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A notion widely shared among the Japanese is that a unique culture has existed uninterrupted on the archipelago since the first human settlements more than 30,000 years ago. The idea of a continuous shared Japanese culture, often described as "Japanese-ness," is epitomized by material items ranging from Zen Buddhist stone gardens and tea ceremony equipment to such archaeological artifacts as the prehistoric Jomon clay figurines. An Archaeological History of Japan challenges this notion by critically examining archaeological evidence as well as the way it has been interpreted. By combining techniques of traditional archaeological investigation with the tools of contemporary critical sociological and anthropological theory, An Archaeological History of Japan reveals the contingent, reflexive nature of how the prehistoric inhabitants of the Japanese islands identified themselves as they mapped their social and cultural environment. Koji Mizoguchi demonstrates that this process of self-identification underwent transformations as societies and technology changed, indicating that there is no intrinsic connection binding present-day Japanese with people of the past.