Public Lecture: The Tombstones of Lamreh (Ancient Lamri)

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Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk by Dr. E. Edwards McKinnon at ISEAS.

The Tombstones of Lamreh (Ancient Lamri): Their relevance to the arrival of Islam according to the Sejarah Melayu
Venue: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore
Date: 4 March 2015

The Lamreh headland adjacent to the Krueng Raya bay in Aceh Besar regency, Aceh province of Indonesia, known locally as Ujong Batee Kapai or the Ship-rock headland is one of the most important early Islamic settlement sites in northern Sumatra. The headland, some 300 ha in extent and the site of an ancient harbour has recently proved to have been devastated by one, if not two, pre-modern tsunamis and is a mediaeval settlement marked by numerous Islamic grave markers. The Lamreh site may be related to the Lan-li or Lan-wu-li of mediaeval Chinese texts, and in all probability the Chola ‘Ilamuridesam’ of the 11th century Tanjore inscription.

Attention to a sadly neglected burial ground at Lubhok was initiated by an Indonesian archaeological research team in 1996. The author was fortunate in being able to visit the headland site shortly after the Indonesian visit and discover an extensive cultural landscape which at that time was still largely intact. Two distinct types of grave marker, a small, plain proto-batu Aceh and a distinct so-called plang pleng tradition are to be found there. These grave markers and similar stones at three other contemporary coastal sites, Aru, Perlak and Samudera Pase, are seemingly of some importance in considering the legend of the arrival of Islam in the Sejarah Melayu and may help in understanding the arrival of Islam in the Aceh region.

The occurrence of the plang pleng tombstones that are found only in a very limited geographical area, may reflect the presence of a South Asian trading organization that had links to Sri Lanka, to Ayudhaya and to Quanzhou in south China in the 14th and 15th centuries. The plang pleng burial tradition seemingly disappears with the rise of the new sultanate in the late 15th or early 16th centuries.

More details and registration here.

Public lecture: Ancient Fansur, Aceh’s ‘Atlantis’

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Readers in Singapore may be interested in a talk by Dr. E. Edwards McKinnon on the ancient (and possibly submerged) site of Fansur.

Ancient Fansur, Aceh’s ‘Atlantis’: The Case for Lhok Pancu / Indrapurwa
Dr E. Edwards McKinnon
Date: 03 May 2013
Time: 3.30 – 5.00 pm
Venue: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, Seminar Room II

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Some of the earliest evidence for Islam in Southeast Asia

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A beach strewn with Islamic tombstones in Indonesia’s Acheh province, uncovered the devastating 2004 tsunami, shed light on the spread of Islam into the region. The tombstones date as early as the 10th century and are some of the earliest evidence for the spread of the religion into Southeast Asia.

Aceh tombstones hint Islam spread to S.E. Asia 3 centuries earlier
Kyodo News, 16 October 2009
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Prehistoric skeleton unearthed in Aceh

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Prehistoric skeletal remains dating 3,500 years (Neolithic?) and ancient tools were found from an excavation in central Aceh in Indonesia. It’ll be interesting to see how the find fits in with contemporary skeletal remains found in Southeast Asia, although I think some of the remarks reported are quite dubious: how did they conclude from the stones placed on top of the body that it was for prevention of wild animals and not some kind of ritual behaviour? Also, why is it only women who dig up tubers?

Archaeological Dig in Aceh Turns Up 3,500-Year-Old Bones and Artifacts
Jakarta Globe, 13 March 2009
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Categories: Bioarchaeology Bones Indonesia


Post tsunami archaeology and ceramics in Aceh – Tsunamis, quakes and potsherds!

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Post tsunami archaeology and ceramics in Aceh – Tsunamis, quakes and potsherds!
Presented by Asia Research Institute (ARI)

Speaker: Dr Edmund Edwards McKinnon, Visiting Fellow, Asia Research Institute
Date/Time: Sat, 10 Mar 07, 10.00am – 12.00pm
Venue: Level 5, Imagination Room

Admission is FREE but registration is required. Please register before 5pm on Fri, 9 Mar 2007, by emailing and to include “Lecture by Dr McKinnon” in the subject field. Places are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first serve basis.

The major earthquake and tsunami of 26 December 2004 resulted in considerable changes to the coastline of western and northern Aceh. Some areas have disappeared altogether, others such as the islands of Simeulue and Nias have been uplifted or tilted. Surveys of coastal areas of Aceh Besar suggest that settlement patterns have changed over the centuries but former settlement sites may be identified by ceramic remains. This presentation will discuss ongoing survey work along the coast of Aceh Besar where sites of three important early settlements have come to light in the past decade.

Speaker Biodata:
Dr. Edmund Edwards McKinnon received his PhD from Cornell in 1984. As an archaeologist and art historian he has written largely on Southeast Asian trade ceramic finds. He is presently with the United Nations Development Programme in Banda Aceh.