Talk: A New Dating Method Using Magnetic Declination Extracted from Historical Sources

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Old Chinese world map on vintage burned paper background. Stock photo from Shutterstock / BaanTaksinStudio
Old Chinese world map on vintage burned paper background. Stock photo from Shutterstock / BaanTaksinStudio
Old Chinese world map on vintage burned paper background. Stock photo from Shutterstock / BaanTaksinStudio

Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk at ISEAS next Wednesday.

A New Dating Method Using Magnetic Declination
Extracted from Historical Sources

Date : Wednesday, 17 April 2019Time : 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Venue : ISEAS Seminar Room 2
About the Lecture

The magnetic north pole is a moving point at the Northern Hemisphere and is crucial to maritime navigation. The information on the magnetic north has been found encoded in ancient travel notes, rutters (mariners’ notes), and nautical charts. As the position of magnetic north moves slowly from east to west and vice versa every few hundred years, it has provided scholars with useful data to date materials which contain compass bearings.
In this talk, the dates of the compass bearings which have been recorded in certain rutters and nautical charts are identified. The Southeast Asian location which ancient Chinese navigators visited most often is singled out and used as an example to show how this method works. The historical magnetic north information for this location is first compiled in chronological sequence.
To date a compass bearing recorded in historical material, the figure from these materials is compared with the compiled historical magnetic north information. The date of the nearest magnetic north figure on the list shows when the compass bearing was taken. This dating method can be used for maps, rutters, text records, and archaeological sites or structures which were oriented to particular compass bearings. This dating method becomes useful when other dating methods, such as carbon-14, are not applicable.

About the Speaker

Dr Tai Yew Seng is Visiting Fellow at NSC. He is an archaeologist and specialises in excavating and handling ceramic from kiln sites, shipwrecks, ruins and tombs, as well as Southeast Asian maritime trade with China. His current project is on Chinese navigation charts and texts. He was a Research Fellow at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and was involved in the Aceh Geohazard Project which collected and analysed over 52,000 pieces of ancient ceramics sherds. He has taught courses on Chinese culture and lectured on material
culture at the Chinese Department at NTU and the National University of Singapore. He has authored a number of papers and book chapters on ceramic archaeology and maritime trade in English and Chinese.

To register, please write to nscevents@iseas.edu.sg

The Future of KL’s Heritage

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via ICOMOS Malaysia: An open debate on the heritage of Kuala Lumpur on 20 April 2019.

You’re all invited to ICOMOS Malaysia’s World Heritage Day Open Debate on 20 April 2019.

As the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur sets the benchmark for urban development. Still, there are a lot more to be done for its heritage assets. Are they relevant? Do we care? What is the best way forward? Lend your thoughts on The Future of KL’s Heritage at ICOMOS Malaysia’s World Heritage Day Open Debate.

An appointed provocateur (Dato’ Ar. Hajeedar Abdul Majid) will be given 10-15 minutes to instigate the arguments, leaving the subject open to the floor for a casual debate. Although we may not be in time to end the session with a conclusion, a healthy discourse is what we need to stimulate further thoughts on Kuala Lumpur’s future.

ICOMOS Malaysia believes that participants are capable of fact-based, logical discussion of the issue without use of any abusive language and without dependence on informal or formal fallacies.

Talk: The Inception of Lion City

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Merlion of Singapore. Stock photos from Shutterstock / AAR Studio
Merlion of Singapore. Stock photos from Shutterstock / AAR Studio
Merlion of Singapore. Stock photos from Shutterstock / AAR Studio

Readers in Singapore may be interested in this talk at ISEAS on Wednesday.

The Inception of Lion City

Date : Wednesday, 3 April 2019Time : 10:00 am – 11:30 amVenue : ISEAS Seminar Room 2
About the Lecture

In recent decades, outstanding progress has been made in understanding Singapore’s past, but many questions remain about its thirteenth-century founders, the so-called Tribuanic dynasty. This lecture examines the meaning and scope of the place names Temasek, Singapura and Melaka in connection with the dynasty’s Indo-Malay roots. The name Temasek is related to trading in tin, which was a distinctive part of the region’s economy. As for the “lion” of Singapura, it is shown to be both synonymous with the royal line and connected to the putative founder of the dynasty. The story of the sighting of a lion-like animal at the founding of Singapura draws on the old trope of the superior defender, which is repeated at the founding of Melaka and gives clues as to the real meaning of the city’s name. This fresh look at the ‘century of Singapura’ brings in previously overlooked visual and textual evidence from the period.
About the Speaker

Dr Iain Sinclair is a Visiting Fellow at the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre. He studies the history and art of South and Southeast Asia using sources in classical languages. His research at the Centre explores exchanges taking place between the Malay Archipelago and the Indo-Himalayan region throughout the tenth to fourteenth centuries. His PhD dissertation (Monash University, 2016) examined the late period of South Asian and Nepalese Buddhism. He has published work on iconography, portraiture, ritual, inscriptions, and manuscripts.

To register, please write to nscevents@iseas.edu.sg

Mulvaney Lecture 2019 – New light on some ancient revolutions by Peter Bellwood

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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.

Source: Mulvaney Lecture 2019 – New light on some ancient revolutions Tickets, Wed 27/03/2019 at 6:30 pm | Eventbrite

[Talk] The Mysterious Malay Jong and Other Temasek Shipping

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Reconstruction of a Javanese Jong

For readers in Singapore, a talk by Dr Michael Flecker in ISEAS on Friday.

Date: Friday, 15 February 2019
Time : 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Venue : ISEAS Seminar Room 2

About the Lecture

Apart from the European square riggers, the eclectic mix of vessels anchored off Kallang Basin during Raffles’ era would not have differed much from the shipping of five centuries earlier. Chinese junks and Southeast Asian traders would have swung alongside a smattering of Arab and Indian dhows in Temasek roads. During the 14th century the Southeast Asians were transitioning from the thousand-year-old lashed-lug tradition to the fabled jong that would fascinate the Portuguese upon their arrival. Sino-Siamese hybrid ships arrived with Siamese ceramics when various Ming emperors banned Chinese exports. While the numbers were slashed, smuggling ensured that junks from northern and southern China kept on sailing. Drawing on archaeological and historical evidence, we investigate the wide range of ships that plied Singapore waters from the 14th to the 17th century.


About the Speaker

Dr Michael Flecker, Managing Director of Maritime Explorations, has overseen some of the most important shipwreck excavations in Asia over the past 30 years. They include the 9th century Belitung (Tang), 13th century Java Sea, 15th century Bakau, c.1608 Binh Thuan, and c.1690 Vung Tau Wrecks. He earned his PhD from the National University of Singapore, based on the excavation of the 10th century Intan Wreck, and specialises in ancient Asian ship construction and maritime trade. He has twice been a Visiting Fellow at NSC.

[Talk] The Origin of Prehistoric Cattle in Thailand

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Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this fun talk at the Siam Society later this month by Dr. Wunrada Surat. The talk is part of the Pint of Science event and is free with registration. [Disclosure I am part of the organising team of Pint of Science Thailand]

Date: 26 Feb 2019
Venue: Siam Society, Asok
Time: 7 pm (doors open at 6.30 pm)

The origin of prehistoric cattle in Thailand: evidence from ancient DNA

Dr. Wunrada Surat (Department of Genetics, Faculty of Science, Kasetsart University)

Cattle have been domesticated in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, for thousands of years, but, the history of cattle domestication in the region remains unclear. To gain some insight into cattle domestication in Thailand we extracted and sequenced DNA from 26 cattle remains, excavated from four archaeological sites located in northeastern and central Thailand, and dated to between 3,550 and 1,700 years before present (YBP) which all belonged to B. taurus. This is the first genetic evidence of when B. taurus was domesticated in Thailand.

More details here.

[Lecture] What More Can Archaeology Tell Us About Singapore’s Past?

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Recent excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221
Recent excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221
2015 excavations at Empress Place, Singapore. Source: Straits Times 20150221


Date : Tuesday, 29 January 2019
Time : 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Venue : ISEAS Seminar Room 2

About the Lecture

This month marks the 35th anniversary of Singapore’s first archaeological excavation and the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the British under Sir T.S. Raffles. Since then, over half a million artefacts have been recovered from Singapore. These cover two periods: the Temasek era (14th to 16th century) and the Singapore era (1819-present). The artefacts from these excavations have succeeded in proving that Singapore had a sophisticated multicultural society and complex economy before 1350. There are still important questions about Singapore’s history which further research, particularly laboratory analysis, may be able to answer. This seminar will address important questions over provenance of artefacts; ancient ecology and environment of Singapore; reconstruction of artefacts; statistical analysis of intrasite variation; and comparisons with other sites in the region.

About the Speaker

Professor John N. Miksic received his BA from Dartmouth College, MA from Ohio University, and PhD from Cornell University based on archaeological fieldwork on a trading port of the 11th-13th century in Sumatra. He has worked in Malaysia as a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher and agricultural extension worker, in Sumatra as a Rural Development Advisor under USAID, and at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, for six years under a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council. In 1987 he moved to the National University of Singapore, where he is professor in the Southeast Asian Studies Department. He has been affiliated with the Department of History, University Scholars Programme, and Asia Research Institute. He founded the Archaeology Unit at ISEAS. He received a Special Recognition Award and the Pingat Bakti Setia long service award from the government of Singapore, and the title Kanjeng Raden Harya Temenggung from the Susuhunan of Surakarta (Indonesia). His book Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea won the inaugural award for best book on Singapore history in 2018. His specialties are the historical archaeology of Southeast Asia, urbanization, trade, Buddhism, and ceramics.

To register, please write to nscevents@iseas.edu.sg

[Lecture] Examination of Ancient Khmer Defensive Warfare Practices by Paul T. Carter

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Lecture at the Siam Society, Bangkok on 8 November 2018

Examination of Ancient Khmer Defensive Warfare Practices by Paul T. Carter

DATE: Thursday, 8 November 2018
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Did ancient Khmer kings, particularly during the Classic Angkor period, neglect key defensive warfare principles which neighboring civilizations, less powerful and grand than Angkor, practiced centuries earlier? The lecturer argues that while Khmer kings displayed very capable offensive warfare capabilities, they did indeed ignore basic defensive warfare tenets which largely rendered them militarily defenseless. This does not argue that the neglect of defensive warfare principles caused the collapse of the empire, nor that its key rulers, such as Jayavarman VII, completely ignored the defense of Angkor. His construction of Angkor Thom, with its significant walled and moat barriers, certainly illustrates some regard for defense. Neither does this suggest the employment of robust defensive principles would have saved Angkor from potentially debilitating societal changes that affected kings’ ability to respond to threats. The preponderance of available evidence does suggest, however, that at no time did Angkor’s kings conduct key defensive warfare practices that other civilizations used centuries earlier. Such neglect placed the Khmer army at a significant disadvantage against the larger, attacking Ayutthaya Army in 1431, and made it unnecessarily vulnerable to any future enemies. This lecture demonstrates how Khmer kings ignored fundamental defensive warfare techniques. Next, that the Khmers would have been aware of these techniques earlier civilizations had practiced. Finally, it examines possible reasons for such neglect which leads to a broader discussion of Angkor civilization.

[Lecture] Treasures of the Deep: Maritime Archaeology in Hong Kong, China and Asia-Pacific

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The Chinese University of Hong kong by e X p o s e / Shutterstock

Readers in Hong Kong may be interested in this talk by Bill Jeffery on maritime archaeology in Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific.

The Chinese University of Hong kong by e X p o s e / Shutterstock

The Chinese University of Hong kong by e X p o s e / Shutterstock

Treasures of the Deep: Maritime Archaeology in Hong Kong, China and Asia-Pacific (in English)
Prof. Bill Jeffery (Assistant Professor, University of Guam)
Date:16 Nov 2018
Time:4:00-6:00 pm
Venue: LT4 Esther Lee Building, Chung Chi College, CUHK

Maritime archaeology is a relatively new discipline in the anthropology field. As was the case in archaeology, maritime archaeology commenced with a fascination and collection of curios or antiquities and not always with a motivation to preserve and study the archaeological record for the benefit of the general public. Collectors and treasure hunters have taken their toll on terrestrial and underwater sites, recovering and collecting artefacts for selling or keeping as personal possessions. Sites such as Nanhai No.1 in China contain a wealth of information about trade in the 13th century, and other sites throughout China, Korea and parts of South East Asia well illustrate the trade and the types of ships that were used throughout the region, and further afield. The Hong Kong waters, located in a significant part of the maritime silk road, could potentially contain sites of great interest in China’s maritime activities. The recent find of a Song Dynasty anchor stock in Hong Kong waters is a tantalizing link in these activities and perhaps indicative of things to come. It reveals Hong Kong’s maritime cultural landscape and seascape is worthy of exploring in greater detail, where the more than 70,000 scuba divers could be of great assistance. This talk will discuss these issues and activities in addition to placing the region’s maritime archaeology into the world context, particularly in association with UNESCO and its Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Register here.

[Lecture] Bronze Drums of Southeast Asia by Jacques de Guerny

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Lecture at the Siam Society, Bangkok on 1 November 2018.

DATE: Thursday, 1 November 2018
TIME: 7:00 p.m.
PLACE: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

The Bronze Age produced revolutionary innovations like the drums, stronger and more sonorous than their wooden and skin predecessors. They created new rites and bestowed on their owners a prestige even in the afterlife. On their drumhead (tympanum) and their cylindrical base, the drums were engraved with decorations open to interpretation, including the iconic frogs deemed to control the rain. Southeast Asian communities bestowed a new mission on the drums, not only as a source of sound but also to evoke values deemed crucial for everyday life or for the afterlife, from the steppes to the tropics. From inception to the present, the evolution of bronze drums spans around 2,500 years. Rituals have been conducted in their presence, from modern south China and Vietnam to Indonesia, including Indochina and Thailand. Bronze, an alloy resistant to corrosion, elevated the status of these objects from simple pots to valuable masterpieces of creativity, at the crossroads of spiritual and commercial values. They belong to the treasures of humanity, housed within museums around the world and still used at solemn ceremonies, including the funeral rites in October 2017 of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In my talk, I will trace the evolution of bronze drums across centuries and Southeast Asian cultures, in Cambodia, China, Laos, Indonesia/Bali, Malaysia, Myanmar/Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.