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This list about the most influential books on Southeast Asian archaeology originated with a paper I am preparing for the conference on Decolonising Southeast Asia’s Past. Very simply put, I am trying to understand if there is a difference in archaeological sources in English, compared to what is written in a non-English language (eg. Thai, Myanma, Bahasa). Part of this work was inspired by my experiences with rock art and the difference between what was written in English and what I could find in other languages. For example, the 2001 Handbook of Rock Art Research summarises Southeast Asia in three pages and mentions the presence of about 120 sites – of which only five are named. In contrast, my ongoing research has identified 1,200 sites (see here and here) by incorporating data from non-English sources and papers from less prominent journals. Perhaps once I have my thoughts sorted out I will share it in another post. To understand this disparity better, I put out an informal survey to ask about the most influential books about the archaeology of Southeast Asia:

 

Crowdsourcing the Most Influential Books on Southeats Asian Archaeology

Crowdsourcing the Most Influential Books on Southeast Asian Archaeology

 

This is by no means a scientific survey, but the majority of respondents in my network were archaeologists working in Southeast Asia. While it is not comprehensive, I think there is a good breadth of what is considered to be the  ‘classic’ books on Southeast Asian archaeology. A few books were recommended more than once (notably Southeast Asia from Prehistory to History by Bellwood and Glover).

 

This list is organised by region, then country (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam) and then by thematic subject. Some suggestions that were not directly relevant to Southeast Asia were omitted. I’ve also included links to Amazon and/or the publisher if they are available for purchase (Disclosure: I make a commission if you buy the books through the Amazon links below). I’ll update this list regularly, so if you have a suggestion for other books leave a comment below.

 


Regional Interest

Cambodia

Indonesia


  • Ancient Indonesian Art (1959)
    A. J. Bernet Kempers | Harvard University Press | 978-0674033504
    This is the “gateway drug” for Indonesian Archaeology. First year of college, memorizing the photographs in order to identify which archaeological sites we’re going to discuss/being questioned. That was part of the final test. So although we have never been to the sites, once we’re there, we can identify them. Pretty kewl.
    Buy from Amazon.com: Ancient Indonesian Art

  • Lobu Tua: Sejarah Awal Barus
    Claude Guillot
    Buy from Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia: Lobu Tua: Sejarah Awal Barus

  • Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddhas (2107)
    John N. Miksic | Tuttle Publishing | 9780804848565
    I read this in my middle school library as part of my book club when I was a kid, made me interested in archaeology
    Buy from Amazon.com: Borobudur: Golden Tales of the Buddhas

  • Hindoe-Javaansche Muziek-Instrumenten (1927) / Hindu- Javanese Musical Instruments (1968)
    Jaap Kunst | Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten an Wetenschappen (Dutch)
    Jaap Kunst’s “Hindoe-Javaansche Muziek-Instrumenten” (1927) translated into English as “Hindu- Javanese Musical Instruments” (1968). This book introduced me to the history, music archaeology of temples in Java, the inscriptions and the classical literature in Old Javanese and Old Balinese.
    Buy from Amazon.com: Hindoe-Javaansche Muziek-Instrumenten and Hindu- Javanese Musical Instruments
  • The Prahu
    The Prahu: Traditional Sailing Boat of Indonesia (1986)
    Adrian Horridge | Oxford University Press | 9780195826371
    [T]his one is ethnography, but a very good source if you’re into archaeology of traditional ships/boats in Indonesia and Southeast Asia..
    Buy from Amazon: The Prahu: Traditional Sailing Boat of Indonesia

  • Through Eugène Dubois’ eyes (2009)
    Vos Albers | Brill | 9789004183001
    Buy from Amazon: Through Eugène Dubois’ eyes

  • Menemukan peradaban: Jejak arkeologis dan historis Islam Indonesia (1998)
    Hasan Muarif Ambary | Logos Wacana Ilmu | 9789796260515
    Buy from Amazon: Menemukan peradaban: Jejak arkeologis dan historis Islam Indonesia

  • Studies in Indonesian Archaeology (1956)
    W.F. STUTTERHEIM | Martinus Nijhoff
    Buy from Amazon: Studies in Indonesian Archaeology

Laos


  • Voyage dans le Lao (multiple volumes) (1895-1897)
    Etienne Aymonier
    Excellent resource on the landscape & people of Isan prior to majority of Central Thai intrusion – for ethnographic archaeology.
    Buy from Amazon.com: Voyage dans le Lao

Malaysia

Myanmar

Philippines

Thailand


  • Prehistoric Thailand: From Early Settlement to Sukhothai (1998)
    Charles Higham and Rachanie Thosarat | River Books | 9789748225302
    Buy from Amazon.com: Prehistoric Thailand: From Early Settlement to Sukhothai

  • Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology (2014)
    Nicolas Revire and Stephen A. Murphy (Eds.) | River Books | 9786167339412
    This book inspired me to study about Proto – Dvaravati in Thailand.
    Buy from Amazon.com: Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology

  • Hill of Prosperity: Excavations at Khok Charoen, Thailand: A Burial Site at the Stone-Metal Junction (2017)
    Helmut Loofs-Wissowa | British Archaeological Reports Oxford | 9781407315065
    Just finished reading this volume and found that it is a comprehensive record of archaeological remains and data on early prehistoric human burials and occupation in central Thailand before the intensive contacts with far&remote worlds. The site name as it appears in the volume is misleading; no nearby villages or communities were or are called Khok Charoen. The site is located in Chaibadan district of Lopburi province, east-central Thailand.
    Buy from Amazon.com: Hill of Prosperity: Excavations at Khok Charoen, Thailand

Vietnam


  • The People between the Rivers: The Rise and Fall of a Bronze Drum Culture, 200–750 CE (2016)
    Catherine Churchman | Rowman & Littlefield Publishers | 9781442258600
    This one is not totally archaeological, but its author, a historian, has used the discipline’s findings as one of the 2 essential sources for giving birth her masterpiece. The book talks about the uplands around VN-China borderlands during the 1st millennium AD
    Buy from Amazon.com: The People between the Rivers: The Rise and Fall of a Bronze Drum Culture, 200–750 CE

  • The Origins of Ancient Vietnam (2015)
    Nam C. Kim | Oxford University Press | 9780199980888
    Buy from Amazon.com: The Origins of Ancient Vietnam
  • Sa Huynh Linyi Champa
    Sa Huynh Linyi Champa
    Lam Thi Mi Dung | Nha Xuat Ban The Gioi
  • Khảo cỏ̂ học Việt Nam (2002)
    Ha Van Tan | Nhà xuá̂t bản Khoa học xã hội

  • Thanh Hoa Bronze Drums
    Thanh Hoa Province Museum | Nhà xuá̂t bản Khoa học xã hội

  • Appearance of beginning states in the North Vietnam
    Trinh Sinh | Nhà xuá̂t bản Khoa học xã hội

  • KHẢO CỔ HỌC BÌNH DÂN VÙNG NAM BỘ – VIỆT NAM TỪ THỰC NGHIỆM ĐẾN LÝ THUYẾT (2010)
    Nguyễn Thị Hậu and Lê Thanh Hải | Ho Chi Minh City General Publishing House
    This book inspired me to learn about archaeology in heritage sites and in the national or local cultural sites. It is useful for me who is not in archaeology field to start.
    Buy from Ho Chi Minh City General Publishing House: KHẢO CỔ HỌC BÌNH DÂN VÙNG NAM BỘ – VIỆT NAM TỪ THỰC NGHIỆM ĐẾN LÝ THUYẾT

Other themes

This list would not be possible without the wonderful suggestions and comments from the original post. Special thanks to (in no particular order): Atthasit Sukkham, Lia Genovese, Sitanun Suwunnasin, Đỗ Thùy Lan, Le-Na Dinh, Nasha Khaw, Thanik Lertcharnrit, Veronica Walker-Vadillo, Anita Bose, Reinhart Zieger, Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Alison Carter, Damien Huffer, S. T. Foo, Yadi Mulyadi, Tanachy Bruhns, Annissa Gultom, Miriam Stark, Arsenio Nicolas, Sofwan Noerwidi, James Flexner, Louise A. Hitchcock, Nicholas Voulu, Rusyad Adi Suriyanto, Gulapish Pookaiyaudom, Leedom Lefferts, Andreas Hörstemeier, Taj Vitales, Grace Barretto, Nguyen Thi Mai Huong, Natasha Kintanar, Suresh Narayanen, Abhirada Komoot,  Ruly Fauzi, Agni Mochtar and Nurul Ain Aili

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Categories: Books

5 Replies to “The most influential books on Southeast Asian Archaeology (a crowdsourced list)”

  1. Don’t forget about Myanmar! Something like ‘Early landscapes of Myanmar’ by Elizabeth H. Moore is a good starting point

  2. Thanks for this list but you have left out Burma largely which is a shame since the first major urban settlements in Southeast Asia are there. The following publications should be included
    Excavations at Beikthano by Aung Thaw ,1968
    The Ancient Pyu of Burma, Janice Stargardt,1990
    Documentation of Excavation at Beikthano, 2016

    The last is in both Burmese and English

  3. I can’t seem to find any bibliographic information about the 2016 Documentation of Excavation at Beikthano. If you can send me the details, I’ll put it up.

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