[Talk] Writing as a Marker of Identity in Early South and Southeast Asia

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Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk by Prof. Himanshu Prabha Ray at the National University of Singapore on 12 September.

‘DEFINING TRANSNATIONAL MARITIME CULTURAL HERITAGE: WRITING AS A MARKER OF IDENTITY IN EARLY SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST ASIA’
Speaker: Prof Himanshu Prabha Ray (Anneliese Maier Fellow, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich)
Date: Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)

Within the narrative of terrestrial histories of nation states, accounts of maritime cultural heritage often become an extension of land-based concerns. A paradigm shift to understanding the history of the sea destabilizes linear mapping of time and chronologies of political dynasties, empires and trading activity that helped sustain the quest for luxuries. This shift entails re-establishing the centrality of the sea and viewing it not only as a space permitting movement, but as a site of cultural encounters and shared experiences, as expressed through the medium of writing in a common script, i.e. the Brahmi script. The languages expressed were diverse and included Sanskrit, Prakrit, Tamil and Sinhala, as evident from inscriptions on pots recovered in South and Southeast Asia. In this presentation I revisit sites along the east coast of India and investigate maritime networks across Bay of Bengal as indicated by the presence of inscribed pottery recorded in archaeological investigations. An important marker of the interconnectedness of sites extending from lower Bengal to coastal Sri Lanka is the Rouletted Ware, first identified at the well-known site of Arikamedu on the Tamil coast and described by Mortimer Wheeler in 1946 as an indicator of Roman trade. In recent years, not only has Rouletted Ware been found in coastal Malaysia, Thailand, Java, Bali and Vietnam, but rigorous analysis of Tissamaharama in Sri Lanka has helped define its date from 2nd and 3rd century BCE to 1st century BCE. It is also evident that many Rouletted Ware pots were inscribed and continued in circulation for a longer period. Here I will primarily focus on patterns of use/distribution of inscribed pottery in an attempt to emphasise both temporal and spatial variations of cultural contacts across South and Southeast Asia and the extent to which writing was used as a marker of identity in maritime Asia in the centuries around the Common Era. The larger issue being addressed is the circulation of knowledge across the seas and the agency responsible for these circuits. Can these complexities be accommodated as Outstanding Universal Values that can underwrite transnational cultural routes to be nominated for World Heritage status?

Source: ‘Defining Transnational Maritime Cultural Heritage: Writing as a Marker of Identity in early South and Southeast Asia’ (Wednesday, 12 September 2018) – Southeast Asian Studies @ NUS

Conference: Taiwan Maritime Landscapes from Neolithic to Early Modern Times

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For readers in Paris, a conference on Taiwanese Maritme Landscapes – with relevant links to Southeast Asia.

Taiwan Maritime Landscapes from Neolothic to Early Modern Times: Cross-Regional Perspectives
Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO)
Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
Centre de recherche sur les civilisations d’Asie orientale (CRCAO, EPHE-CNRS)

Organized by

Paola CALANCA, EFEO (French School of Asian Studies)
LIU Yi-ch’ang, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Frank MUYARD, National Central University, Taiwan
Alain THOTE, CRCAO (EPHE)

More details here.

PhD Scholarship researching ancient seafaring to Australasia

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Potential PhD students take note, a scholarship to study at the University of Southampton to investigate seafaring to Australasia. Deadline is 13 April 2015 but scholarship is limited to UK or EU students only.

PhD studentship in Prehistoric Archaeology and Oceanography: Exploitation of prevailing winds and currents by the earliest known seafarers, reaching and colonizing Australasia c.50,000 years ago

Applications are invited for a three-year PhD studentship in the Faculty of Humanities in collaboration with the Faculty of Natural and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton. This studentship is funded through an SMMI Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Scholarship Award, to start October 2015. The successful candidate will work under the supervision of Dr Helen Farr (Archaeology), Prof Robert Marsh (Ocean and Earth Science) and Dr Ivan Haigh (Ocean and Earth Science).

Around the modern world, migration is a politically charged issue, however, migration is an ancient phenomenon. Long-distance maritime migration can be seen as early as 60-50,000 years ago, with the movement of Anatomically Modern Humans from the Sunda basin (southeast Asia) to Sahul (Australasia). The archaeological record of early settlement is limited, but evidence suggests short crossings from southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and northern Australia at a time when sea levels reached c.60-80 m lower than today. This project brings reconstructions of past climate and ocean currents alongside archaeological evidence for the human colonization of Australasia, to better understand how ancient human migration was both a response, and a solution, to social and environmental challenges. Simulations of palaeo ocean drift in the region will be developed and used to investigate ancient seafaring.

Details here.

The rock art of Viking Cave

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Tham Phrayanaga/Viking Cave

Stories by Alex is a video series featuring ancient civilisations around the world. In this episode, he visits Tham Phrayanaga or Viking Cave in southern Thailand, a rock art site with depictions of ships from many different cultures and highlights the vibrant maritime silk route in Southeast Asia. I have previously worked at this site before with Atthasit Sukkham, one of the people featured in this video. The Viking Cave is not normally open to public, so it’s a great way to see the site!

Tham Phrayanaga/Viking Cave

Tham Phrayanaga/Viking Cave

[youtube gBwmBCJzNJs]

NSC Working Paper: Maritime Southeast Asia: The View from Tang–Song China

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Maritime Southeast Asia: The View from Tang–Song China. Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre

A new working paper from the e Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Maritime Southeast Asia: The View  from Tang–Song China. Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre

Maritime Southeast Asia: The View from Tang–Song China. Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre

Maritime Southeast Asia: The View from Tang–Song China
Geoffrey Goble
Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, Working Paper No 16 (May 2014),

Maritime Asia

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Maritime Asia is a very detailed site about the ongoing Maritime Archaeology Malaysia exhibition at the Muzium Negara. It features the finds of 7 shipwrecks located off the coasts of Malaysia and detailed information about each of the ships finds, ceramics and maritime archaeology. I managed to catch the exhibition earlier in January this year and I must admit that it is an incredible exhibition with a good deal of 14 to 18 c. material culture.