added by archaeologs The native people of Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands, Japan, who are physically different from their Mongoloid neighbors. They once lived by hunting, trapping, and fishing and also grew buckwheat and numbered about 17,000 in the 1940s. Ainu appear to be descendants of the early Caucasoid peoples who were once spread over northern Asia. They did not undergo the sociocultural changes of the Yayoi and Kofun periods, but remained Epi-Jomon until about the end of the 8th century; it then was transformed into the Satsumon culture. The Ainu were pushed northward over the centuries by the Japanese. Intermarriage and cultural assimilation have made the traditional Ainu almost extinct. Their most important ritual, the Bear Ceremonial, find parallels in Okhutsk ceremonialism.
added by archaeologs The native people of Hokkaido, southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands, Japan, who numbered about 17,000 in the 1940s. Before their way of life changed radically in the 19th century, they lived mostly by hunting, fishing and collecting, but they also grew some plants, such as buckwheat. It was once held that the Ainu were the remnants of the Jomon population, pushed northwards by the Yayoi farmers and their descendants, the Japanese. That the Ainu were pushed and exploited by the Japanese from the early historic period in the 8th century is evident from written records. The Jomon Period, however, is much too long and culturally too diverse to be attributed to a single ethnic group, and the Yayoi development is not the result of mass migration around 300 bc. The most widely accepted interpretation now is that the Ainu are the descendants of the people who left the Jomon remains in Hokkaido and northern Honshu. Unlike their southern counterparts, they did not go through the socio-cultural changes of the Yayoi and Kofun periods, but remained what is called the ‘Epi-Jomon’ until about the end of the 8th century. With the encroachment of the culture based in central Honshu, the Epi-Jomon was transformed into the Satsumon culture, about the same time as the Okhotsk culture appeared on the northern and eastern coast of Hokkaido. Some elements of the 19th-century Ainu culture, such as the Bear Ceremonial, find parallels in Okhutsk ceremonialism, while much of the material culture has its origin in the Satsumon culture. Recent work in Hokkaido is filling the gap in our knowledge between the dissolution of the Satsumon culture in the 14th century and the ethnographic descriptions of the Ainu several centuries later.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983