Rare book on early Singapore stories back in Republic

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The Sejarah Melayu at the National Libray of Singapore. Source: Straits Times, 20190123

via Straits Times, 23 Jan 2019: The National Library has acquired an 1840 edition of the Sejarah Melayu, edited by Munshi Abdullah. The book is on display at the National Library until March 24.

A book that holds the stories of early Singapore, including Sang Nila Utama’s experience on the island when he arrived in 1299, has made its way back to the Republic.

The Sejarah Melayu, or Malay Annals, was printed in Singapore in the 1840s and edited by Munsyi Abdullah, a scribe for Sir Stamford Raffles.

Source: Rare book on early Singapore stories back in Republic, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Singapore before colonisation: from Temasek to Singapura, destruction, and flight to Melaka and Johor

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via South China Morning Post, 27 November 2018: A new book Studying Singapore before 1800 explores a less-known area of Singapore’s past.

The history of Singapore before the foundation of the modern version of the city by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 has been largely ignored.

This volume of 18 articles (with a wide range of original publication dates) looks to rectify this and show that Singapore, because of its strategic location on the shipping route between East and West, was heavily involved in pre-British waves of global trade and colonisation.

Co-editor Kwan Chong Guan explains why this matters: “The challenge for Singapore in the 20th century is to recognise the nature of the post-colonial or postmodern cycle of globalisation it is caught in, and to decide best how to respond to it. Looking at the impact of earlier cycles of globalisation on the maritime history of the Melaka Straits may provide Singaporeans with a better understanding of their city state’s vulnerabilities.”

Source: Singapore before colonisation: from Temasek to Singapura, destruction, and flight to Melaka and Johor | South China Morning Post

UNESCO’s World Heritage program has lost its way

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A new book by Lynn Meskel discusses how the original mission of the Unesco World Heritage list has its focus distorted from conservation and preservation to tourism and economic benefits. The book is called A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace

Created in 1946 to help establish peace through international cooperation in a world ravaged by two colossal wars, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) hoped to change the “minds of men and women,” as its constitution says.

The agency aimed to achieve that mission through education, cultural exchange and conservation of heritage sites.

But that utopian ambition has gotten lost, according to Stanford anthropology Professor Lynn Meskell, who has spent the last eight years researching the history of the organization and its World Heritage program.

Today, most countries seem to care more about getting their historic sites onto the World Heritage List in order to benefit from UNESCO’s brand rather than discuss conservation and preservation, Meskell said.

Source: UNESCO’s World Heritage program has lost its way | Stanford News

[Book] Khmer Temples in Eastern Thailand

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Readers may be interested in Asger Mollerup’s new book on Khmer sites in Northeast Thailand.

This book is the 2nd of three about Ancient Khmer sites outside the present day Cambodia and the first comprehensive inventory of ancient Khmer sites in eastern Thailand since the now more than one century-old works of Étienne Aymonier, Étienne Lunet de Lajonquière, and Major Erik Seidenfaden, describing some 170 Khmer sites in the provinces of Khorat and Buriram in the first two parts of the book.
Part 3 presents the ancient overland route from Angkor to Phimai marked by seventeen fire-shelters (‘dharmasala’), mentioned in a 12th century inscription. Also fire-shrines and fire-offerings are described.

Source: Khmer Temples in Eastern Thailand

Categories: Angkor Books Thailand


The Archaeology of Sulawesi (Terra Australis 48)

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Archaeology of Sulawesi by O'Connor et al

via ANU E-press: New free E-book on the archaeology of Sulawesi edited by O’Connor et al.

Archaeology of Sulawesi by O'Connor et al

Archaeology of Sulawesi by O’Connor et al

The central Indonesian island of Sulawesi has recently been hitting headlines with respect to its archaeology. It contains some of the oldest directly dated rock art in the world, and some of the oldest evidence for a hominin presence beyond the southeastern limits of the Ice Age Asian continent. In this volume, scholars from Indonesia and Australia come together to present their research findings and views on a broad range of topics. From early periods, these include observations on Ice Age climate, life in caves and open sites, rock art, and the animals that humans exploited and lived alongside. The archaeology presented from later periods covers the rise of the Bugis kingdom, Chinese trade ceramics, and a range of site-based and regional topics from the Neolithic through to the arrival of Islam. This carefully edited volume is the first to be devoted entirely to the archaeology of the island of Sulawesi, and it lays down a baseline for significant future research.

Source: The Archaeology of Sulawesi (Terra Australis 48) – ANU Press – ANU

Categories: Books Indonesia


The most influential books on Southeast Asian Archaeology (a crowdsourced list)


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This list about the most influential books on Southeast Asian archaeology originated with a paper I am preparing for the conference on Decolonising Southeast Asia’s Past. Very simply put, I am trying to understand if there is a difference in archaeological sources in English, compared to what is written in a non-English language (eg. Thai, Myanma, Bahasa). Part of this work was inspired by my experiences with rock art and the difference between what was written in English and what I could find in other languages. For example, the 2001 Handbook of Rock Art Research summarises Southeast Asia in three pages and mentions the presence of about 120 sites – of which only five are named. In contrast, my ongoing research has identified 1,200 sites (see here and here) by incorporating data from non-English sources and papers from less prominent journals. Perhaps once I have my thoughts sorted out I will share it in another post. To understand this disparity better, I put out an informal survey to ask about the most influential books about the archaeology of Southeast Asia:


Crowdsourcing the Most Influential Books on Southeats Asian Archaeology

Crowdsourcing the Most Influential Books on Southeast Asian Archaeology


This is by no means a scientific survey, but the majority of respondents in my network were archaeologists working in Southeast Asia. While it is not comprehensive, I think there is a good breadth of what is considered to be the  ‘classic’ books on Southeast Asian archaeology. A few books were recommended more than once (notably Southeast Asia from Prehistory to History by Bellwood and Glover).


This list is organised by region, then country (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam) and then by thematic subject. Some suggestions that were not directly relevant to Southeast Asia were omitted. I’ve also included links to Amazon and/or the publisher if they are available for purchase (Disclosure: I make a commission if you buy the books through the Amazon links below). I’ll update this list regularly, so if you have a suggestion for other books leave a comment below.


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Categories: Books

Archaeologist wins inaugural Singapore history prize

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via Straits Times, 12 January 2018: Congratulations to Prof. John Miksic for his book, Singapore and the Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea!

Singapore News -SINGAPORE – A pioneering archaeologist whose work emphasizes that Singapore’s history goes beyond the landing of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 has been awarded the inaugural Singapore History Prize.. Read more at straitstimes.com.

Source: Archaeologist wins inaugural Singapore history prize, Singapore News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture: Catalogue Launch at SOAS


Book launch in London this Friday (12 Jan 2018). Register via the link below:

Join us for the UK launch of Vibrancy In Stone, the newly-published catalogue of the Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture. The catalogue, supported by the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (SAAAP) at SOAS University of London, marks the centenary of the Cham Museum and is the first catalogue by the Museum itself of its world-leading collection. The catalogue brings together the work of international scholars, local scholars and SOAS alumni, and is edited by Vietnamese Museum Director Vo Van Thang, leading Vietnamese art historian Tran Ky Phuong and Peter Sharrock of SOAS.  At the event, the Editors will deliver lectures on their contribution to the publication and consider the background to the text. Copies of the catalogue will be on hand to purchase, and a drinks reception will follow.

Source: Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture: Catalogue Launch at SOAS

Benjarong in detail

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via Bangkok Post, 05 January 2018: Review of Dawn Rooney’s book, Bencharong: Chinese Porcelain For Siam

Benjarong is the brightly coloured porcelain made in China for the Thai market which enjoyed a peak of popularity in the 19th century. Dawn Rooney sets out to provide “a single reference source for Bencharong … the book I wish had been available when I first became interested in this little-known form of ceramic art 20 years ago”.

Source: Benjarong in detail

Categories: Books Ceramics Thailand

New Book: Peninsular Siam and Its Neighborhoods

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Announcing a new book entitled Peninsular Siam and Its neighborhoods: Essays in Memory of Dr. Preecha Noonsuk edited by Wannasarn Noonsuk

This commemorative volume contains new scholarly essays that explore the landscape, seascape, complex history, and material culture of Peninsular Thailand and its neighborhoods in Maritime Southeast Asia from the late prehistoric to contemporary periods.

The main contents include:

1. Prologue: The Isthmian Tract and the Gulf of Siam, by Wannasarn Noonsuk

2. Finding a Form, Discovering the Sublime [on the Bronze Drums]by Stanley J. O’Connor

3. People of the Beach Ridges: Tambralinga and Palembang, by John Miksic

4. Transpeninsular Routes in the Light of New Finds in Coastal and Nautical Archaeology, by Pierre-Yves Manguin

5. The Wat Maheyong Inscription (NS 10, K 407): The Thai-Malay Peninsula in the Wide World of Buddhist Material and Cultural Exchange, by Peter Skilling

6. The Northern Malays, by Leonard Andaya

7. Ayutthaya and the Peninsula from the Thirteenth to Seventeenth Century, by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit

8. A Deity Conjured from the Mid-South’s Ancient Heritage, by Craig J. Reynolds

9. Possibilities of Material Culture Approach to History of Thai Urban Lived Religion, by Hiroshi Kano

10. Burmese Wares in Aceh and North Sumatra, by Edmund Edwards McKinnon

11. Epilogue: From Father to Son: A Meditative Journey to “Bead Mound” and Back, by Kaja M. McGowan

This book is published by the Cultural Council of Nakhon Si Thammarat Province in December 2017.  If you are interested in the book, please contact Ms. Leelachat (bigredbear3@gmail.com).

Categories: Books Thailand