Paper: Seafaring Archaeology of the East Coast of India and Southeast Asia during the Early Historical Period

A new Open Access paper published in Ancient Asia:

The concept of trade in ancient India was quite different from modern times. In olden day’s mariners, artisans, traders, Buddhist monks and religious leaders used to set sail together and this trend continued till the advent of modern shipping. The representation of art on the walls of the caves, stupas and temples enlighten us regarding their joint ventures, experiences and problems faced during the sea voyages. The finding of varieties of pottery, punch marked and Roman coins, Brahmi and Kharoshti inscriptions along the ports, trade centres and Buddhist settlements suggest the role played by them in maritime trade during the early historical period and later. Mariners of India were aware of the monsoon wind and currents for more than two thousand years if not earlier. Furthermore, the study shows that the maritime contact with Southeast Asian countries was seasonal and no changes of Southwest and Northeast monsoon have been noticed since then. This paper details the types of pottery, beads, cargo found at ports, trade routes and Buddhist settlements along the east coast of India and the role of monsoons in maritime trade. The impact of Buddhism on trade and society of the region are also discussed.

Source: Seafaring Archaeology of the East Coast of India and Southeast Asia during the Early Historical Period (doi:10.5334/aa.118

The Southeast Asian Archaeology Repository of Knowledge (SEA-ARK)

A new resource from the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre:

This resource page disseminates published and unpublished reports pertinent to the pursuit of Southeast Asian Archaeology. This includes:
(1) Rare, unpublished, and/or out of print research materials;
(2) Papers and/or research publications when given explicit permission by the authors;
(3) The translations of research summaries originally written in a Southeast Asian language into English.

View the resource here.

Public Lecture: Documenting Southeast Asia’s Pre-1500 Past by Kenneth Hall

A lecture by Prof. Kenneth Hall next week at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.


Documenting Southeast Asia’s Pre-1500 Past: Contested Agencies in the Extended Eastern Indian Ocean, c. 500–1500
by Kenneth Hall
Date: 18 November 2015
Time: 3.00 – 4.30pm
Venue: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore

This presentation will address Southeast Asia’s evolutionary international importance c. 500–1500, when the Southeast Asia region became a major source, consumer, and intermediary in the Indian Ocean maritime trade, diplomatic, and knowledge networks prior to significant European contact. Movements of variable goods, ideas, and people through the Southeast Asia extended Indian Ocean maritime passageway, made possible by seasonal monsoon winds, had regional and wider consequence that resulted in new Southeast Asia patterns of networked urbanization, diplomacy, trade, religion, and emigration that intersected and interacted to create a Southeast Asian world that had not previously existed. This study is focal on Southeast Asia’s initiatives in contrast to prior views that have seen early Southeast Asia societies subject to the external agencies of Chinese, South Asians, and Middle Easterners. In recent years new regional archaeological and shipwreck recoveries have allowed the re-reading of other primary sources, including contemporary epigraphic, chronicle, and fictional literary compositions as these collectively document Southeast Asia’s contributions to the pre-1500 “borderless” Indian Ocean world. In this critical era transitional Southeast Asian societies assumed entrepreneurial roles in the adoption and adaptations of Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern concepts and constructions to pre-existing social and economic patterns, from scripts and languages to literary genres and motifs, from religious texts and discourses to associated art and architectural forms, as these were associated with new state, commercial, religious, societal, and urban networking patterns.

Registration required, more details here.

Vacancy: Lecturer in South East Asian Art

A lectureship in Southeast Asian Art is open at SOAS – although specialists in modern and contemporary art are sought after. Closing date 20 April 2015


Lecturer in South East Asian Art
School of Oriental and Asian Studies

The Department of the History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS, University of London, invites applications for a Lectureship in South East Asian Art. The post holder will be part of the exciting new development in South East Asian Art made available by a transformational donation from the Alphawood Foundation, Chicago, in 2013.

The post is intended for a dynamic scholar at a Lecturer level. The post is tenable from 1st September 2015. Applications are invited from those working on the history of art of any geographical area of South East Asia. Candidates with a specialism in the modern and contemporary arts of South East Asia are strongly invited to apply. Candidates should have an outstanding international reputation demonstrated by an excellent publication record and knowledge of relevant languages.

The successful candidate will be a member of the Department of the History of Art and Archaeology and will be expected to develop and teach courses at all levels, supervise PhD students, assume administrative responsibilities, collaborate productively with colleagues, and play a major role in the further development of South East Asian Art.

Full posting here.

Profile of John Guy of the Met

A profile of Dr John Guy, curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

John Guy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Source: The Hindu 20150214
John Guy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Source: The Hindu 20150214

A detective across centuries
The Hindu, 14 February 2015

The remarkable object on the screen is one of these clues — a yupa stone found in Eastern Borneo that dates back to the fourth century AD. The Sanskrit inscription describes the sacrifices performed by a local king called Mulawarman. “The inscription is in grammatical, perfectly good Sanskrit,” says John Guy, while delivering the Vasant J. Sheth Memorial Lecture during which he uses antiquities to offer a glimpse into the world of the intrepid Tamil traders who ruled the waves before the Gujarati merchants arrived on the scene.

“The Sanskrit inscriptions indicate that local rulers in Southeast Asia employed South Indian Brahmins as advisors and counsellors. The Brahmins were the mechanisms through which the inscriptions and objects of Vedic ritual landed up in these improbable, remote places. There was clearly an Indian presence in Southeast Asia, not just of ideas and religion but of people as well.”

John Guy should know. He is the curator of the Arts of South and South East Asia at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Besides building collections and organising blockbuster exhibitions, he acts as a detective across centuries. “I try to reconnect an object with its forgotten history,” he says, pointing out that sometimes all that remains of kingdoms and cultures are a handful of coins and seals, or a few crumbling sculptures. “We can read the past only on the basis of what has survived.”

Full story here.

Global implications of Southeast Asian rock art

Earlier this week, the journal Antiquity published a paper entitled ‘The global implications of the early surviving rock art of greater Southeast Asia’, which I was a co-author of. The paper touches on a number of rock art projects that have happened in the recent years: my contribution was on the rock art of Gua Tambun in Malaysia, which I investigated as part of my MA, and the paper also touches on the rock art of Cambodia that later became part of my PhD thesis. Other regions included Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia – the last of which is fresh in our minds because of recent research that shows it was as old, if not older than the painted caves in Europe.

Source: Antiquity 88(342)
Source: Antiquity 88(342)

Since the discovery of the painted caves of France, rock art studies has tended to be dominated by Eurocentrism as the ‘origin’ of art. Far from arguing that Southeast Asia is the origin of art, we are beginning to see with Southeast Asia, and I expect in other parts of the world that the tradition of painting in rock surfaces was widespread, even in prehistoric times, and may have begun even before humankind started moving out of Africa into other parts of the world. This paper is a snapshot of rock art research in Southeast Asia, and I am glad to be part of it.

Links to the paper in article in Antiquity and some of the associated news stories:

The global implications of the early surviving rock art of greater Southeast Asia
Antiquity, 88(342): 1050-1064

New evidence of ancient rock art across Southeast Asia
Eureka Alerts, 25 November 2014

Ancient Rock Art Discovered Across Asia was Created by Prehistoric Humans
Science World Report, 26 November 2014

Ancient Rock Art Splattered Across Southeast Asia
Nature World News, 26 November 2014

Rock art origins reappraised
Phnom Penh Post, 28 November 2014
Continue reading “Global implications of Southeast Asian rock art”

Job: Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology (University of Washington)

Not an archaeology job posting but related: the University of Washington is looking for a new Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology focusing on Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia. More details here.

The Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington invites applications for a full-time tenure-track Assistant Professor in cultural anthropology with a teaching and research emphasis on the Theravada Buddhist regions of Mainland Southeast Asia. The topic of this search is open, but preference will be given to scholars whose research addresses the anthropology of health or environment. We are particularly interested in those whose work focuses on the transnational dimensions of these areas.

Reporting from the Unesco Symposium on the Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities

Today and the rest of the week I am at the Unesco Symposium on the Illicit Trafficking of Antiquities here in Bangkok, representing my employer SEAMEO-SPAFA. I will be live tweeting the proceedings in my personal capacity on Twitter – follow me @seaarch

Job opportunity: Lecturer in Southeast Asian history

Murdoch University in Australia is looking for a lecturer in South East Asian History. Applications close 21 November 2014.

The School is seeking to appoint a Lecturer in Southeast Asian History who will make a significant contribution to teaching and research, and help implement the School of Arts’ strategy of embedding Asia-related expertise throughout the School. The successful candidate will have extensive in-country experience and will conduct research using sources in the vernacular. An interest in inter-disciplinary collaboration would be particularly welcome.

The successful candidate will be required to develop an active research programme, apply for nationally competitive grants, publish in international refereed journals, and supervise postgraduate students. Expectations are commensurate with level of appointment.

The successful candidate will have either a PhD or evidence of near completion of a doctoral degree. A high level of written and oral communication skills and recent experience in teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate level are highly desirable.

See posting here.

New ISEAA Social Media Initiative – Current Research alerts on Twitter

Ever wonder who is in the field in Southeast Asia? What MA, PhD, or laboratory projects are in the works? Or, what new publications have been released?


ISEAA is starting a Twitter feed on just these topics. The feed is organized by Cyler Conrad (, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico. Please let him know what you are up to! The feed (here will be cross-posted on the ISEAA Facebook page, so you do not have to follow or use Twitter to see the tweets. We will use the hashtag ‪#‎ISEAAtweets and initially will aim to have a tweet every 2 weeks or so.

See our first tweet here (!

If you are interested in participating, please send a submission (with or without a photograph), and approximately 140 characters of text to Cyler.