Asian Perspectives, vol. 42, no. 1 (2003)


“The Products of Minds as Well as of Hands”: Production of Prestige Goods in the Neolithic and Early State Periods of China
Li Liu

This article examines the production of prestige goods in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age (Erlitou and Erligang Cultures) of China, focusing on procurement of raw material, and on manufacture, redistribution, and consumption of ritual objects made of jade, white pottery, and bronze. During the Neolithic period elite groups in several regions may have been directly involved in jade manufacture, which facilitated the formation of interaction networks based on shared cosmological concepts and aesthetic values. The elite enhanced their personal status by controlling ritual power, which was based on access to prestige goods and esoteric knowledge. During the early Bronze Age ritual vessels made of white pottery and bronze entered the inventory of prestige goods. These new types of ritual objects best facilitated the ancestor-worship ceremony, which was the ideological basis for politically legitimizing the ruling lineages. The process of bronze production and distribution, monopolized by the highest elite in the primary center (core), formed the backbone of the political hierarchy, enabling the development of a centralized political economy. These fundamental political and economic changes taking place in the Erlitou Culture indicate the transition from pre-state to state societies in north China.
Keywords: prestige goods, ritual objects, Neolithic, Bronze Age, state formation, China.

On Chronology-Building for Central Thailand through an Attribute-Based Ceramic Seriation
Sawang Lertrit

This paper seeks to build a chronology for the prehistoric period and the early historic period of central Thailand. Sixteen ceramic assemblages from 14 prehistoric and early historic archaeological sites in the Pa Sak River valley (of central Thailand) were examined using an attribute-based seriation method. Body sherds were included in the study and the attributes selected for this study are those of surface treatment attributes. Correspondence analysis was used to seriate the 16 ceramic assemblages. Findings from this study suggest that surface-treatment attributes are temporally sensitive. The proposed chronology is thus based primarily assemblages corresponds closely to broad archaeological periods proposed previously by Southeast Asian archaeologists. The results of correspondence analysis, however, provide a finer-scaled chronology for the study area. This research thus contributes to a better understanding of chronological development in the Central Plain of Thailand in general and in the Pa Sak River valley in particular. The research shows the significance and efficacy of attribute-based seriation and correspondence analysis as an exploratory multivariate method in the chronological placement of archaeological assemblages in Thailand and, by extension, in Southeast Asia.
Keywords: Southeast Asia, central Thailand, Pa Sak River valley, prehistoric and early historic periods, ceramic seriation, correspondence analysis.

Looking into the Gap: Land Use and the Tropical Forests of Southern Thailand
Lisa Kealhofer

The pollen and phytolith analysis of a 20,000-year lake core from southern Thailand provides the first long-term environmental sequence for this region. The evidence suggests that groups continuously occupied southern Thailand through both the early Holocene formation of the tropical rainforest and the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. Hunter-gatherers of the late Pleistocene apparently made the initial transition to the new tropical forest in the early Holocene by maintaining, expanding, or creating localized areas of disturbance or forest gaps to focus economic resources.
Keywords: palaeoenvironment, subsistence, Holocene, Thailand, phytolith analysis.

Nine New Painted Rock Art Sites from East Timor in the Context of the Western Pacific Region
Sue O’Connor

Few rock art sites are known for the islands of Wallacea. This paper reports nine new painted rock art sites located in East Timor during archaeological reconnaissance in 2000 to 2001; bringing the total number of painted rock art sites in East Timor to 15. Both the new and previously known rock art sites in East Timor are reviewed in the context of painted rock art elsewhere in the western Pacific region. They are also evaluated in terms of the criteria used by Ballard (1992) to define the ”Austronesian painting tradition” and the relationship between the art, topography, and language groups for the new sites is described. Motif content, motif placement within the sites, and design elements are compared in a preliminary fashion with that of other painting sites known from East Timor and the western Pacific. The East Timor sites are conformable with Austronesian-painted rock art sites elsewhere although they display some features that appear to be locally or regionally distinctive. It is likely that with systematic survey, and thorough inspection of cave and shelter walls, many more sites will be found in East Timor and elsewhere in Island Southeast Asia. The faded and deteriorated condition of many of the East Timor paintings indicates that recording should be undertaken with some urgency.
Keywords: painted rock art, East Timor, Island Southeast Asia, Western Pacific, Austronesian painting tradition.

Ritual and Presentation in Early Buddhist Religious Architecture
Lars Fogelin

The physical organization and layout of Buddhist reliquary mounds, stupas, provides a window into the forms of ritual practiced by Buddhists in the first few centuries B.C. through the end of the second century A.D. Specifically, the manner in which stupas were architecturally presented informs upon the differences in ritual presentation by the clergy and the laity. Attempts by the Buddhist clergy to direct worship and establish a privileged position in regard to the Buddha were resisted by the laity; in contrast, the laity attempted to preserve the egalitarian aspects of Buddhism. Traces of the laity’s resistance can be identified in the architectural layouts of ritual spaces of the early Buddhists. The organization of ritual within stupa complexes also illustrates the methods used by early Buddhists to foster group cohesion within a highly individualistic religious tradition.
Keywords: Buddhism, ritual, architecture, presentation, stupas.

Radiocarbon Ages for Two Sites on Ua Huka, Marquesas
Eric Conte and Atholl Anderson

Radiocarbon dates are presented and discussed for two sites with deep stratigraphy on Ua Huka Island, Marquesas. The lowest layer at the Hokatu site dates to the eleventh to thirteenth centuries A.D. At Hatuana, earlier radiocarbon-age estimates extended to the sixth to ninth centuries A.D. New results from the Waikato and Oxford Radiocarbon laboratories indicate that the lower levels at Hatuana are no older than about the fourteenth century.
Keywords:radiocarbon dates, East Polynesia, Marquesas, French Polynesia, archaeology.


Cambodian Architecture, Eighth to Thirteenth Centuries, Jacques Dumarcay and Pascal Royere, translated by Michael Smithies
Reviewed by Eleanor Mannikka

Burnished Beauty: The Art of Stone in Early Southeast Asia, Christopher Frape
Reviewed by Dougald O’Reilly

Heaven and Empire: Khmer Bronzes from the 9th to 15th Centuries, Marlene Zeffreys, Nicholas S. Zeffreys, and Jeffrey Stone
Reviewed by Helen I. Jessup

Health in Late Prehistoric Thailand, Kathryn M. Dommett
Reviewed by Michele T. Douglas

Lao Pako: A Late Prehistoric Site on Nam Ngum River in Laos, Anna Kallen and Anna Karlstrom, eds.
Reviewed by Nitta Eiji

Burma’s Lost Kingdoms: Splendours of Arakan, Pamela Gutman
Reviewed by Michael W. Charney

Along the Silk Road, Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, ed.
Reviewed by Fredrik T. Hiebert

East of the Wallace’s Line: Studies of Past and Present Maritime Cultures of the Indo-Pacific Region, Sue O’Connor and Peter Veth, eds.
Reviewed by Harry Allen

The Archaeology of Lapita Dispersal in Oceania: Papers from the Fourth Lapita Conference, June 2000, Canberra, Australia, G. R. Clark, A. J. Anderson, and T. Vunidilo, eds.
Reviewed by Jim Specht

Lapita and its Transformations in the Mussau Islands, Papua New Guinea, 1985–1988: Volume 1, Introduction, Excavations and Chronology, Patrick V. Kirch, ed.
Reviewed by David Burley

Australian Archaeologist: Collected Papers in Honour of Jim Allen, Atholl Anderson and Tim Murray, eds.
Reviewed by J. Stephen Athens