Archaeology of East Timor (Timor-Leste)

Southeast Asia’s newest country (re)gained independence in 2002 but archaeological evidence goes back millennia.

East Timor or Timor-Leste is located in the island of Timor in the Indonesian archipelago. East Timor is the newest nation-state in Southeast Asia, having been annexed by Indonesia in 1976 and regained independence in 2002.

Ai-Lemi Isi Dong Son drum
Ai-Lemi Isi Dong Son drum. Source: Oliveira et al. 2019

This page covers the archaeology of East Timor as a whole, and you can find more details about the other countries in their respective pages or explore the Resource Guide for thematic areas. There’s also the Virtual Archaeology page where you can visit Southeast Asian archaeological sites online, learn something from the Online Lecture Library, or find recent academic papers for more up-to-date research. In this page:

As a new nation, the practice and regulation of archaeology is still in its infancy. Archaeology in East Timor has been investigated mostly by archaeologists from Australia. Findings from cave sites show that humans have been living in East Timor from as early as 44,000 years ago, with fish hooks discovered from one site dating between 16,000 – 23,000 years ago. Rock art also dates to the start of the Holocene. As with other parts of Island Southeast Asia, the Austronesian migration into the area is believed to have started around 2000 BCE. Up until colonisation by the Portuguese, East Timor was home to several chiefdoms and small kingdoms.

Archaeology in East Timor is overseen by the Secretary of State for Art and Culture.

Recommended Books

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There aren’t many books relevant to the archaeology and history of East Timor, and the list below is my personal recommendation based on what I have in my library or have read, and are easily available. There are some local-language publications that are not available in the internet, and newer books are higher up on the list. Some of these links are affiliate links and I may receive a commission if you click on them and make a purchase. For other sources of reliable academic information, you should also check out the books page for latest releases and the occassional free book, as well as the journals page for the latest scientific research.

Archaeology News from East Timor

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The news reports indexed below usually link to external sites that were active at the time of posting; sometimes websites may be temporarily down or may have reorganised their underlying architecture or have even closed down – in these cases the links may not be available. Most of the news articles archived are in English; this is largely because I do not have a working competency in Portuguese or Tetum, although when I am made aware of stories in this and other languages I try to index them.

Looking for something specific? You can also use this search box:

These are links to external sites and unless stated, I have no connection with the organisations or entities in these links or control over their content. They are sorted alphabetically, but you should also explore the Resources page which have links sorted by themes. If you have a link to suggest, please get in touch!

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