well-known for their pottery skills. In fact, they were the ones who created the earliest forms of pottery in the entire world.
The Dogu that were made back in 10,000 BC were tiny. They seemed to be an abstract representation of a human being. But as time had passed by, the figurines evolved. The Jomon people started making them with arms and legs, and their faces were clearer to see.
Dogu figurines are, indeed, amazing, and they showcase the creativity of the hands of their makers. Looking at them, though, one can’t help but to wonder what they were really made for. Were they simply for decorations? Were they meant to serve as toys to entertain little kids? Or did they come with a deeper meaning and use? Lastly, do they actually represent “something” that existed many years ago?
Up to these days, the Dogu figurines that have been retrieved from various parts of Japan continue to make researchers think what their purpose really was. They are really intriguing. With this, people have come up with several theories. Some of them believe that the Jomon people created these figurines and regarded them as their gods and goddesses to whom they prayed for good health, more fortune, and food for their daily living.
Another theory about the strange clay figurines is that they served as talisman. Pregnant women and their husbands prayed to these creations for safe childbirth. And since many have been retrieved in fragments, researchers have come into the conclusion that regardless if the wish had been granted or not, the Jomon people had to break the Dogu into pieces. The remnants were excavated mostly from dumpsites or waste yard. Some were also found in burial grounds and stone monuments, which is really strange. According to research, a lot have been found in the Tohoku region (Northern Japan).
A number of the famous Jomon Venus figurine, which is a miniature statue of a pregnant woman was found in the eastern part of Japan. Does that mean that there were many expectant mothers in the said region back in the ancient times?
There are also other people who believe that the Dogu figurines have been created mainly for kids. They served as toys. The reason why the tiny statues come with odd-shapes is to entertain or draw the attention of children.
Furthermore, these small figures are believed by others to be offerings during funerals. They might have been used for some sort of rituals as well. However, the types of ceremony remain unknown.
Probably, these figurines were the main objects in ceremonies to cure illnesses or diseases. They might have been present in rituals to cleanse somebody of his or her sins as well as when the Japanese people in the ancient times asked for protection against epidemics or disasters.
On the other hand, there are also some groups of people who think that Dogu figurines are actually representations of aliens or other creatures from other planets or the outer space that may have visited the Earth during the ancient times. This idea was supported by discoveries in other parts of the world. In Ecuador, for example, there are artifacts that resemble the figurines made by the Jomon people. The same thing in Romania, Turkey, Egypt, and Mexico. This could mean that it is not only the Japanese people who had supposedly seen those extra-terrestrial beings hundreds of years ago. However, up to these days, the neighboring countries of Japan haven’t reported similar discovery.
With about 18,000 pieces of Dogu figurines that have been recovered in different parts of Japan, there are probably more that were buried somewhere waiting to be discovered. Another question in line is, why did the Jomon people make so many of them? Since they also come in various forms, does that mean that each has its own meaning or use? It’s really mysterious.
Whatever the function of these artistic creations really was, regardless if they represent some creatures that have lived centuries ago or they were simply regarded as amulets or “lucky charms”, there is one thing that we all can agree. Indeed, they are a proof that amazing craftsmanship has existed even during the early years of the world. Right now, a majority of the figurines that have been excavated can be found in museums for every visitor to see and appreciate.