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Development of Regional Maritime Networks during the Early Metal Age in Northern Maluku Islands: A View from Excavated Glass Ornaments and Pottery Variation

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New paper by Ono et al. in the Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology

In this paper we discuss the results of excavation at the Aru Manara site in the Northern Maluku islands along with a description of the recovered pottery assemblage and results of compositional analysis of glass ornaments. By comparing our data to those from other sites in the area, we suggest the possible development of regional maritime networks in and around the Northern Maluku Islands during the Early Metal Age. The lowest level of the site contained a large number of secondary human burials, burial pots, and jars with distinctive anthropomorphic and zoomorphic motifs (including human faces and lizards), and possible baked clay ornaments. These all date to between ca. 2100 and 1900 years BP, corresponding to the Early Metal Age in Island Southeast Asia. The site also produced numerous glass beads and bracelets. X-ray fluorescence analysis confirms a high proportion of potash glass that possibly originated from China, Mainland Southeast Asia or India and is common in sites in Thailand and Vietnam dating to between 2500 and 2100 years BP. There was a minor occurrence of high alumina-soda glass beads known as Indo-Pacific beads that originated from India to Southeast Asia and which are commonly found in sites dated between 2300 and 1500 years BP or later. The glass ornaments from different areas, combined with variable pottery, indicates the possible development of maritime and cross-regional networks to the Northern Maluku Islands.

Source: Development of Regional Maritime Networks during the Early Metal Age in Northern Maluku Islands: A View from Excavated Glass Ornaments and Pottery Variation
https://doi.org/10.1080/15564894.2017.1395374

Categories: Ceramics Indonesia

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Spotlight on Sabah's stone age culture

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22 April 2007 (New Straits Times) – Today’s NST features a special spotlight on the stone age culture – past and ethnographic present. The first story is about the prehistory ceramics industrial site at Bukit Tengkorak (Tengkorak Hill).

New Straits Times, 22 Apr 2007

SpotLight: Stone Age Potters

Tampi villagers today don’t think twice about using clay from the foot of Bukit Tengkorak and nearby areas in southeastern Sabah for their pottery, digging wells for fresh water, burning wood for fuel and eating a wide range of fish, shellfish and molluscs.

But most of them are unaware that from about 3,000 until 2,000 years ago, people at the summit of the 600-foot hill did the same–when the Semporna peninsula was a late Stone Age population hub and craft centre.

Experts from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), the Sabah Museum Department and the Department of Natural Heritage have found millions of sherds which show that the site about five kilometres from Semporna town was one of the largest, if not the largest, pottery making sites in Island Southeast Asia (SEA) and the Pacific during the Neolithic era (the last part of the Stone Age, beginning 8,000 BC).

Their findings have overturned some theories about how prehistoric people lived and traded in the region.

Until the excavations here, archaeologists believed that long-distance sea trade and migration of people in insular SEA and the Pacific moved east from Melanesia (near Papua New Guinea) to Polynesia, leaving behind what is known as the “Lapita culture” of pottery, stone tools and ornaments.

“Our research at Bukit Tengkorak shows that 3,000 years ago, people were not only moving east towards New Britain in Melanesia but also westwards towards Sabah,” explains Dr Stephen Chia of USM’s Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia, who based his PhD thesis on the site.

“This is one of the longest trading routes in the world during the Neolithic period,” says the archeochemist who found obsidian (a volcanic glass used to make tools) at the site and traced it chemically to Talasea in New Britain, 3500 kilometres away. His fieldwork in Southeast Asia also found stone tools and pottery similar to Bukit Tengkorak in the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago and Sulawesi.

The second story covers the Bajau people who live in the vicinity of Bukit Tengkorak on the Semporna peninsula of Sabah – the clay stoves produced by the Bajau are remarkably similar to the 3,000-year-old stoves unearthed nearby, implying an unbroken ceramics manufacturing tradition.

New Straits Times, 22 Apr 2007

Bajaus carrying on a long tradition

The finished handiwork of this Bajau woman in Sabah’s southeastern Semporna peninsula looks exactly like the 3,000-year-old stove unearthed at nearby Bukit Tengkorak.

“Pottery has been made like this for hundreds of years,” says Rogayah. “Each house has a stove to grill fish or satay and cook rice.”

“The way of life of the Bajaus today and the food they eat are similar to what we found on site,” says Dr Stephen Chia of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia.

“We think that the nomadic Bajau Laut may have landed here to trade, mend their nets, dry fish and bury their dead, but it was the settled coastal Bajaus who made the pottery.”
However, he cautions: “The people of Bukit Tengkorak could also be a totally different group of maritime people who shifted here and then moved on.”


Related Books:
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Man’s conquest of the Pacific: The prehistory of Southeast Asia and Oceania by P. Bellwood

Mashiko potters reviving Cambodian craft

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13 April 2007 (Asahi Weekly) – A Japanese effort is underway to revive Cambodia’s ceramic-producing culture. Modern Cambodian ceramic-production techniques fall far below in quality and refinement compared to archaeological finds 700 – 800 years before.

Mashiko potters reviving Cambodian craft

Two craftsmen of famed Mashikoyaki pottery will visit Cambodia this year to help revive the country’s centuries-old pottery culture that was destroyed by Pol Pot’s regime.

They will work with local potters in Kampong Chhnang province for about 10 days to offer firing, design and other techniques.

Several Cambodians will also be invited to Mashiko around summer to undergo training.

Thanks to its clay, the Cambodian province was a noted pottery production center–until the Khmer Rouge’s bloody reign in the 1970s, when pottery making was banned and all documents were burned.

“Highly refined pottery that does not exist in present-day Cambodia has been unearthed from 12th- to 13th-century ruins of the Angkor (Khmer) era,” said Masataka Onishi, who helped start the project.

Onishi serves as senior deputy director at the Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) in Singapore.


Related Books:
Udaya Journal of Khmer Studies, Issue No. 1: Khmer Ceramics
Khmer Ceramics from the Kamratan Collection in the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum, Kyoto by H. Fujiwara
Khmer Ceramics (Oxford in Asia Studies in Ceramics) by D. Rooney
Khmer ceramics, 9th-14th century by the Southeast Asian Ceramics Society

The legacy of the Ban Chiang discovery

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Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Ban Chiang culture in Thailand’s Udon Thani province. This article from the Isaan Record features and interview with Dr Joyce White and her involvement with the site.

Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

The legacy of Ban Chiang: Archaeologist Joyce White talks about Thailand’s most famous archaeological site
The Isaan Record, 20 April 2016

Fifty years ago in August, in the village of Ban Chiang near Udon Thani, a visiting American student named Stephen Young tripped over an exposed tree root and fell atop the rim of a clay pot partly buried in the village path. His tumble set into motion two joint Thai-American archaeological expeditions to Ban Chiang in the 1970s that exposed the extent of prehistoric burial sites beneath the village, sites filled with thousands of pieces of pottery and metalwork buried as grave goods by Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples at different times between 4200 and 1800 years ago. The Ban Chiang finds revealed unexpected technological and artistic development among the peoples of the region and challenged prevailing ideas about the prehistory of Southeast Asia.

American archaeologist Dr. Joyce White is the Director of the Ban Chiang project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, USA, where she has studied the finds from Ban Chiang since 1976. She is an expert witness for the US Department of Justice in an ongoing antiquities trafficking case that in 2014 resulted in the return of many smuggled Ban Chiang items to Thailand.

Full story here.

Modernisation of Myanmar spells bad news for traditional ceramics

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Source: Fox News 20140916

Something for you ceramicists – a feature about how traditional ceramics makers in Myanmar are struggling against the influx of plastic and metal vessels from the opening of the economy.

Source: Fox News 20140916

Source: Fox News 20140916

Myanmar’s once-thriving clay pot industry struggles amid rapid changes, modernization
Fox News, 16 September 2014
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Prehistoric settlements uncovered in Sri Lanka

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Archaeological excavations in the northern district of Jaffna have uncovered evidence for ancient settlements dating to the first millenium BC. I like how they referred to one of the settlement as belonging to the ‘ironic’ ages. My guess it was just after a mercurial era. =P

Ancient settlements unearthed in Jaffna
Sri Lanka Daily News, 15 October 2009
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Sites tell of prehistoric societies

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27 February 2007 (Jakarta Post) – A short archaeological overview of Karawang, a city east of Jakarta.

Sites tell of prehistoric societies

Mention Karawang, a city around three hours east of Jakarta, to most people and you’ll bring to mind images of rice fields or the lyrics of nationalist poet Chairil Anwar.

But few are aware that the area is home to 31 different archaeological sites from several civilizations. Some have been restored, while many others remain buried beneath the rice fields.

Frenchman Jean Boisllier was the first to conduct research in the area, digging in Cibuaya on the city’s outskirts in 1959.

His discovery revealed the remnants of a civilization close to the ancient kingdom of Tarumanagara, but later investigations have revealed finds dating back to prehistoric times.

Three years after Boisllier, a team of archaeologists led by R.P. Soejono found clay pots, tools, beads and human bones from a community that lived around 2000 to 1500 years ago in what is now Buni, in Bekasi. Now known as the Buni community, the items found in the area show the ability of their craftsmen.

A year later, noted researcher Edi Sedyawati studied statues depicting the Hindu god Vishnu that had been found in Cibuaya and concluded that they were from an 8th century civilization, along with a brick monument in the area.

In the 1980s, mounds of soil rising over the rice fields of Batujaya, west of Cibuaya, turned out to be ancient masonry constructions thought to date back to the 4th century.


Related Books:
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Ancient History (The Indonesian Heritage Series) by Indonesian Heritage
Prehistoric Indonesia: A reader

Veteran archaeologist to conduct six-week dig at Fort Canning

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2012 photo of Prof. John Miksic at Fort Canning

via Straits Times, 01 September 2018: Prof. John Miksic is conducting a new excavation of Fort Canning Hill, a significant archaeological site in Singapore at the invitation of the National Parks Board in the lead-up to Singapore’s bicentennial in 2019. Note: Article is behind a paywall, but I found the full text on the NUS Southeast Asian Studies blog.

2012 photo of Prof. John Miksic at Fort Canning

2012 photo of Prof. John Miksic at Fort Canning

The lives of Singapore’s ancient rulers and people who worked in the royal Malay palace at Fort Canning Hill are being probed further by a pair of archaeologists.

Speaking to The Straits Times, veteran archaeologist John Miksic, 71, said he will be co-leading an excavation at the historic Fort Canning Park for six weeks from this weekend with Associate Professor Goh Geok Yian, 46. It will be Professor Miksic’s 13th dig at the park.

The National Parks Board invited Prof Miksic to conduct the dig as part of its overall restoration works at Fort Canning Park. This comes in the lead-up to Singapore’s bicentennial next year. The park will be the venue of the main bicentennial showcase.

The archaeologists will be assisted by a team of students and volunteers as they work in a large 10m by 5m pit near the park’s Spice Garden.

The area, which is also near the Registry of Marriages and the Keramat Iskandar Shah, has been interpreted as a 14th-century palace workshop after an earlier discovery of a “large charcoal feature” where iron tools were likely used.

Archaeologists had also found thousands of glass beads as well as small fragments of gold and clay crucibles at the site.

On the upcoming excavation, Prof Miksic said: “It is a significant site because it has the densest concentration of 14th-century artefacts in undisturbed soil anywhere on Fort Canning. We are likely to find a mixture of Chinese, Malay, South-east Asian, and Indian artefacts. The only question is whether we will find any new kinds of objects which we have not found before.”

The hill was once home to what was likely a large palatial complex dating back to the 14th century. A keramat or shrine was also located there – it was named after the last king of Singapura, Sri Sultan Iskandar Shah. He spent three years as king of Singapura before the island was invaded by the Majapahit empire at the turn of the 15th century. When Singapura fell, Iskandar Shah fled to Johor and eventually founded Melaka.

According to Prof Miksic’s book, Singapore And The Silk Road Of The Sea, 1300-1800, an initial dig at Fort Canning in 1984 ascertained that the hill had been occupied in the 14th century. Pottery made in China during its Yuan dynasty was discovered there.

Next year, a dedicated heritage museum is set to open at the three-storey conserved Fort Canning Centre, and will include artefacts dug up from Prof Miksic’s earlier excavations there.

Archaeologist Lim Chen Sian said: “It’s a very large hill so the excavations conducted there so far are only the tip of the iceberg. There is potential to find more materials from the Temasek period. It would be nice to look back in time in the lead-up to the bicentennial.”

Source: Veteran archaeologist to conduct six-week dig at Fort Canning, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times