[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

New Journal: Asian Archaeology

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Asian Archaeology is a new journal focusing on… well I think the name is quite self-explanatory. I will add a link to the resources page.

Asian Archaeology is an academic English-language journal that publishes original studies based on field archaeological data as well as new theoretical and methodological analyses and synthetic overviews of topics in the field of Asian archaeology. The geographic scope of papers primarily extends across eastern Asia (including China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and the Russian Far East), mainland and island Southeast Asia, and Australia. The journal’s readership is international, with a target audience of scholars and students with English-language backgrounds from Europe, North America, and Asia. By breaking down the language barriers toward access to the archaeology of eastern Asia, Asian Archaeology serves as a central, international forum for the study of Asian archaeology. The journal aims to contribute not only to a better understanding of the history and cultures of Asia, but also to the development of a global approach to archaeology, and thus to play an active role in promoting the development of world archaeology and Asian archaeology

Source: Asian Archaeology – Springer

[CFP] 8th SSEASR Conference: Rivers and Religion of South and Southeast Asia

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The 8th South and Southeast Asian Association for the Study of Culture and Religion (SSEASR) Conference has been announced for Dhaka, Bangladesh for 13-16 June 2019. The theme of the conference is ‘Rivers and Religion: Connecting Cultures of South and Southeast Asia’

Rivers played a very crucial role in the development of world civilization. This is also true for South and Southeast Asia, where thousands of rivers connecting culture and thought. The vast watercourse of the River Ganga in South Asia, and that of the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, along with other major rivers in the region, determined the culture, belief system and philosophical thoughts of the region for several millennia. The homogeneity of culture and religious practices therein is seen today largely due to the flow and sacredness of South and Southeast Asian rivers. The role of rivers in connecting culture, commerce and conviction in the region of South and Southeast Asia will dot the 3th SSEASR conference as its major thrust for the academic study of culture and religion.

The academic discourse on rivers and religion to understand cultural
development of South and Southeast Asia is a very pertinent subject for achieving sustainable development goals of the 21st century. Purpose of the 3th SSEASR conference is encouraging world academia to initiate the dialogue on the much relevant issues on the subject in order to better understand, compare, interpret, and analyse countless beliefs, practices, traditions, communities and other related phenomena.

Strikingly, the history of Bangladesh is entwined in the history of its numerous and diverse rivers and water channels. Beautifully known as the Land of Thousand Rivers (“Hazar Nadir Desh” in Bangla language). These rivers – the life of the country – have nurtured Bangladesh through the ages and their banks also write the tales of the human civilization accomplished. These rivers not only facilitated trade but also worked as primary agents of carrying religions, spirituality, folklore, beliefs and beyond. No wonder, Bangladesh is a home of very rich and diverse culture. Therefore, the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh is proud to host the Sth SSEASR conference in the capital city of Dhaka, during Thursday, June 13- Sunday, June 16, 2019.

With the above conceptual parameter, we suggest following sub-themes for the Conference:

1. Riverine Routes and Religious links in South and Southeast Asia
2. Sacredness of Rivers, Riverfronts and Races
3. Major Rivers and their Valleys: The Lifeline of South and Southeast Asia
4. Tirthas and Pilgrimages in South and Southeast Asia
5. Culture and Eco-Tourism along the rivers in South and Southeast Asia
6. Iconography and Personification of River related Deities and Celestial beings
7. Art, Architecture and Archaeology of South and Southeast Asia
8. Language, Literature and Sacred Texts
9. Religious Practices and Behaviours of Indigenous People
10. Performing Arts, Fairs and Festivals
11. South and Southeast Asian Diaspora in the World: Religiosity and Survival

More details and registration information in the website below:
Source: sseasr.org

[Paper] When did Homo sapiens first reach Southeast Asia and Sahul?

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via PNAS, 06 August 2018: A new paper in PNAS reviews the evidence of human migration into Southeast Asia and Australia around 50,000 years ago, and in particular a critical discussion of another recent paper about the Madjedbebe rock shelter that pushes this date back to 65,000 years.

The PNAS paper is not Open Access unfortunately, but for a good summary of the paper reader the associated piece in The Conversation.

When did Homo sapiens first reach Southeast Asia and Sahul?
O’Connell et al, 2018

PNAS, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1808385115

Anatomically modern humans ( Homo sapiens , AMH) began spreading across Eurasia from Africa and adjacent Southwest Asia about 50,000–55,000 years ago ( ca . 50–55 ka). Some have argued that human genetic, fossil, and archaeological data indicate one or more prior dispersals, possibly as early as 120 ka. A recently reported age estimate of 65 ka for Madjedbebe, an archaeological site in northern Sahul (Pleistocene Australia–New Guinea), if correct, offers what might be the strongest support yet presented for a pre–55-ka African AMH exodus. We review evidence for AMH arrival on an arc spanning South China through Sahul and then evaluate data from Madjedbebe. We find that an age estimate of > ka for this site is unlikely to be valid. While AMH may have moved far beyond Africa well before 50–55 ka, data from the region of interest offered in support of this idea are not compelling.

Source: When did Homo sapiens first reach Southeast Asia and Sahul?

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CFP: Conference-cum-Workshop on History, Science and Technology of Ancient Indian Glass

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More details in the website link below. Deadline for applications: 30 September 2018.

The study of Ancient Indian Glass, involves scientific investigations as well as understanding in the right cultural perspective. A combination of such a strategy has not evolved fully in south Asia even though a larger history and ethnography of glass is noticed here. Further, there is a need of standardization of glass artifacts studies in terms of typology and technology among the various researchers.

Keeping in view of above objectives, Archaeological Sciences Centre, IITGN will be conducting a five day (including one day fieldtrip) Conference-cum-Workshop on ‘History, Science and Technology of Ancient Indian Glass’ from 21—25th January, 2019. This Conference-cum-Workshop aims to discuss the development of glass through the ages, literature/epigraphical references, typology, techniques and archaeometry involved in their study to interpret the past technology with the help of experts and scholars who are either archaeologists or scientists working in archaeology and allied disciplines.

Eminent scholars from around the world (Shinu Abraham, Ivana Angelini, Ravindra Singh Bisht, Wijerathne Bohingamuwa, Sharmi Chakraborty, Kurush Dalal, Laure Dussubieux, Thomas Fenn, Maninder Singh Gill, Viswas Gogte, Bernard Gratuze, Sunil Gupta, Asma Ibrahim, Alok Kumar Kanungo, Jonathan M. Kenoyer, Jan Kock, Stephen Koob, Joanna Then-Obłuska, Thilo Rehren, V. Selvakumar, Ravindra Nath Singh, Torben Sode, Massimo Vidale and Bhuvan Vikrama), and craftsmen from Varanasi/Purdalpur and Kapadwanj will be the resource persons who will share their work and deliver lectures and carryout hands-on experiments for the participants on various aspects of ancient glass in the archaeological context. With pre-designed requested paper from the experts a book on Glass of South & South-East Asia: Archaeology, Ethnography and Global Connections will be published.

Source: Conference-cum-Workshop on History, Science and Technology of Ancient Indian Glass

[Paper] New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia

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First direct dates of dingo bones from a site in Western Australia. Dingoes are one of the few mammals that crossed water (most likely accompanying humans) before European arrival. The dates and location of the site suggest that dingoes spread throughout the continent relatively quickly after their introduction.

New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia
Balme et al.
Scientific Reports
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28324-x

The dingo is the only placental land mammal aside from murids and bats to have made the water crossings to reach Australia prior to European arrival. It is thought that they arrived as a commensal animal with people, some time in the mid Holocene. However, the timing of their arrival is still a subject of major debate with published age estimates varying widely. This is largely because the age estimates for dingo arrival are based on archaeological deposit dates and genetic divergence estimates, rather than on the dingo bones themselves. Currently, estimates vary from between 5000–4000 years ago, for finds from archaeological contexts, and as much as 18,000 based on DNA age estimates. The timing of dingo arrival is important as post arrival they transformed Indigenous societies across mainland Australia and have been implicated in the extinction of a number of animals including the Tasmanian tiger. Here we present the results of direct dating of dingo bones from their oldest known archaeological context, Madura Cave on the Nullarbor Plain. These dates demonstrate that dingoes were in southern Australia by between 3348 and 3081 years ago. We suggest that following their introduction the dingo may have spread extremely rapidly throughout mainland Australia.

Source: New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia | Nature Scientific Reports

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Prehistoric people started to spread domesticated bananas across the world 6,000 years ago

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via The Conversation, 13 July 2018: The earliest known domesticated bananas appear in Papua New Guinea 6,800 years ago. They appear again in Sri Lanka 6,000 years ago. The speed in which they spread suggests the presence of a far-reaching communication network. More impressive, domesticated bananas are sterile, and so propagation of bananas would necessitate the transportation of cuttings or whole plants!

Appearance of bananas in Sri Lanka 6,000 years ago points to prehistoric food globalisation.

Source: Prehistoric people started to spread domesticated bananas across the world 6,000 years ago

Hominin occupation in China from 2.1 million years ago

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Of potential interest for Southeast Asia: 2.1 million-year-old stone tools discovered in China pushes back the dates of hominins outside of Africa by several hundred thousand years. The term “Southern Chinese Loess Plateau” may be a little confusing: it’s not in Southern China, and the area of discovery sits between the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers.

Hominin occupation of the Chinese Loess Plateau since about 2.1 million years ago
Zhu et. al
Nature
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0299-4

Considerable attention has been paid to dating the earliest appearance of hominins outside Africa. The earliest skeletal and artefactual evidence for the genus Homo in Asia currently comes from Dmanisi, Georgia, and is dated to approximately 1.77–1.85 million years ago (Ma)1. Two incisors that may belong to Homo erectus come from Yuanmou, south China, and are dated to 1.7 Ma2; the next-oldest evidence is an H. erectus cranium from Lantian (Gongwangling)—which has recently been dated to 1.63 Ma3—and the earliest hominin fossils from the Sangiran dome in Java, which are dated to about 1.5–1.6 Ma4. Artefacts from Majuangou III5 and Shangshazui6 in the Nihewan basin, north China, have also been dated to 1.6–1.7 Ma. Here we report an Early Pleistocene and largely continuous artefact sequence from Shangchen, which is a newly discovered Palaeolithic locality of the southern Chinese Loess Plateau, near Gongwangling in Lantian county. The site contains 17 artefact layers that extend from palaeosol S15—dated to approximately 1.26 Ma—to loess L28, which we date to about 2.12 Ma. This discovery implies that hominins left Africa earlier than indicated by the evidence from Dmanisi.

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Cockatoo in medieval text reveals extent of East-West trade in the 13th century

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Cockatoo drawings in a 13th century Vatican manuscript reveal the extent of the global trade network of the period: cockatoos are native to eastern Island Southeast Asia and Australia, and the manuscript refers to a gift of a yellow-crested cockatoo to Frederick II from the Sultan of Egypt al-Malik Muhammad al-Kamil.

Frederick II of Hohenstaufen’s Australasian cockatoo: Symbol of detente between East and West and evidence of the Ayyubids’ global reach

Frederick II of Sicily made contact with the Kurdish al-Malik Muhammad al-Kamil in 1217 – a year before al-Malik became sultan of Egypt. The two rulers communicated regularly over the following twenty years, exchanging letters, books and rare and exotic animals. The focus of this article is the Sulphur-crested or Yellow-crested Cockatoo the sultan sent Frederick. A written description and four sketches of this parrot survive in a mid thirteenth-century manuscript in the Vatican Library. This article reviews these images, revealing that Australasian cockatoos were present in the Middle East in the medieval period and exploring how and why one reached Europe in the mid thirteenth century.

Source: Frederick II of Hohenstaufen’s Australasian cockatoo: Symbol of detente between East and West and evidence of the Ayyubids’ global reach | Parergon

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Digging up Hong Kong’s Qing dynasty past likely to delay development needed for its future

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via South China Morning Post, 08 June 2018:

The Urban Renewal Authority plans further excavation at the city’s last urban walled village, Nga Tsin Wai, which now faces an uncertain future after the previous discovery of historic foundations.

Source: Digging up Hong Kong’s Qing dynasty past likely to delay development needed for its future