Photo/IllutrationImage of a man from the Yayoi Pottery Culture period, left, and that of a man from the Jomon Pottery Culture period. Jomon people sported finely chiseled faces and big eyes and noses compared with Yayoi people. (Provided by Pola)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A trailblazing genome analysis of ancient human remains threatens to overturn a long-accepted theory about the lineage of people living in and around what is now Nagasaki Prefecture in the northwestern Kyushu region of southern Japan in the Yayoi Pottery Culture period (300 B.C.-A.D. 300).

It has been traditionally assumed that they were direct descendants of people of the Jomon Pottery Culture civilization that existed from around 8000 B.C. to 300 B.C.

But new research shows a mixture of bloodlines between the Yayoi people and those who came from the Asian land mass and their descendants.

Researchers from Tokyo's National Museum of Nature and Science and other organizations uncovered the mixed bloodlines by analyzing gene information, or the nuclear genome, in skeletal human remains.

The finding was announced on the Japanese version of Anthropological Science, the bulletin of the Anthropological Society of Nippon.

Yayoi people in Kyushu are classified into three groups.

One is those who arrived in northern Kyushu from the Asian continent and their descendants.

Another is those who were living around what is now Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Kyushu and who had a skull characteristic in that the distance between the front and the back of their heads was extremely short.

And lastly, those who were living in northwestern Kyushu. They are now called, “Seihoku-Kyushu Yayoi-jin” (Yayoi people in westnorth Kyushu).

It was believed that people from the continent and their descendants mixed with people who were direct descendants of Jomon people, resulting in contemporary Japanese people.

On the other hand, it was also believed that Yayoi people living in northwestern Kyushu had little contact with tribes with different bloodlines and bore Jomon characteristics, such as finely chiseled faces.

Researchers studied the remains of a man and a woman who lived in the Yayoi period about 2,000 years ago. The remains were unearthed from the Shimomotoyamaiwakage ruins in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, in 1970.

The group analyzed genetic characteristics by paying close attention to variations of DNA that constitutes the nuclear genome.

They found that the two individuals fit somewhere between Jomon people and modern Japanese. The finding pointed to the possibility of mixed bloodlines between Yayoi people in northwestern Japan and those who came from the continent and their descendants.

“It is still difficult to apply this result to all Yayoi people who lived in northwestern Kyushu,” said Kenichi Shinoda, a senior researcher of the national museum, who made the analysis.

“But if more human bones of those Yayoi people are analyzed, a more detailed process that led to today’s Japanese people will be clarified,” he added.