I’ve been thinking about the language of archaeology in Southeast Asia for some time now, and it’s summed up in this article in the Mar-May issue of NSC Highlights entitled The Two-World Problem: The Language of Archaeology in the Post-Colonial Landscape. Basically, I think that the knowledge of Southeast Asian Archaeology exists in two worlds, in English (as the international language of science and academic publishing), and then in the non-English languages (typically local, e.g. in Thai, Myanmar, Khmer, Bahasa). These two sets of knowledge sometimes do not correspond, and in some instances our understanding of the past can be quite different depending on the language you use.
Take this blog for example – English is the primary language of this website (and also my first language), but English is not the first language for most people in Southeast Asia. Occasionally I highlight news stories in non-English languages but it is usually dependent on readers alerting me to such. Last year when I ran the informal poll about the most influential books in Southeast Asian Archaeology, the majority of books suggested by a mixed audience of Southeast Asians and non-SEAsians were also in English. This suggests there is a bias towards English as the language of archaeology in the region.
Why is this a ‘problem’? But it means for a large portion of Southeast Asians, a good portion of archaeological knowledge isn’t really accessible. Besides the dominant language barrier, books can be really expensive and academic research published in journals is often locked behind paywalls. It doesn’t help that most professional academics (including those from Southeast Asia) are increasingly under pressure to publish in English and in (often-paywalled) journals as part of their professional requirements.
There are other aspects of this problem that I am still trying to articulate. For example, I know very little about how archaeology is taught in the region, so my sense of which local-language texts are being used (if any) is limited. There is the difficulty in translating archaeological terminology, and in this regard I’d like to highlight the Southeast Asian Archaeological Vocabulary by the Institute of Southeast Asian Archaeology as an ongoing project to translate archaeological terms from English into multiple Southeast Asian languages and vice-versa. If you are a regular reader of this website, I would love to hear your thoughts about this Two-World Problem. I don’t think that it is a single problem to be ‘solved’ but rather trying to find ways to mitigate systemic imbalances and improve communication across cultures.
For most part, I think most archaeologists and researchers in this region would like to have their research made more accessible. As a small starting step in trying to address this imbalance in language I would like to encourage my colleagues to start including dual-language titles and abstracts in their research – in English and in the relevant local language – and also start insisting that journals publish titles and abstracts in two languages. This small tweak in the way we present our research would have the instant benefit of allowing the text to show up in internet searches and reach a larger and more relevant audience.
via ANU: Readers in Canberra may be interested in the Mulvaney Lecture on 27 March by Prof. Peter Bellwood.
A Mulvaney Lecture is a chance for broad thinking as well as attention to detail. In this lecture Prof Peter Bellwood will focus on two overlapping major topics. The first concerns the early farming dispersal hypothesis in general, as described in his First Farmers (2005). The second concerns the more specific topic of Austronesian dispersal, as defined most recently by Prof Bellwood and other colleagues in First Islanders (2017). He will describe how he first became interested in these two topics, and how understanding of them has evolved in recent decades with developments in archaeological science, linguistic phylogeny, and the analysis of ancient skeletons and ancient DNA.
New focus on old archaeology: Re-assessing controversies in Southeast Asia
Instances of scientific fraud or criminal activities involving archaeology are being re-assessed fairly regularly, supported by new primary sources and publications, often casting doubt on the original judgement. This panel focuses on contentious cases of 19th and 20th century archaeology from Southeast Asia, in light of new data from archives or recent publications. Presentations in this panel offer a critical re-evaluation of historical events, including the conduct of organisations and individuals involved in each case. Late in the 19th century, the French amateur archaeologist Ludovic Jammes claimed to have collected a significant haul of bronze objects from Samrong Sen in Cambodia. Jammes was discredited by French and American scholars but in recent years his claims have been largely validated by artefacts excavated by Cambodian archaeologists. One of the most enduring cases concerns the attempted theft in December 1923 of Khmer statues from Banteay Srei in Cambodia. André Malraux admitted masterminding the looting but recent publications and data from colonial archives call into question the conduct of organisations and individuals involved in his prosecution. The panel also welcomes the re-evaluation of geological controversies, similar to the accusation of scientific fraud against Jacques Deprat in 1914. Although he was dismissed from the Hanoi-based Geological Survey of Indochina, in 1991 the French Geological Society publicly rehabilitated Deprat in the presence of his surviving daughter. Comparative studies are also welcome for archaeological or geological controversies between Southeast Asia and other regions.
via PBS.org, 09 Feb 2019: Based on a recently-published paper in Journal of Archaeological Science, an analysis of ceramics from the Java Sea wreck reveals that the prized Qingbai ceramics were produced in four kilns across China, some high-quality, while others mass-produced ‘counterfeits’ to meet rising demands.
In a study published today in the Journal of Archaeological Science, a team of scientists pinpoints the origins of several of the Chinese ceramics on board. The chemical composition of the ship’s glazed, bluish-white qingbai wares shows they were forged at four different kiln sites across China—and while some were high-quality, luxury items destined for the social elite, others appear to be more akin to counterfeits, likely mass produced to meet rising demand in markets abroad.
“I think these are brilliant results,” says Elisabeth Holmqvist, an archaeologist and material scientist at the University of Helsinki in Finland who was not involved in the study. “This is when geochemical data really becomes valuable for archaeological questions: It provides the evidence, and then we can go back to the socioeconomic context. That’s the greatest value in this kind of research.”
This paper evaluates the use of portable x-ray fluorescence (pXRF) on glazes and pastes for sourcing Chinese porcelains from the 12th-13th century Java Sea Shipwreck (JSW) collection at the Field Museum. Three types of qingbai (bluish-white) wares from the JSW collection were chosen for pXRF analysis. Samples from four kiln complexes in China—Jingdezhen, Dehua, Huajiashan, and Minqing, hypothesized to be potential sources of the shipwreck’s qingbai ceramics based on visual inspection—were also analyzed to establish reference groups. Results from kiln samples show that different kiln complexes can be clearly differentiated by pXRF analysis of glazes. Based on pXRF analysis of ceramic samples from the JSW, there appear to be four compositional groups, and each group closely matches one of the four kiln reference groups. These findings support the use of pXRF on glazes, especially when pastes are difficult to access, as a method for identifying the potential sources for overseas cargos found distant from production contexts for Chinese porcelains.
This cranio-morphometric study emphasizes a “two-layer model” for eastern Eurasian anatomically modern human (AMH) populations, based on large datasets of 89 population samples including findings directly from ancient archaeological contexts. Results suggest that an initial “first layer” of AMH had related closely to ancestral Andaman, Australian, Papuan, and Jomon groups who likely entered this region via the Southeast Asian landmass, prior to 65–50 kya. A later “second layer” shared strong cranial affinities with Siberians, implying a Northeast Asian source, evidenced by 9 kya in central China and then followed by expansions of descendant groups into Southeast Asia after 4 kya. These two populations shared limited initial exchange, and the second layer grew at a faster rate and in greater numbers, linked with contexts of farming that may have supported increased population densities. Clear dichotomization between the two layers implies a temporally deep divergence of distinct migration routes for AMH through both southern and northern Eurasia.
via Archaeological Research in Asia, 25 January 2019: A new paper by Roberts and Amano looking at human occupation of different types of environments in Southeast Asia suggests that modern humans are ecologically distinct from other hominin species.
Lowland Palawan by Noel Amano. Source: EurekaAlert, 20190128
Plastic pioneers: Hominin biogeography east of the Movius Line during the Pleistocene
While the “Movius Line” may no longer represent a valid cultural division between Early and Middle Pleistocene hominins in South and Southeast Asia, it still offers a useful geographical and ecological window into changing processes of colonization by different members of the genus Homo. In this paper, we initially review the palaeoenvironmental and cultural record associated with Homo erectus and Homo floresiensis to argue for a relatively homogeneous adaptive strategy utilized by hominins moving east of this notional line during the Early and Middle Pleistocene. We then contrast this to the rapid dispersal of Homo sapiens into South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Melanesia, from at least 45,000 years ago, associated with specialized subsistence and technological adaptations to a variety of environmental settings. While earlier members of our genus appear to have followed riverine and lacustrine corridors, whose situation varied with periods of climate change, Homo sapiens specialized in adaptations to tropical rainforests, faunally depauperate island settings, montane environments, and deep-water marine habitats. After evaluating whether this distinction may be one of taphonomic and survey bias, and reviewing potential methodological developments that may facilitate further investigation, we suggest that the adaptive and cultural plasticity of our species enabled pioneering colonization and occupation not previously seen in this part of the world. This plasticity allowed our species to remain in this region through ever-increasing climatic instability and become the last surviving hominin in Late Pleistocene South Asia and Sahul.
The Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley invites applications for an Assistant Professor in Southeast Asian Studies, tenure track, with an expected start date of July 1, 2019. A Ph.D. (or equivalent international degree) or enrollment in a Ph.D. (or equivalent international degree) granting program, with specialization in Southeast Asian studies, and completion of all requirements except the dissertation, is required at the time of application.
We seek applications from scholars of Southeast Asia working in the humanities broadly defined across any country, culture or time period whose research is grounded in the region and its textual traditions. We welcome specializations in literature, religious studies, cultural, intellectual and social history, and cultural studies. Advanced literacy and proficiency with primary source materials in at least one Southeast Asian language is required. Proficiency in one or more additional relevant research languages, facility with diverse source materials, and the ability to think and work across disciplines, are preferred. Duties will include developing and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in Southeast Asian studies, supervising graduate students, and oversight of relevant language instruction. Candidates should have a record of excellence and innovation in research and teaching, and a demonstrated commitment to education and mentorship, service to the profession, and to equity and inclusion. For more information about the Department go to: http://sseas.berkeley.edu
Source: Assistant Professor – Southeast Asian Studies in the Modern or Pre-Modern Period-Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies (JPF01897) – UC Berkeley AP Recruit
The looting of art and antiquities from Asia is a problem exacerbated by continued demand. This is especially true in China, home to one of the greatest concentrations of millionaires worldwide, where a rapidly growing, newly wealthy class has entered the Asian art and antiquities market, escalating demand in an already thriving sector. Many Asian states that have lost and are continuing to lose cultural patrimony to looting and trafficking have introduced strict laws to combat the removal and unlawful export of art and antiquities from their jurisdiction. Transit and market states, too, have now implemented legal and regulatory frameworks, often based on international law, to deter citizens from dealing in looted art and antiquities or buyers from purchasing such goods when there is any doubt as to their provenance.
However, one of the world’s main markets for Asian art and antiquities, as well as a convenient and much-used transit hub, is a notable exception in having almost no laws intended to prevent this illicit trade: Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s legal and regulatory framework offers little protection for looted art and antiquities, and it retains one obsolete rule of law from its time as a British colony that may not only encourage buyers to purchase looted or stolen works, but also embolden those trying to construct false provenance to pass them through Hong Kong. This law is the rule of market overt, often referred to as a “thieves’ charter,” provided in Hong Kong’s Sale of Goods Ordinance. According to market overt, if someone purchases goods from a shop or market where they are openly on display and are of a type usually sold in such a shop or market, then the buyer acquires good title to the goods so long as they have bought them in good faith. This means that a buyer of looted art or antiquities from a shop usually selling art or antiquities in Hong Kong may resist any attempt by the losing party to recover their lost heritage, and may sell the pieces on to others who will also be safe from any action for recovery.`
Hong Kong has a reputation as one of the world’s leading financial and commercial centers, trusted because of rigorous regulation of its efficient financial and banking services, and confidence in its common law system. It is now also considered one of the world’s foremost Asian art and antiquities markets; however, the retention of an archaic and anachronistic principle of English medieval market law is baffling, especially when this principle has been abolished in the United Kingdom to prevent the flourishing of a “thief’s paradise.”
This policy brief explains some of the problems Asia faces with regard to looting of art and antiquities and loss of cultural heritage, and how Hong Kong’s legal and regulatory framework does little to prevent Hong Kong from being used as a market and transit state for illicitly obtained cultural patrimony. The brief recommends the simple repeal of section 24 of the Sale of Goods Ordinance to abolish the market overt rule in Hong Kong, as well as standardization of import and export laws between Hong Kong and China, strengthened law enforcement of antiquity-related crimes, and the inclusion of the art market in anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing provisions.
Via Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Deadline is 18 January 2019, while the seminar is on 1 Mar 2019.
Chinese historical and epigraphic sources such as those collected in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia by Wolfgang Franke and his associates demonstrate the long process of the spread of Chinese temples and associations to the port cities of Southeast Asia. This workshop will include papers on different aspects of Chinese temples (including Buddhist monasteries) across the countries of Southeast Asia, from a range of disciplinary perspectives including archaeology, history, religious and ritual studies, anthropology, sociology, economics, and media studies. We invite papers on a range of topics that can include: architectural and iconographic features of temples; the ritual production of space within and around these temples; the economics of Chinese temples; the charitable activities of Chinese temples; accounts of individuals and their relationships with these temples – temple directors, everyday devotees, ritual specialists, archivists, photographers, tourists, etc. Papers that seek to provide an overview of temple networks across Southeast Asia, or the interactions between temples within a particular city or site, are also welcome. Studies of the political conditions for Chinese temples in different locations are also welcome.
Temples are sites of the flows of ideas, people, gods, capital, and ritual artifacts – many kinds of movement and transformation – thus papers exploring mobility in relation to Chinese temples are also welcome. We seek papers on religion and migration, on the circulation or the training of ritual specialists, opera troupes, craftsmen and ritual artifacts within transnational networks. We also seek papers on spirit mediums and their roles in Chinese temples, papers on processions and major and minor rituals, or papers that explore typologies of temples. Scholars working with social network analysis or GIS approaches to Chinese temples in Southeast Asia are invited to send in paper proposals as well. Other papers could explore major religious events of Southeast Asia, such as the Nine Emperor God Festival, or Chinese New Year rites and processions, or the activities during the Ghost Month, either through individual case studies or through comparative or network analyses. We seek studies of locally invented cults and rites, hybrid ritual forms, and on the interactions between Chinese temple rites and communities with other religious or ethnic groups. Other related topics include the spread of particular Buddhist lineages, or sectarian religious movements, through the region. Comparative studies of ritual change and its causes and effects, or of the different kinds of trust networks and state-society relations developed within and between Chinese temples in different parts of Southeast Asia (and China, HK, Macao and Taiwan) would be welcome.