Periods of Okinawan History

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The periods of Okinawan history are divided up differently from those of Japan.

Paleolithic Period (ends c. 10,000 BCE)

Shell Mound Period (c. 10,000 BCE - c. 1000 CE)

  • c. 7000 BCE - 300 BCE - Early Shell Mound Period[1]
  • c. 300 BCE - 1000 CE - Late Shell Mound Period
    • Hunter-gatherer subsistence society until c. 800 CE
    • Beginnings of agricultural subsistence c. 800 CE
    • Shell exchanges from c. 600 BCE to 1200 CE

Gusuku Period (1100s-1429)

Marked by emergence of the anji (local chieftains/lords), construction of gusuku (fortresses), and introduction of pottery and porcelain technologies from China.

Kingdom Period (1429-1879)

Okinawa Island is united under the Ryûkyû Kingdom, and expands to incorporate much of the rest of the Ryûkyû Islands

Modern Period (1879 - present)

Incorporation into modern state of Japan as Okinawa Prefecture.

  • 1879-1912 - Meiji Period
  • 1912-1945 - Pre-war & World War II
  • 1945-1972 - US Occupation
  • 1972 - present - Reversion

Periodization in Sakishima

Archaeologists have divided the historical periods somewhat differently for the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands.

  • Shell Mound Period prior to earthenware
  • Shell Mound Period after introduction of earthenware
  • Third Period (13th-15th centuries)
  • Fourth Period (16th-17th centuries)
  • Ryûkyû Kingdom Period
  • Modern Period


  • Suzuki Kakichi, et al. "Ryukyuan Architecture: Its History and Features," Okinawa bijutsu zenshû 沖縄美術全集, vol 5, Okinawa Times (1989), 89.
  1. Shell Mound periodization from Richard Pearson, Ancient Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2013), 3.