Asian Perspectives, vol. 40, no. 2 (2001)


Intensification of Agriculture at Ban Chiang: Is There Evidence from the Skeletons?
Michael Pietrusewsky and Michele Toomay Douglas

Human skeletal remains excavated in 1974–1975 at Ban Chiang, a premetal to Bronze/Iron Age site located in northeastern Thailand, are used to examine the health effects of sedentism and agricultural intensification. The archaeological sequence provides evidence for the introduction of iron and water buffalo in the Middle period, suggesting the beginning of intensified agriculture. The effects of this agricultural intensification on the paleodemography, health, and patterns of traumatic injury of Ban Chiang’s early inhabitants is examined. The skeletal and dental attributes examined include palaeodemographic parameters, dental caries, dental enamel hypoplasia, cribra orbitalia, stature, skeletal infections, and trauma. The results of this analysis are mixed. There are decreases in life expectancy and mean age-at-death that are consistent with a decline in health over time, but evidence for an increase in fertility, expected with intensified agriculture, is not found. Expected temporal increases in dental enamel hypoplasia and adult cribra orbitalia are documented. However, the expected decline in adult stature and expected increases in dental caries, cribra orbitalia in subadults, skeletal infection, and traumatic injury are not found. Overall, the skeletal indicators support continuity in Ban Chiang health, suggesting continuous reliance on a broadly based subsistence system. These findings do not fit the typical pattern demonstrated for other human groups experiencing the transition to sedentism and intensified agriculture and may support the contention that Southeast Asia’s archaeological sequence differs markedly from those studied elsewhere in the world.
Keywords: palaeopathology, palaeodemography, dental pathology, bioarchaeology, rice, agriculture, prehistory, Thailand, Southeast Asia.

Northeast Thailand before Angkor: Evidence from an Archaeological Excavation at the Prasat Hin Phimai
Sarah Talbot and Chutima Janthe

Northeast Thailand (Isan) was incorporated into the polity of Angkor around the end of the first millennium A.D. Well before this time, local communities in the Phimai region had adopted important activities such as the use of inscriptions and the construction of religious architecture in permanent materials. In 1998, the Origins of Angkor Project undertook an archaeological excavation at the most important Khmer temple in Thailand, the Prasat Hin Phimai. The excavation recovered late prehistoric ceramics and remains of an early brick structure, probably religious in nature, which had been re-used as part of the foundation of the sandstone Angkorian temple.
Keywords: Angkor, Phimai, Mun River, Thailand, Isan, prehistoric, architecture.

Fragments of Glass Bangles from Krek 52/62 and Their Implications for Dating the Mimotien Complex
Miriam Noel Haidle

Until recently the Mimotien complex of southeast Cambodia and adjacent Viet Nam was dated to the Neolithic. The artifact assemblages of circular earthworks with outer walls and inner ditches consisted only of ceramic and stone artifacts: absolute dating of the organic temper of the pottery did not yield reliable results. Other organic material and metal artifacts have not been preserved due to the acidity of the red tropical soil with a pH value of less than 4. In 1998 and 2000, fragments of five glass bangles were discovered in the upper part of the excavation but well within the occupational layer of the earthwork Krek 52/62. The chemical composition of the translucent green bracelets (with triangular to house-shaped cross sections) points to an origin of the glass in India or South Viet Nam, respectively. High alumina content prevented intensive weathering. Glass is introduced in Southeast Asia in the second half of the first millennium B.C. Parallel finds of green to blue translucent glass bracelets with triangular to house-shaped cross sections from Viet Nam, Thailand, and the Philippines date to the second half of the first millennium B.C. The glass bangles from Krek 52/62 indicate a date of at least the terminal phase of the Mimotien complex to 500 B.C. or even younger.
Keywords: Cambodia, circular earthworks, Mimotien, early glass, Neolithic, Iron Age.

Introductory Routes of Rice to Japan: An Examination of the Southern Route Hypothesis
Hiroto Takamiya

The beginning of rice agriculture in Japan impacted every aspect of life in most parts of the archipelago. It was the Japanese version of the ‘‘Neolithic Revolution.’’ Because rice is so important today for Japanese and thought to have been so since the Yayoi period, when and how rice agriculture began in Japan has been intensively studied. Accordingly, three hypotheses, (1) Northern, (2) Chanjian (central coastal China), and (3) Southern routes have been proposed. The third hypothesis was originally proposed by the well-known ethnologist Kunio Yanagita in 1952. Since then, many scholars have attempted to examine this hypothesis. The possibility of this hypothesis based on archaeological, botanical, and ethnological data that have been accumulated in the last fifty years is summarized. Direct data, plant remains that I was able to collect and analyze to test this hypothesis are evaluated. The archaeobotanical data suggest that food production began on the island of Okinawa from the eighth to tenth centuries A.D. and foragers were living on the island during the Yayoi period. The data thus agree with archaeological data and the Southern route hypothesis is rejected.
Keywords: origins of rice agriculture in Japan, the Southern route, archaeobotanical data, Ryukyu archipelago, Okinawa.

Contained Identities: The Demise of Yapese Clay Pots
Christophe Descantes

The loss of ceramic technology is widespread in Oceanic island societies. While this disappearance has taken place at different times, under different conditions, on different Pacific Islands, a model created by examining the technology loss of one society may cast light on the contributing factors to the decline of ceramic production of other Oceanic contexts. A model to account for the relatively recent end of ceramic pot production and use on the island of Yap, Federated States of Micronesia, during the colonial period is offered. Ceramic manufacture on Yap was at least a 2000-year-old tradition before it ceased in the twentieth century. Relying on a historical approach that considers the social dynamics of pots and a combination of archaeological, ethnographic, and ethnohistoric records, the Yapese gradually replaced their ceramic vessel technology with metal pots because of new conditions encountered during contact and colonialism. Factors involved in the ease of replacement of ceramic pots include limited access to the specialized labor required to produce ceramic containers, the superior durability offered by the replacement technology, and the fact that ceramic pots were valued more for their function.
Keywords: Yap, pottery, ceramic change, colonialism.

Early Settlement of Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Helene Martinsson-Wallin and Susan J. Crockford

Extensive archaeological investigations on Rapa Nui were initiated by the Norwegian Expedition to the island in 1955–1956. An evaluation of the evidence for early settlement and discussion of the origin of the initial population are presented. The earliest settlement activity on the island was subsequently found at Anakena cove during the Kon-Tiki Museum expedition in 1987. A reanalysis of the material remains and a new osteological analysis of the fish remains from the early Anakena site are presented. This, together with analyses of cultural remains from other settlement sites on Rapa Nui and on other islands in Polynesia, forms the base for an intra- and interisland comparative analysis and discussion of the origin of the initial settlement on Rapa Nui.
Keywords: Rapa Nui, settlement, origin, comparative analysis, osteological analysis, fish bones.

Excavations at the Kipapa Rockshelter, Kahikinui, Maui, Hawai‘i
Sharyn Jones O’Day

Test excavations of a late precontact to early contact rockshelter site in the traditional district of Kahikinui, Maui, Hawai‘i, are discussed. The excavated cultural deposits primarily consist of three combustion features, two informal fire pits, and an earth oven. The deposit contained indigenous Hawaiian artifacts, such as basalt lithics, bone awls, and a fishhook. Fine-screening methods were employed with the use of 1/16 in. (1.59 mm) mesh, and relatively large amounts of fish bone and microfauna were also recovered. Using faunal and material culture evidence, it is argued that the rockshelter is a single component of a traditional Hawaiian household complex (kau hale), probably a cookhouse (hale kahumu).
Keywords: Hawai‘i, Maui Island, archaeology, screen size, zooarchaeology, fauna, kau hale.


Sacred Rocks and Buddhist Caves in Thailand, Christophe Munier
Reviewed by Rasmi Shoocongdej

Bugis Navigation, Gene Ammarell
Reviewed by Ben Finney

National Treasure, Peter Bleed and Spirit Bird Journey, Sarah Milledge Nelson
Reviewed by Brian Fagan

The Archaeometallurgy of the Asian Old World, Vincent C. Piggott, ed.
Reviewed by Peter Northover

God-Apes and Fossil Men. Paleoanthropology in South Asia, Kenneth A. R. Kennedy
Reviewed by Lynne A. Schepartz

Tiempon I Manmofo‘na: Ancient Chamorro Culture and History of the Northern Mariana Islands, Scott Russell
Reviewed by J. Stephen Athens

Exalted Sits the Chief: The Ancient History of Hawai‘i Island, Ross Cordy
Reviewed by Kehaunani Cachola-Abad