Paper: Seafaring Archaeology of the East Coast of India and Southeast Asia during the Early Historical Period

A new Open Access paper published in Ancient Asia:

The concept of trade in ancient India was quite different from modern times. In olden day’s mariners, artisans, traders, Buddhist monks and religious leaders used to set sail together and this trend continued till the advent of modern shipping. The representation of art on the walls of the caves, stupas and temples enlighten us regarding their joint ventures, experiences and problems faced during the sea voyages. The finding of varieties of pottery, punch marked and Roman coins, Brahmi and Kharoshti inscriptions along the ports, trade centres and Buddhist settlements suggest the role played by them in maritime trade during the early historical period and later. Mariners of India were aware of the monsoon wind and currents for more than two thousand years if not earlier. Furthermore, the study shows that the maritime contact with Southeast Asian countries was seasonal and no changes of Southwest and Northeast monsoon have been noticed since then. This paper details the types of pottery, beads, cargo found at ports, trade routes and Buddhist settlements along the east coast of India and the role of monsoons in maritime trade. The impact of Buddhism on trade and society of the region are also discussed.

Source: Seafaring Archaeology of the East Coast of India and Southeast Asia during the Early Historical Period (doi:10.5334/aa.118

CFP: SEA Studies Symposium 2018

The 7th Annual Southeast Asian Studies Symposium will be held in March 2018 at Universitas Indonesia with the theme: “What is Southeast Asia? Exploring Uniqueness and Diversity”. Proposals for papers and sessions are due by October 15, 2017.

“What is Southeast Asia? Exploring Uniqueness and Diversity” 22–24 March 2018 at Universitas Indonesia in collaboration with School of Environmental Science, Universitas Indonesia Indonesia Environ…

Source: SEA Studies Symposium 2018 – Call for Panels and Papers | Project Southeast Asia

[Lecture] Tantrism and State Formation in Southeast Asia

Readers in Singapore may be interested in this lecture by Andrea Ancri at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre on 14 August 2017.

Tantrism and State Formation in Southeast Asia

The socio-religious phenomenon we now call “Tantrism” dominated the religious and ritual life in much of South and Southeast Asia from around 500 CE to 1500 CE and beyond. Yet, the impact of Śaiva and Buddhist Tantric traditions on the societies and cultures of Southeast Asia remains insufficiently studied and appreciated. The talk will explore the indissoluble link between the State and Tantric ideologies/ritual systems in Southeast Asia. It will first deal with state formation, evaluating the theories of “man of prowess” and “Śaiva bhakti” elaborated by historian Oliver Wolters, then turn to the role of Tantric magic and ritual in the medieval maṇḍala polities of Sumatra, Java, and Cambodia. Finally, it will offer some concluding reflections on the link between politics, power, and the “supernatural” in modern Southeast Asia.

Source: Lecture: Tantrism and State Formation in Southeast Asia – ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

[Lecture] The Emergence of Complex Behaviour: Examples from Ancient Southeast Asia

Readers in Canberra may be intestested in this upcoming talk by Marc Oxenham in August 9

This presentation explores the evidence for the emergence of complex behaviour in the past, using Southeast Asia as an illustrative example. I ask what defines complexity in an archaeological sense and discuss this in terms of evidence for major archaeologically visible changes in human behaviour over time. After an over view of the population history of the region, I look at the rise of high density hunter-gatherer communities in northern Southeast Asia (southern China and northern Vietnam). The reasons for their success, and ultimate failure, are contrasted with the emergence of the first farming communities, and concomitant massive demographic changes, in the same region. Throughout the discussion of the emergence of complex behaviours I look to potential environmental (e.g. climate volatility and the effects of documented temperature rises of 2 to 4oC between 8-3,000 years ago) and anthropogenic (e.g. land clearance, wild plant and animal management) factors. Finally, I ask if any salutary lessons can be drawn from our nearest neighbours that adapted to and lived with the effects of climate change thousands of years ago.

Source: The Emergence of Complex Behaviour: Examples from Ancient Southeast Asia Tickets, Wed, 09/08/2017 at 4:00 pm | Eventbrite

Job: Faculty Position – Relationships Between China and its Neighbouring Countries – Shanghai Normal University

Faculty position available in Shanghai Normal University, open to archaeological focuses on Chinas relations with Southeast Asia. Applications close on July 12, 2017

Faculty Position – Relationships Between China and its Neighbouring Countries

The Guangqi Centre for International Scholars is a research institute affiliated with Shanghai Normal University, focusing on the application of academic research on reality. It is built to facilitate communication between Western cultures and Eastern cultures and to attract talented scholars to exchange ideas freely. The central aim is to become a well-known research institute soon.

The Guangqi Centre for International Scholars seeks a full-time scholar focused on relationships between China and its neighbouring countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia. This is a full-time academic position with a three-year renewable contract.

This position is open to scholars of all thematic interests: history, politics, archaeology, linguistics, literature, religion, anthropology, art, international relations, and other related fields.
The recruited scholars will be directly admitted by the school. They will also be able to undertake postdoctoral research on world history, Chinese history, Chinese language and literature, and more, per their interest.

Source: Faculty Position – Relationships Between China and its Neighbouring Countries – Shanghai Normal University – jobs.ac.uk

Explainer: the rise of naked tourism

The Conversation, 29 May 2017: Remember when a couple of years ago, there was a rash of tourists taking naked photos in Angkor (see here and here)and other inappropriate places?

The trend of ‘naked tourism’ reveals something more than just bare bottoms – and it may call for some active interventions.

Source: Explainer: the rise of naked tourism

UNESCO World Heritage Centre – UNESCO Expert Meeting for the World Heritage Nomination Process of the Maritime Silk Routes

The Maritime Silk Route would naturally include many Southeast Asian stops.

UNESCO Expert Meeting for the World Heritage Nomination Process of the Maritime Silk Routes

There has been much discussion about possible strategies for the nominations on the UNESCO World Heritage List of the impact of maritime trade on the cultures and civilizations between East and West often referred to as the ‘Maritime Silk Routes’. The aim of this UNESCO Expert Meeting for the World Heritage Nomination Process of the Maritime Silk Routes, which will be held on 30-31 May 2017 in London, is to bring together scholars who have worked on the history, archaeology, and heritage of maritime interactions across this vast area in order to discuss the strategy for further research, as well as the development of a platform to enter into a possible dialogue with the States Parties of the World Heritage Convention along the Maritime Silk Routes.

Source: UNESCO World Heritage Centre – UNESCO Expert Meeting for the World Heritage Nomination Process of the Maritime Silk Routes

Art on the Rocks – Discussing the future of rock art from Namibia

Last week I was in Namibia attending a colloquium on rock art organized by the Getty Conservation Institute. The aim of the colloquium was to share thoughts, ideas and solutions about rock art management, conservation and public engagement with perspectives from around the world, and it was a continuation of earlier discussions which began in Southern Africa and Australia (you can download the papers and results of the earlier colloquiums here).

Dancing Kudu from the Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site
Dancing Kudu from the Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site

The participants were a good mix of researchers, site managers, indigenous voices and artists, who each shared unique perspectives and case studies ranging from rock art films, community engagement projects, fund raising. For my presentation, I shared examples of rock art site protection from Southeast Asia, including bits of earlier research on how religious shrines form around rock art sites; the use of social media to engage the public (such as by reading this site, or following this blog on Facebook and Twitter) and highlighted the ongoing Gua Tambun Heritage Awareness Project run by the team at Universiti Sains Malaysia (also a site I had worked on previously). While my presentation was the only one specific to SEA, there were several other participants who have worked or are working in the region as well – a reflection of the growing interest in rock art here.

Catherine Namono of the University of Witzwatersrand discussing community-led rock art management
Catherine Namono of the University of Witzwatersrand discussing community-led rock art management

We also got to visit the world heritage sites of Twyfelfontein and Brandberg, known for rock art that was created by the Bushmen of Southern Africa. The rock art sites are several thousands years old, depicting animals such as giraffes, elephants, rhino and other wildlife. The rock art at Brandberg was mostly paintings, while at Twyfelfontein the rock art was predominantly petroglyphs (carvings) and it was interesting to see the contrast and also the number of sites.

Visiting the White Lady rock art site in Brandberg
Visiting the White Lady rock art site in Brandberg
The White Lady
The iconic ‘White Lady, which was discovered about 100 years ago – it isn’t actually a lady but a male shaman figure!
Twyfelfontein Lion Carving
The lion carving is the icon of the Twyfelfontein site, and is thought to be a depiction of a shaman because of the human hands depicted instead of paws
Zebra carving at Twyfelfontein
Zebra carving at Twyfelfontein
Dancing Kudu site from the air
Dancing Kudu site from the air

It was my first visit to Africa, and apart from the rock art sites there were also lots of animals to see!

Desert Elephants
Desert Elephants
Springboks
Springboks
Giraffes
Giraffes

Meetings like these are very useful to keep up to date with international trends, and also challenge one’s self with new perspectives. Australia and South Africa had clear leadership roles in the area of rock art management due to the number of sites in their region and also issues and experience in dealing with indigenous communities and having multiple research projects focused on rock art; in contrast, there aren’t many dedicated rock art scholars in this region, rock art management here depends largely on state intervention and in most cases Southeast Asian rock art has no ancestral connection to the people living in the area today. Still, I learnt a lot and will be applying some ideas to future rock art projects at my day job in SPAFA.

Dronie from the Brandberg White Lady site
Dronie from the Brandberg White Lady site

Many thanks to the Getty Conservation Institute for the opportunity to participate in this rock art colloquium, and in particular Neville Agnew, Nicholas Hall and Paul Taçon. There should be a publication from this meeting out hopefully by the end of the year, and I’ll post news about it when it comes out.

[Book] New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory (Terra Australis 45)

A new book from ANU Press – the ebook is free!

‘This volume brings together a diversity of international scholars, unified in the theme of expanding scientific knowledge about humanity’s past in the Asia-Pacific region. The contents in total encompass a deep time range, concerning the origins and dispersals of anatomically modern humans, the lifestyles of Pleistocene and early Holocene Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, the emergence of Neolithic farming communities, and the development of Iron Age societies.

Source: New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory (Terra Australis 45) | ANU Press