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Exchange Networks and the Lure of Tropical Shells

Exchange Networks and the Lure of Tropical Shells

(p.126) Chapter 6 Exchange Networks and the Lure of Tropical Shells
Ancient Ryukyu
Richard Pearson
University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter discusses the development of exchange systems in the Amami and Okinawa Islands. Kinoshita Naoko proposed four stages—Yayoi Period, Kofun Period, the seventh to ninth centuries AD, and the ninth to fifteenth centuries AD—of exchange of Ryukyu shells. She said that abundant cowrie shells, particularly Cypraea moneta, especially abundant in the Shang dynasty of north China but also found in sites from various time periods, were collected from the Ryukyus by traders from China. Such contact would explain the development of Okinawan bone ornaments decorated with bilaterally symmetrical motifs not found in the Jōmon or Yayoi cultures of the Japanese main islands. Dating to the first and second millennia BC, these artifacts have always been a puzzle in Okinawan archaeology.

Keywords:   Amami, Okinawa Islands, Kinoshita Naoko, Ryukyu shells, Cypraea moneta, Ryukyus, Okinawan

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