[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.

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

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

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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

4th Southeast Asian Archaeology Workshop: Ceramics related to maritime exchange networks between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, c. 500 BC to c. 500 AD.

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From Dr. Oli Pryce:

You are cordially invited to the 4th Southeast Asian Archaeology Workshop, to be held at the à la Maison de l’Asie (22, avenue du Président Wilson, 75116) in Paris on Friday 29th June 2012. From its foundation at UCL in 2006, the biannual Workshop has been intended to provide a predominantly Anglo-French forum for the informal dissemination and discussion of state-of-the-art regional research, particularly from post-graduate and post-doctoral scholars, complementary to the larger international format of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists meetings.

Recent and laudable advances in archaeobotanical “Indian Ocean” research have only emphasised the dearth of material culture data on this topic, especially pottery, and thus, for 2012, the Workshop will have a specific focus on “Ceramics related to maritime exchange networks between the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, c. 500 BC to c.
500 AD.” Confirmed speakers include: Yvette Balbaligo (UCL), Phaedra Bouvet (Paris III), Franca Cole (Cambridge), Coline Lefrancq (Université Libre de Bruxelles), and Noémie Martin (CEROI-INALCO), offering geographical coverage from Indonesia and the Philippines, littoral China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia in the East, to Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar in the West. Slots for presentations remain open to proposals within a 25 minute oral + 5 minute questions format, with plenty of time left for extended discussion. The workshop is free and open to all, and we look forward to welcoming you to Paris this summer.

For more information and abstract submission please contact co-organiser Oli Pryce by email: opryce@gmail.com

Another nail-less ship sets sail

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The Jewel of Muscat sailed the maritime trade route from Oman to Singapore, and another reconstructed ship will cover the rest of the journey. Originating from Jakarta, the Majapahit Spirit will cover a 9,000 km journey from Southeast Asia to Japan and back, calling at ports in the region.

Ancient ship replica helps fund Java dig
Japan Times, 04 July 2010

‘Majapahit spirit’ to sail to eight countries
Jakarta Post, 28 June 2010
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Jewel of Muscat arrives in Singapore

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At long last! The Jewel of Muscat arrived at its final destination, Singapore, over the weekend and was received by the President of Singapore. The Jewel of Muscat will form the centrepiece of a new maritime museum in Singapore. Read also Jerome’s account of when the Jewel sailed into the harbour in Singapore. If you missed it earlier, you can check out my visit to the Jewel when it called at Georgetown, Penang last month.

Jewel of Muscat arrives in Singapore
Channel NewsAsia, 03 July 2010

Jewel Of Muscat To Become Centrepiece Of Sentosa Maritime Museum
Bernama, 01 July 2010

Jewel of Muscat to be housed at RWS’ Maritime Xperiential Museum
Channels NewsAsia, 01 July 2010
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Aboard the Jewel of Muscat

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The Jewel of Muscat is in Georgetown for its last stopover before heading for her final destination, Singapore! Today, I got a chance to go aboard the Jewel of Muscat and talk to project director Dr. Tom Vosmer to get an idea of the inner workings of this replica of a 9th century Arab ship and the journey from Oman thus far.
Jewel of Muscat
More pictures and videos after the jump!
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Jewel of Muscat sets sail for Singapore

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The Jewel of Muscat, a working re-creation of a 9th century Arab dhow that plied trade between the Middle East and Southeast Asia, set sail from the port of Muscat in Oman on a five-month journey to Singapore, where it will remain as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

Jewel sets sail on a tide of history
The National, 15 February 2010
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