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Significance of pre-historic clay figures

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Significance of pre-historic clay figures

The Power of Dogu & Unearthed The Power of Dogu & Unearthed

Research into the significance of prehistoric clay figures of people led to three hugely popular exhibitions in the UK and Japan, reaching an audience of more than 200,000.

‘The Power of Dogu’ at the British Museum and the Tokyo National Museum in 2009-2010, and ‘Unearthed’ at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA) in 2010, displayed earthenware figures made from terracotta clay, from 1000-300 BCE.

Attracting funding from a range of sources, the project focused on prehistoric clay figures from Japan and the Balkans in a comparative framework that positioned the figures as artworks rather than simply archaeological finds.

Economic activity generated by the research project is estimated to total more than £5 million. The British Museum exhibition featured in contemporary Japanese art in the form of Manga, with a circulation of 10 million, as well as in a Japanese documentary broadcast in 2012 to an audience of 10.2 million.

Dr Simon Kaner, Director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Head of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute, specialises in the prehistory of Japan.

Dr Kaner said: “’The Power of Dogu’ and the ‘Unearthed’ exhibitions highlighted UEA’s unparalleled collection of these priceless figures, which continue to be one of the most popular features of the SCVA’s outstanding offering of artwork from around the world.”

'Playing in Time' was created by artist Sarah Beare, for the unearthed exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre.

Research was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), British Academy, Mitsubishi, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Henry Moore Foundation, Japan Foundation, International Jomon Culture Conference and ERASMUS

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Key academics Key academics

Dr Simon Kaner

Director of Centre for Japanese Studies, Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Head Centre for Archaelogy and Heritage, SISJAC

Research Interests

Japanese prehistory and the history of archaeology in Japan; the urban historic environment in Japan in comparative perspective; Japanese cultural heritage and the international role of Japanese heritage management. 

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The power of Dogu