Yoko Nishimura

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Ancient East Asian
Contact Information
Office Address: 
424 Museum
Office Hours: 
Spring 2017: Tuesday, 12:30PM to 3:00PM, or by appointment
Email Address: 



PhD, UCLA, 2008

Research and Teaching Interests: 

I have research skills and teaching experience in the archaeology, history, religions, and languages of ancient East Asia, particularly those of ancient Japan. By focusing on the material cultures of, and the historical documents about, the peoples in this region since the prehistoric time periods, my research and teaching interest extends to include cross-cultural relations between the areas known today as Japan, China, and Korea, as a distinct, interactive geographical unit. My research interest centers around the material culture and everyday activities of non-elite inhabitants in their dwelling and mortuary contexts within houses or residential neighborhoods. I am particularly interested in quotidian objects used in the houses and graves of the Jōmon-period communities in Japan. For instance, in one of my recent publications, I investigated how everyday items, such as body ornaments, had their role transformed to serve as grave goods in individual tombs.  

The largest project that I am currently working on is a collaborative one with Meiji and Shimane Universities to investigate of the many Japanese prehistoric artifacts that are stored in major U.S. museums and to compile a catalogue of these artifacts for publication. Not only will it make the collections available for research and education across this country; but it will also shed important light on the movement of such valued artifacts from Japan to the U.S. during the past 150 years. Other research projects that I am currently conducting include the symbolism on shogunal lanterns as well as the inscriptions associated with Buddha statues in pre-modern periods. I fully integrate all the materials that I acquired via my research projects as case studies when I teach my classes.

Recent Courses: 

East Asian Arts and Civilizations                              

Archaeology of East Asia                                          

Ancient East Asia at the Penn Museum                                

Ancient Japanese Civilization at the Penn Museum

Japanese Civilization                                     

Cross-Cultural Relations in Ancient East Asia           

Ancient Mesopotamia                                    

Ancient Near East                              

Early Shintō and Pre-Buddhist Beliefs and Practices in Japan

Domestic Life of Commoners in Ancient Civilizations   

Origins of Complex Societies                                                

Readings in Advanced Japanese                                            

Japanese-English Translation 


Selected Publications: 

Nishimura, Yoko. “Keishō-in’s Mausoleum and Symbolic Gender Relations in Edo-Period Japan Japanese Edo-Period Bronze Lanterns in the Penn Museum.” Japan Review (submitted and under review, July 2017).

Nishimura, Yoko. 2018. “The Evolution of Curved Beads (Magatama勾玉/曲玉) in Jōmon Period Japan and the Development of Individual Ownership.” Asian Perspectives 57 (1) (in press).

Nishimura, Yoko. 2015. “A Systematic Comparison of Material Culture between Household Floors and Residential Burials in Late Third-Millennium B.C.E. Mesopotamia,” American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 119 (4): 419-440.

Nishimura, Yoko. 2014. “North Mesopotamian Urban Neighborhoods at Titriş Höyük in the Third Millennium B.C.” In Making Ancient Cities: Space and Place in Early Urban Societies, edited by Andy T. Creekmore and Kevin D. Fisher. Pp.74-110. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Nishimura, Yoko. 2012. “The Life of the Majority: A Reconstruction of Household Activities and Residential Neighborhoods at the Late-Third-Millennium Urban Settlement at Titriş Höyük in Northern Mesopotamia.” In New Perspectives on Household Archaeology, edited by Catherine P. Foster and Bradley J. Parker. Pp.347-372. Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake, IN.