Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas (2019-2023)

Integrative Human Historical Science of "Out of Eurasia"
Exploring the Mechanisms of the Development of Civilization

Invited Research

Invited Research


Excavations of Great Plaza at Huacas de Sicán and Landscape Analysis (Go Matsumoto, Yamagata University)

This study focuses on a public space known as plaza, which has rarely been the subject of archeological research due to the erroneous recognition as "an empty space” and aims to explore the variability of human activities within such space and their changes through time. The major subject of this study is the Great Plaza, seemingly an open, large square located in the middle of the largest ceremonial center of Sicán polity, Huacas de Sicán, which flourished on the Peruvian north coast about a thousand years ago (950-1100 CE). Matsumoto has thus far discussed this plaza in connection with ancestor worship that took place at the adjacent temple mounds; however, recent excavations have yielded a series of new findings that suggest that there occurred far more various activities than expected, which probably cannot be explained solely by the concept of ancestor worship. During this study, therefore, we will attempt to complete our incomplete excavations of the Great Plaza, to clarify how and when this plaza came into being as a ritual space and ceased to function, and to explore the variability of activities inside it, which will allow us to explore the ritual landscape that encompasses the Great Plaza and its surrounding monuments in the same context.

A study of the Creation of Urban Landscape in Mesoamerica (Nobuyuki Ito, Nagoya University)

In our study, reconstructing original natural landscape before man began to live as a basis, we investigate what kind of natural niche was selected to settle and to form an urban area by the Preclassic Mesoamerican people, and how were arranged monumental structures and the stone sculptures for the creation of the urban landscape in the natural environment.
In Chalchuapa, which prospered in the western part of El Salvador, the occupation began in the Early Preclassic period, and the El Salvador's biggest structure E3-1 was built in the Middle Preclassic period. Previously our study illustrated the development of the sacred and the secular spaces in Chalchuapa by the excavation of the vestibular part of the Structure E3-1 in El Trapiche area, which was the center of Chalchuapa during the Middle and the Late Preclassic period.
In this study, we restore original natural landscape prior to the construction of the pyramid by stratigraphic excavation until the natural sediment and field survey on physical geography in Chalchuapa. Moreover, the construction of the monumental structure and creation of the urban landscape, are examined by realizing further excavation in the greatest structure E3-1. Finally we aims to reconstruct the total history for the creation of the Urban Landscape in Chalchuapa in the Preclassic period.


Materiality of Urbanism in Ancient Mexico: Dominating the Space and the Universe (Shigeru Kabata, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies)

This study addresses the genesis and developmental trajectories of ancient cities in Mesoamerica from the viewpoint of cognitive archeology. We hypothesize that the control of the space and the worldview inscribed in the natural landscape was essential for the rise of cities. While it is generally thought that the accumulation of material wealth, and resultant social complexity, lead to the development of early cities, we focus on the symbolic space that made large-scale social integration possible, without which the accumulation of material wealth was difficult. We examine the process by which elements of natural landscapes, such as water and mountains, were incorporated into human settlements and the social world. In ancient Mesoamerica, deities dwelled in each element of the natural landscape, and the stability of social order was sought through gaining supernatural power from those deities. This study will shed an important light on how the genesis, development, and transformation of early cities were related to the maturation of ancient human cognitive system and its materialization.


Empirical examination of the parochial altruism hypothesis (Nobuyuki Takahashi, Hokkaido University)

Whether humans are altruistic or selfish in nature has been the target of debate for centuries. Recently, the parochial altruism hypothesis, which argues that altruism is inseparable with out-group aggression, was proposed (Bowles and Gintis, 2010). It is because, according to this hypothesis, in-group altruism and out-group aggression have co-evolved during the course of human evolution. It implies that the policy to promote in-group altruism should also facilitate out-group aggression inevitably. Thus, examining this hypothesis would not only provide a significant contribution to both social and natural sciences, but also have a substantial impact on the real world. However, previous studies that provided supportive results, as well as negative ones, have various shortcomings. Thus, the current study is the first attempt to rigorously examine the parochial altruism hypothesis by utilizing a newly invented ‘inter-group preemptive strike game.’

A study of warfare in the rise and development of early Maya civilization (Kazuo Aoyama, Ibaraki University)

In order to provide some insights into the nature and role of warfare in the rise and development of Maya civilization, this research examines obsidian and chert weapons and other lithic artifacts at the earliest Maya center of Aguada Fenix and other sites in the Middle Usumacinta region, Mexico. I will conduct detailed use-wear analysis on these artifacts based on a high-power microscopy approach to bring to light more empirical data relevant to early Maya warfare. In addition to weapons, I will also examine other potentially useful evidence for warfare in the archaeological record, including fortifications, iconography related to warfare and violence, paleopathology, incidents of violent destruction, and sudden disruption of cultural patterns. This research contributes to the undeveloped studies of the function of early Maya weapons as well as their temporal and spatial distribution patterns in the regional settlement system and provides important implications for understanding early Maya warfare as well as offering suggestions from the line of evidence in the context of a conjunctive approach. Moreover, I will also conduct portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) analysis to source all obsidian artifacts from Aguada Fenix and neighboring sites in order to study broader issues of early Maya economy, such as production, consumption, and exchange by analyzing a large representative sample of obsidian artifacts from a diachronic perspective.

Identifying the Relationships between Warfare and Social Inequality through the Study of Daily Practices in Ancient Maya Royal Courts: Excavations at the Archaeological Site of El Palmar, Mexico (Kenichiro Tsukamoto, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies)

Through performance and practice theories, this research aims to reveal the relationships between warfare and social stratification in ancient Maya society. In so doing, the project will explore a royal palace of the El Palmar archaeological site, Mexico. Previous research has centered on climate changes, dynastic interactions carved on monuments, and long-distance exchange as principal factors of transformations in society. While these macroscopic perspectives are critical, ethnohistorical and sociological studies have demonstrated that everyday activities could cause substantial social changes. Considering the importance of macroscopic perspectives, this research focuses on microscopic perspectives on daily activities of El Palmar royal families to examine processes in which warfare and social inequality become an everyday affair. The project applies a multifaceted approach that includes horizontal and stratigraphic excavations, geophysical prospections, macroscopic and microscopic analyses of artifacts, epigraphic studies of inscriptions, a high-resolution chronology based on radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistical modeling.


Sustainable resilience of nomadic herder's communities examined from traditional indigenous knowledge as "The law of grassland" (Takuya Soma, University of Tsukuba)

This study will clarify roles of the succession and practice of the traditional ecological knowledge (T.E.K.) of "Rules of Grasslands" which played in the sustainability / resilience of nomadic community living in the grasslands of northwestern and southern Mongolia. In the nomadic society represented such as Mongolians, T.E.K. for disaster prevention and livestock protection, and environmental adaptation, etc. was inherited as a social normative life practice such as oral communication, storytelling, and commandments. Therefore, this study re-evaluates traditional knowledge / conventional knowledge as "intellectual resources for civilization formation based on non-literal communication". The research practice is based on quantitative social surveys (T1), remote sensing surveys (T2), and social network surveys (T3), and is carried out by field surveys for about 80 days and computer works. The study tries to propose a new cross-disciplinary model by integrations of scientific evidence into T.E.K. research.

Nutritional adaptation of Austronesian who moved into remote Oceania (Masahiro Umezaki, The University of Tokyo)

It is believed that Austronesian people in remote Oceania suffered from deficiency of energy and nutrients because their living environment had only poor flora. The purpose of this study is to investigate the roles of gut microbiota in nutritional adaptation of prehistoric Austronesian people in remote Oceania. Since the evaluation of gut microbiota of prehistoric humans is technically difficult, we will study several populations in contemporary remote Oceania with different extent of modernization and compare the gut microbiota among them. The primary goal is to make a list of intestinal bacteria that were more abundant in "traditional" populations. The list might include species of bacteria that contributed to survival strategy of Austronesian people when they dispersed to remote Oceania. Metagenomic analysis will revealed the functional genes that might functioned for living in small islands where food resources were scarce.

An Ethno-cognitive-archaeological Study of the Development of Human Cognitive Skill in the Arctic Region of North America (Keiichi Omura, The Open University of Japan)

This research will investigate 1) the subsistence systems (the socio-cultural, politico-economic system which consists of subsistence technology, social organization, and worldview, and maintains the material-semiotic life-world) of the indigenous peoples living in the American arctic and sub-arctic regions, and 2) their historical development, especially focusing on the dynamic interaction between human cognition and environment through embodied skills. The goals of this study are to: 1) reveal the adaptation mechanisms of the subsistence systems to northern cold environment; 2) clarify the cognitive skills necessary to the development of the subsistence systems; 3) explore whether modern human beings newly developed cognitive skills or not in expanding into American continent; 4) propose a hypothesis about the relationship between the adaptation processes to northern cold environment and the developmental processes of human cognitive skills.

Anthropological Research of Landscape and Environmental Development in the Mountain Village, Northern Peru - Analysis from Mapping of Emotion (Yuki Furukawa, Ritsumeikan University)

This research, basing on the religion system and cosmology of the “landscape” developed in the Andes mountain village since the “Out of Eurasia”, maps the intensity of the local people's emotions and rethinks the environmental development practice.
Water shortage due to global warming is a pressing issue that needs to be resolved on a global scale. In the Andes, global warming has reduced about 22% of glaciers over the past 35 years, causing severe water shortages. For this reason, modern irrigation projects have been developed in rural Andes, but in many cases such projects have caused protest and fleeing by residents. This study maps the emotional shifting between “extreme hostility” and “dislike” towards environmental development in the mountain village of Cajamarca, northern Peru. This research draws its data from the practices of religion in landscapes such as rivers, lakes, ponds and hills and the daily use of the environment as well as folk tales and anecdotes. It aims to reveal the process in which the practices, relationships, and problem systems of the parties are mutually adjusted on a microscopic level while remaining contradictory to each other.


Coevolution of facial formation due to changes in food and environment after the bottleneck of ethnic migration (Hiroshi Kamioka, Okayama University)

Postnatal brain development affects growth of skull base structure, which should results in diverse patterns of facial bone morphology once matured. To uncover effects of neuro-cognitive development on this mechanism, macaque monkeys of Andaman islands with naturally evolved unique tool-use behavior, in contrast to the same species in mainland that never use tools, would represent an ideal model. We plan to analyze postnatal changes in their craniofacial bone structures, whereby try to detect evidence for co-evolution of ethnic-specific facial characteristics with environmental modifications, by taking advantage of B02 Cognitive Science Group’s monkey resources in combination with the non-invasive technology (Cephalogram) established in our field of dental orthodontics. We also expect to contribute to extend current research fields at the coast of Thailand toward those along the coast of Myanmar where more monkeys inhabitate, through our longstanding links between Myanmar and Okayama University Hospital.


Towards understanding the genetic basis of human cold adaptation out-of-Eurasia (Kazuhiro Nakayama, The University of Tokyo)

Biological adaptation to the cold climate is thought to have played an important role in the Paleolithic human migration to the Americas. Evolutionary genetic studies of indigenous populations in the subarctic regions have reported several genes that are likely to have undergone adaptive evolution, but its physiological significance is still unknown. East Asia can be considered as one of the transit points for entry into the Americas. Genetic variants fixed by natural selection in sub-Arctic indigenous populations are still polymorphic in the present East Asian populations and thus can be subjected to a genotype-phenotype association analysis. In this project, to clarify the physiological significance of the genes showing signature of positive selection in the subarctic regions, we conduct various physiological experiments, collection of genome DNA, genetic association analyses of the selected variants and thermogenic traits on multiple populations of Japanese. Our final goal is to elucidate genetic basis for the cold adaptation that supported the Out of Eurasia.

Identifying shifts in selective pressures driven by ecological and cultural changes; population genomics modelling on ancient and modern Maya (Shigeki Nakagome, Kanazawa University)

Our research leverages ancient and modern population genomics, integrating them into a novel way to identify shifts in selective pressures derived from ecological and cultural changes and their impacts on health and disease in Native Americans. The ancestors of Native Americans encountered environments with varying ecologies during their movement from Eurasia to the Americas, which drove long-lasting adaptation to local environments. In more recent time, however, European contact and colonization resulted in a significant reduction of Native American populations possibly due to an overwhelming introduction of European-borne pathogens. This research aims to understand the extent to which natural selection driven by environmental versus cultural transition impacts on the genetic makeup of Native Americans.

Genetic adaptation of human skin traits to the environment in the Asia-Pacific region (Ryosuke Kimura, University of the Ryukyus)

In this project, focusing on genes working in skin functions, I will extract genetic variants positively selected in Asia-Pacific human populations, and will examine their associations with skin traits. Then, I am going to show the world distributions of the skin trait-associated variants, to estimate the origins of the variants, and to discuss the processes of the genetic adaptations taking local climates and cultures into account.

Implication of diversified repeat polymorphism in environment adaptation (Makoto Shimada, Fujita Health University)

Homo sapiens has developed complex society that has a structure based on division of labor among various persons. This potentially explain the global expansion of modern humans. I focus on glutamine repeat length polymorphism as a cause of variation in human personality and/or behavior. We have found that polymorphic glutamine repeats are significantly located in genes that associated with neural development, compared to monomorphic repeats. Glutamine repeat polymorphisms are known that have diversified in human and that affect number of neurites of neurons and grey matter size of a brain region, pallidum. However, history and current status of glutamine repeat variation in modern human populations are not known. To understand why glutamine repeats variations have been diversified in human despite known risk that long glutamine repeats are liable to cause glutamine repeat diseases, global population survey of modern human for composition of variation regarding glutamine repeat length and nearby DNA sequences. Based on frequencies of the variation, time and place of evolutionary events concerning glutamine repeats will be estimated, which provides evolutionary dynamism regarding human behavioral variation during human expansion.

Bioarchaeology of violence and warfare in the Andean Civilization (Tomohito Nagaoka, Aomori Public University)

The bioarchaeology of trauma provides clues to assessing societies’ influence on human behavior, and human skeletons with traumatic injuries serve as direct evidence of violence. Andean civilization experienced multiple empires until the end of Inka in 1532 and was closely linked with warfare and violence (Fig. 1). However, little is known about chronological and regional variation in violence-related trauma in the Andean Civilization. The purpose of this study is to examine the development of the Andean Civilization from the perspective of ritual sacrifice and organized warfare. The bioarchaeological study will contribute to the refinement of our understanding of the Andean Civilization and its relationship to the emergence of violence and warfare.

Fig.1.Example of violence-related trauma in the Late Cajamarca Period in Pacopampa in the northern highlands of Peru. (a) Depressed skull fracture in the right parietal bone (specimen No. 13PC-G-Ent 01), (b) a magnification of the fracture from the superior view, and (c) a magnification of the fracture from the inferior view (Tomohito Nagaoka, Yuji Seki, Mauro Ordoñez Livia, Daniel Morales Chocano, Depressed skull fracture at Pacopampa in the Peru’s northern highlands in the Late Cajamarca Period. Anthropological Science, 2020, accepted). ©Pacopampa Archaeological Project


Comparative biological analysis of human dispersal process (Wataru Nakahashi, Waseda University)

The dispersal of the genus Homo, especially that of Homo sapiens, is often described as an extraordinary phenomenon. Some researchers have explained without any scientific evidence that “cultural niche construction” (on which the Out of Eurasia Project focuses), “curiosity” and “adventurousness” contributed greatly to human range expansion. However, whether the range expansion was never achieved without human-specific characteristics is unclear. In fact, many other species have largely expanded their range of habitat, so that we must carefully discuss whether human range expansion was an extraordinary phenomenon compared with those of other species. In this research project, I plan to compare human dispersal process with those of other species, especially invasive species with a lot of data, by using mathematical models. Depending on the scientific comparison, I will discuss whether human-specific characteristics contributed to the dispersal, and if so, what they were and how much they affected.

Phylogenetic approach to the 3D lithic morphology for revealing modern human Out-of-Eurasia dispersal into the Japanese Archipelago and the Sahul (Atsushi Noguchi, Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties)

This study aims on establishing an archaeological methodology for reconstruction of the prehistoric human population dynamics through the lithic morphology with 3D measurement. A phylogenetic approach is employed for classification of stone tools based on the formation process of its morphology by examining the technical and functional variables by the quantified information of shape and form with 3D measurement. The main object of the study is pebble-tools including edge ground axes from both the Japanese archipelago and the Sahul during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic.
The research question is what kind of technological, behavioral, and cultural changes occurred during human migration along the south-eastern margin of Eurasia to the Japanese Archipelago and the Sahul both uninhabited or sparsely populated before such population movement, and what was the context of changes, e.g. phyletic transformation after splitting the original population or convergent evolution of certain tool types in similar environment. To elucidate, establishment of novel methodology for distinguishing between adaptive behaviors and cultural selection will be attempted to overcome the limitation of conventional method of classification which explain only differences and similarities of completed form (in discard) as representation of prehistoric populations. This is also for presenting the archaeological fundamental of interpreting the noteworthy event of the first "Out-of-Eurasia" in the global modern human dispersal.