Lecture: Ancient Medical Industries in Cambodia and the 2017 NSC Archaeological Field School

Readers in Singapore may be interested in the talk by Dr Kyle Latinis at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre later this week.

Date: 19 October 2017
Time: 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Venue:Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore

The 2017 Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre (NSC) Archaeological Field School recently assisted APSARA Authority with rather incredible discoveries at the late 12th century Tonle Snguot hospital site located in the Angkor Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia. The discoveries included a 2.0 metre guardian statue (Dvarapala) and several rare Buddha statues – one of which may be a “Healing” or “Medicine” Buddha (Bhaisajyaguru).

The Tonle Snguot site is located outside the northern gate of the famed and massive Angkor Thom urban complex. Both Angkor Thom and Tonle Snguot are associated with King Jayavarman VII (1181-1218 CE), a Mahayana Buddhist who sanctioned the construction of 102 hospitals outside the city gates, along major roads, and at different urban sites throughout the kingdom. Our research purpose aimed to understand the nature of the hospital complex. Hospitals included both practical medicine and complementary spiritual healing. Additionally, it is probably no accident that a hospital is located just outside the main gates at Angkor Thom – possibly serving as checkpoints to assure healthy and sane people entered the city.

The Field School involved one week of excavations at the site to train East Asia Summit participants in basic field methods and research design. Other aspects of the Field School included site trips throughout Cambodia and Singapore to incorporate art history, history, historical ecology and several overlapping fields in order to emphasize archaeology’s multi-disciplinary nature. The participants finished their tour de force with mini research projects presented at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.

Source: Lecture: Ancient Medical Industries in Cambodia and the 2017 NSC Archaeological Field School – ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

Lecture: Museums in Southeast Asia: A Brief Cultural History

Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk by Dr Maurizio Peleggi of the National University of Singapore on October 7.

Museums in Southeast Asia: A Brief Cultural History

This talk explores the idea of the museum as a repository of knowledge and tool of nation-building in its global diffusion from Europe to the rest of the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum’s various typologies (art, history, natural museum) and statuses (national, colonial, postcolonial) are reviewed in relation to Singapore’s history and the museum boom of the past decade.

Source: HistoriaSG – Museums in Southeast Asia: A Brief Cultural History Tickets, Sat, 7 Oct 2017 at 11:00 AM | Eventbrite

Lecture: The Religions of Dvāravatī and Zhenla in the 7th-8th Centuries

Readers in Phnom Penh may be interested in this lecture by Dr Nicolas Revire at the Royal University of Fine Arts on 29 September 2017, at 5.30 pm. The lecture is in French.

The paradigm that Dvāravatī in pre-modern Thailand was predominantly “Buddhist” and the entity known
as Zhenla in 7th–8th-centuries Cambodia “Brahmanical” has long remained uncontested. In the past, the “Dvāravatī realm” has largely been described and associated with settlements in today’s western-central Thailand where “Buddhism” was significantly and increasingly practised during the second half of the first-millennium CE. Based on this literature, Dvāravatī has long been assumed by scholars as almost exclusively a Buddhist domain although there has been a hesitant shift in recent years to argue for Brahmanism alongside Buddhism. In contrast, “Brahmanism” has often been perceived to operate primarily in the eastern margins of this territory, closer to Khmer counterparts in Zhenla where there were presumably followers of Śiva and Viṣṇu as well as Harihara, a combination of both gods. In this lecture, however, I challenge this basic religious dichotomy. My reassessment of the material culture and inscriptions from these two neighbouring regions temper and question the compartmentalization of such doctrinal categories as either “Buddhist” or “Brahmanical” and instead emphasize on the complex nature of the religion of that age through the lens of the ideology of merit.

[Lecture] A New Interpretation on the Eastern Limit of Ptolemy’s World Map and its Influence on European Worldview in the Evolution of Southeast Asian Mapping

Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this talk at the Siam Society by Trongjai Hutangkura on 31 August 2017.

The Geography, written in the second century CE by Claudius Ptolemy (c. 100 ce- c. 170 ce), described the Earth’s geography through knowledge from Greco-Roman trade routes. The map India beyond the Ganges presented geographical information stretching from the river’s east bank towards China. Although previous studies provided place-names based on cognate comparisons between Ptolemaic data and recent toponyms, the identification of the Ptolemaic eastern limit remains problematic, exemplified by a location known to the ancient Romans as Kattigara, possibly Hangzhou (China) or Óc Eo (Vietnam). My research raises the possibility of Kattigara being located in the vicinity of the Korea Bay, based on a comparison of geographical landmarks such as the river’s mouth and cape. Other possibilities may involve Suvarṇabhūmi and a town called Zabai (Óc Eo). Though geographic recognition of Ptolemaic toponyms has since disappeared, their graphic information is still acknowledged and carries some influence in Southeast Asia, including in maps compiled by European and Arab cartographers in the 12th-16th centuries. These maps are a blend of Ptolemaic place-names and navigational information of their ages, visualising an imaginary continent of Southeast Asia. My presentation will illustrate research on the identification of cartographic information of Ptolemy’s India beyond the Ganges and Chinese lands as the basis for the study of ancient Southeast Asian maps.

Source: A New Interpretation on the Eastern Limit of Ptolemy’s World Map and its Influence on European Worldview in the Evolution of Southeast Asian Mapping. A talk by Trongjai Hutangkura

[Lecture] A Mauryan–Śunga Period Ringstone: 3rd-1st Century BCE, found in Peninsular Thailand

Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this lecture at the Siam Society on 24 August 2017 by Anna Bennett.

In October 2014, a finely decorated Śunga ringstone was found by the owner of a sand quarry on the Tha Tapao River on the eastern side of Isthmus region of the Thai peninsula. The ringstone is a characteristic, almost defining object of the Mauryan – Śunga periods of Northern India, where possibly as many as 70 have been recorded from the Punjab, eastwards along the Ganges Valley to Bihar. A few ringstones are held in major museums outside India, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum in London, the Asian Art Museum in Berlin, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum. A few are also in private collections. The present example from Peninsular Thailand is the only one known to have been found outside the Indian subcontinent, thus providing yet more clear evidence for ancient contacts and trade between India and Thailand from the early centuries BCE, which long predated the establishment of the later Indian-influenced kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The function of these ringstones has never been clarified, although the author suggests that jewellery moulds remain a likely explanation for the extraordinary level of carved detail. Other suggestions have included that they were ear spools, although this seems improbable, on the practical grounds of their weight. Others have suggested a cult use or use as an apotropaic or physical contraceptive device due to the depiction of the nude mother goddess alternating with the ‘Tree of Life’. This ringstone was found at the same site as at least four very thin and fragmentary gold circular foils, which is the first occurrence of such an association, and lends weight to the hypothesis that the ringstones were perhaps, among other things, moulds for beating thin gold sheet ornaments. One of the gold sheets has an animal decorative motif which is very similar to that on the ringstone itself and the other has a repoussé design of interlinked ‘S’ motifs very similar to the only other known gold sheet, which was found in a burial context in India.

Source: A Mauryan–Śunga Period Ringstone: 3rd-1st Century BCE, found in Peninsular Thailand. A talk by Anna Bennett

[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] Ancient Peninsular Siam and its Neighborhood

Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this lecture at the Siam Society by my colleague Wannasarn Noonsuk in 10 August 2017. Dr Noonsuk is the Senior Specialist in Visual Arts at SPAFA.

This talk provides observations concerning socio-cultural development in Peninsular Siam and its significance in maritime Southeast Asia since the Iron Age. This area between two oceans was an important link for the East-West maritime trade as well as a production hub of jewelry, tin and forest products since the late centuries BCE. Among several principalities later developed in this isthmian tract, Tambralinga was an outstanding kingdom. Its material remains from the 5th century CE suggest that Hinduism was prominent and offered different artistic idioms from the Dvaravati expression of central Thailand in the same period. In terms of social interaction, the distribution of Bronze drums indicates that the isthmian tract was part of the neighborhood of communities around the Gulf of Siam, which was a busy hub of trade and a large market with common vision. It is likely that the ornaments produced at the sites such as Khao Sam Kaeo and Phukhao Thong were for the growing market in the Gulf and beyond to the east, rather than for India in the West. The Vishnu images from this area may have been the prototypes of those in the Mekong Delta. Perhaps similar to the Funan polity of the 1st- 6th centuries, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya in the 15th century launched military campaigns to the peninsula as an attempt to control the Gulf neighborhood.

Source: Ancient Peninsular Siam and its Neighborhood. A Talk by Wannasarn Noonsuk

[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