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:
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.