Early Ryukyuan History: A New Model

Hardback: $75.00
ISBN-13: 9780824897635
Published: July 2024

Additional Information

342 pages | 45 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • The Ryukyu islands have been inhabited by humans for over 30,000 years. Their modern population, however, did not come from stone-age ancestors, nor did distinctive forms of Ryukyuan culture, such as sacred groves or stone-walled castles, emerge from within the islands. Instead, different groups of people lived in the Ryukyu islands at various points in history. Starting with the earliest extant human remains and ending with the formation of a centralized state in the early 1500s, Early Ryukyuan History traces the people, culture, technologies, goods, and networks that entered different parts of Ryukyu over time. In the process, it synthesizes decades of research in archaeology and anthropology, recent advances in genetic evidence, and conventional documentary sources to advance a new model for the early development of the Ryukyu islands, thoroughly rewriting early Ryukyuan history.

    Taking a multidisciplinary approach grounded in archaeology, this resource presents an updated framework for understanding early Ryukyu along with a new narrative featuring a fascinating cast of characters. Linked by the ocean into the East China Sea, the early Ryukyu islands were never isolated. People and technologies arrived from across the sea and became the prime movers of early Ryukyuan society. The most consequential of these external agents were waves of immigrants, mainly from the Japanese islands, who settled the Ryukyu islands during the eleventh and twelfth centuries and replaced the islands’ previous Jōmon population. While the physical environment of the Ryukyu islands was not conducive to cereal agriculture, the islands were well situated for trading and raiding, and trade became the driving force behind societal development.

    In Early Ryukyuan History, Gregory Smits reappraises the most fundamental questions and topics in early Ryukyuan history, providing new models of migration and settlement, regional trade, political geography, warfare, and state formation.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Gregory Smits, Author

      Gregory Smits is professor of history and Asian studies at Pennsylvania State University.