The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

An Ethnological Study of Domestication

Joint Research Coordinator YAMAMOTO Norio

Reserch Theme List


In the history of the human race, the beginning of domestication of plants and animals represented an epoch-making shift from food gathering to production. More than anything else what provided this opportunity was domestication, saibaika (plant domestication) and kachikuka (animal domestication). This domestication allowed humans to modify animals and plants to best match their own circumstances. The result was cultivation and livestock raising. Consequently, the domestication of animals and plants has a close connection to the origins of agriculture and livestock raising, and thus has engendered a tremendous amount of interest in archaeology, anthropology, and agronomy. However, we lack an overall image of domestication. For that reason, this joint research will seek to shed light on specific aspects of domestication and clarify the role of domestication in the human saga.

Research Results

Previous research about domestication tended to be compartmentalized into individual disciplines such as anthropology and agronomy. However, domestication arose because of the long and intimate symbiotic relationship human beings have had with animals and plants. To investigate this relationship we need to draw on insights from various fields. From this standpoint, this joint research sought to synthesize research from various related fields, starting with ethnology (anthropology), and including botany, heredity, animal husbandry, and other related fields. From so doing, we were able to attain a new perspective on domestication research. Such cross-sectional joint research, bringing together human science and natural science, allowed us to develop a cohesive picture of domestication in contrast to previous fragmented research. Especially, regarding points that had been omitted in domestication theory, such as value systems and religious views regarding animals and plants and the close relationships between things like economic principles, we were able to produce particularly worthy results.
In addition, our work attained major achievements in paving the way for the establishment of a new academic field: ethnobotany. At present, no matter what the form of research we are seeing a trend towards specialization and subdivision. In contrast to this trend, our research attempted to bring together human science and natural science. We trust that these results will serve as a major impact to the claustrophobic atmosphere which currently envelops cultural anthropology.