Ainu Fisherman, Kuril Island
The string of inhabited volcanic islands between Russia and Japan are densely vegetated and experience a maritime climate. Among the Ainu people who live there, all natural phenomena (including flora, fauna, and inanimate objects) are believed to have a spiritual essence. Recent DNA evidence suggests that the Ainu are the direct descendents of the ancient Jomon people who inhabited Japan as early as 12,000 years ago. Astonishingly, the Jomon culture existed in Japan for some 10,000 years, and today many artistic traditions of the Ainu seem to have evolved from the ancestral Jomon. As such, this artistic continuum represents one of the oldest ongoing cultural traditions in the world, spanning at least ten millennia. Anthropologists have speculated that the Ainu may be descendants of a prehistoric group of humans that also produced indigenous Australian peoples.