New Paper: Evidence for the breakdown of an Angkorian hydraulic system, and its historical implications for understanding the Khmer Empire

New paper by Lustig et al. in JAS: Reports

This paper examines the construction and design of a 7-km long embankment, probably built for King Jayavarman IV between 928 and 941 CE, as part of a new capital. We calculate that the capacities of the outlets were too small, and conclude that the embankment failed, probably within a decade of construction, so that the benefits of the reservoir stored by the embankment and the access road on top of it were lessened substantially. We explain how the design was sub-optimal for construction, and that while the layout had a high aesthetic impact, the processes for ensuring structural integrity were poor. Simple and inexpensive steps to secure the weir were not undertaken. We speculate that this early failure may have contributed to the decision to return the royal court and the capital of the Khmer Empire to the Angkor region, marking a critically important juncture in regional history.

Evidence for the breakdown of an Angkorian hydraulic system, and its historical implications for understanding the Khmer Empire
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2017.11.014

Call for Papers: Conference on ‘Islam in the China Seas’

Organized by the Centre for the Study of Islamic Culture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

March 26-27, 2018 (Mon & Tues)
Hong Kong

A vital passage between the Indian and Pacific oceans, the South China Sea, has historically been an arena of competition, as nations and empires have vied for hegemonic control over it for centuries. Tensions in the area have steadily risen in recent years and a maritime military buildup currently demands world attention as a flashpoint of geopolitical jockeying among regional and global powers. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have all staked claims to parts of this strategic and resource-rich basin, while the United States also seeks to protect its far-reaching interests there.

Long before the current geopolitical conflicts, the South China Sea was already a center of international commerce, comparable to the Mediterranean as a conduit of wealth and a melting pot of cultures, where both goods and ideas were exchanged. Commodities and technologies from the Indian and Chinese civilizational spheres were freely transmitted, and transported as far afield as Africa and Japan. Among the cultural cargo, religious teachings were also trafficked along the ancient maritime trade routes. Arab and Iranian merchants from the Persian Gulf had long participated in Indian Ocean trade, and eventually penetrated the Malacca Straits into the South China Sea. Starting in the late 7th century, after the establishment of Islam in Arabia, Muslim seafaring traders continued this tradition.

Thus, Islam spread into the China Seas via the so-called maritime extension of the Silk Road, and from there it reached the southeast coast of the Chinese mainland, as well as the peninsulas and archipelagos of Southeast Asia, and beyond. This conference aims to explore the historical, geographic, economic, social, political, cultural and religious contexts of the introduction and development of Islam in the greater China Seas region, from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Topics of research will include: trade and religious dissemination; Muslim settlement in the China Seas region; the introduction and spread of Islam in South China; Islamisation, assimilation and indigenization; and Muslims’ role in the spread of Chinese regional influence, among others. Such research represents an important component of the international and intercultural understanding underlying the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Dates: March 26-27, 2018 (Mon and Tues)

Submission of Abstracts:

An abstract of not more than 350 words should be submitted, with a short CV, to csic@cuhk.edu.hk before Friday, 1 December 2017. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by Friday, 29 December 2017.

Language: English and Chinese

Contact information: For enquiries about the conference and submission of abstracts, please contact Ms Asiah Yang at csic@cuhk.edu.hk.

Hosting Institution: Centre for the Study of Islamic Culture, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

About our center: http://cuhk.edu.hk/rih/csic/

Contact Info:

For enquiries about the conference and submission of abstracts, please contact Ms Asiah Yang at csic@cuhk.edu.hk.
Contact Email: csic@cuhk.edu.hk
URL: http://cuhk.edu.hk/rih/csic/

Govt Plans to Relocate Hotels From Bagan Archeological Zone

via The Irrawaddy, 20 November 2017: Plans are being made, but negotiations with specific hotels have not yet begun.

The country plans to relocate hotels in preparation of the ancient city’s final nomination dossier to become a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Source: Govt Plans to Relocate Hotels From Bagan Archeological Zone

Follow Darren Curnoe on his Niah Caves excavation

Darren Curnoe of the University of New South Wales is on his three-week excavation of the Niah Caves in Sarawak and he will be tweeting and broadcasting his experiences on Facebook Live. You can follow his progress here:

Darren Curnoe – Anthropologist. 80 likes. Biological anthropologist and archaeologist with an insatiable curiosity about the kind of creature we are and how we came to be this way.

Source: Darren Curnoe – Anthropologist

Follow me on Instagram – @southeastasianarchaeology

If you’ve been following the Twitter and Facebook feed of this website, you might have noticed that I’ve just started an Instagram feed for the website. You can follow me at @southeastasianarchaeology. If you’re not on Instagram, you can also see the feed via the widget on the side of the main website.

I’ll be posting photos from my archives and my ongoing work, and I’ll be happy to like or repost photos with the hashtag #southeastasianarchaeology

Source: Southeast Asian Archaeology (@southeastasianarchaeology) • Instagram photos and videos

New Paper: Rock art and the colonisation of Southeast Asia

Over the past decade, archaeologists have been able to directly date rock art, particularly in Island Southeast Asia at sites in East Kalimantan, East Timor and South Sulawesi. The dates of rock art indicate that modern humans were creating rock art during the Pleistocene, comparable to similar rock art in Europe. In this paper by Aubert et al., the authors note that the presence of these sites and dates now begs the question, did the ability to create rock art move out of Africa with human migrations, or did it erupt independently in different parts of the world? Also within Island Southeast Asia, did rock art develop from a specific place and spread throughout prehistoric Sahul, or did it arise independently among different communities in the region?

Recent technological developments in scientific dating methods and their applications to a broad range of materials have transformed our ability to accurately date rock art. These novel breakthroughs in turn are challenging and, in some instances, dramatically changing our perceptions of the timing and the nature of the development of rock art and other forms of symbolic expression in various parts of the late Pleistocene world. Here we discuss the application of these methods to the dating of rock art in Southeast Asia, with key implications for understanding the pattern of recent human evolution and dispersal outside Africa.

The Timing and Nature of Human Colonization of Southeast Asia in the Late Pleistocene: A Rock Art Perspective – Current Anthropology
https://doi.org/10.1086/694414

The race to save up to 50 shipwrecks from looters in Southeast Asia

via The Conversation, 16 November 2017:

More than 48 shipwrecks have been illicitly salvaged – and the figure may be much higher. Museums can play a key role in the protection of these wrecks, alongside strategic recovery and legislative steps.

Source: The race to save up to 50 shipwrecks from looters in Southeast Asia

Old-new history of ancient Kedah

via New Straits Times, 11 November 2017: Archaeoturism at the Sungei Batu site.

If you’re now thinking that this is a recently discovered lost civilisation in the dense tropical jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula or South America, built by either the fearsome Mayans or Aztecs, well think again. This latest ground-breaking discovery predating many well-known ancient civilisations is found right here in our very own backyard. To be exact, it’s located in Malaysia’s northern state of Kedah.

Armed with these tantalising facts related to me recently by a friend, I make my way to the main entrance of the Sungai Batu archaeological site. I’m excited and ready to see for myself the many amazing discoveries that are set to rewrite history textbooks in the near future.

Acting on my friend’s advice, I quickly sign up for a guided tour that costs only RM10 for locals. The tour, conducted by graduate students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), allows visitors access into many key areas within the excavation complex which currently houses nearly 100 excavated sites. Be forewarned that most of these important sites are off-limits to those who opt for free access to the area.

Source: Old-new history of ancient Kedah | New Straits Times | Malaysia General Business Sports and Lifestyle News

Burma pledges to relocate hotels from Bagan archaeological site

via DVB, 11 November 2017:

At the forefront of Burma’s proposal to UNESCO will be a pledge to relocate hotels and buildings that interfere with the ancient ruins.

Source: Burma pledges to relocate hotels from Bagan archaeological site- DVB Multimedia Group