Asian Perspectives, vol. 47, no. 2 (2008)

Editors’ corner, 189

We are instituting a new system for contacting the journal editors to improve our communication with authors. General inquiries about the journal, initial requests for information about article submissions, and electronic submissions should be sent to and addressed to Laura Junker. Once articles are submitted, the assigned journal editor will notify you with their specific contact information for author queries. Mailed submissions should continue to be sent to: Asian Perspectives Editor Laura Junker, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago, M/C 027, 2102 BSB, 1007 W. Harrison St., Chicago, Illinois 60607-7139 U.S.A. Authors with large graphics files should send their submissions by mail or in several e-mails (5 MB maximum per e-mail) to avoid problems of file retrieval and electronic bounce-backs. We would like to emphasize that we encourage submissions from a broad range of theoretical perspectives. We also want to especially invite indigenous Asian archaeologists to submit manuscripts and, while we encourage all authors to use whatever resources available to produce clearly written English language papers, we are also happy to work with authors on English language issues to improve the peer review process. Please let us know if you would like to be added to our list of peer reviewers.


Health and the Experience of Childhood in Late Neolithic Vietnam
Marc Oxenham, Hirofumi Matsumura, Kate Domett, Nguyen Kim Thuy, Nguyen Kim Dung, Nguyen Lan Cuong, Damien Huffer, and Sarah Muller, 190

The article aims to examine aspects of mortuary behavior in late Neolithic/early Bronze Age (Phung Nguyen phase) populations represented at the site of Man Bac in Viet Nam, specifically how mortuary behavior illuminates the role of children, and adult attitudes toward children. In addition, the authors discuss biological characteristics of the human sample, focusing particularly on the child burials, in order to explore aspects of childhood palaeohealth. The methodology includes combining various measures of health—including palaeodemography (childhood mortality), analysis of oral health (Early Childhood Caries or ECC), and analysis of physiological health (Cribra Orbitalia and LEH)—with studies of culturally defined mortuary practices to suggest that, while children clearly had significant health deficiencies and many suffered early deaths, their treatment in mortuary rites shows significant economic value and social esteem placed on children.
Keywords: Viet Nam, Neolithic, childhood, health, mortuary behavior, palaeodemography, bioarchaeology.

Settlement Patterns at Saqacengalj, a Slate House Settlement in Southern Taiwan
Maa-ling Chen, 210

The present work combines archaeology, historical analysis, and ethnography to examine historical continuities in village social organization and settlement patterns in southern Taiwan in the mid- to late second millennium A.D. The focus of the work is Kau-shi village, located in Mu-dan County, Pin-dong District, at the southern tip of Taiwan. Its residents belong to the Southern Pai-wan Group, one of Taiwan’s indigenous populations. Kau-shi people moved and established new settlements six times before they settled on the current village. Their oldest abandoned settlement, Saqacengalj, is located about 7 to 8 km from the current village, an archaeological site covering about 1.4 acres with more than 83 stone structures dated to 500–600 years b.p. (before present), known previously through mystical folktale and oral tradition, and only recently through archaeology. Archaeological mapping of site layout and structural features found that the Saqacengalj settlement shares certain characteristics with later Pai-wan settlements extending into the twentieth century. However, there are certain features distinctly Saqacengalj from these settlements. In addition, a significant percentage of the 83 structures at Saqacengalj have a unique arrangement of small structures within the larger structure not found in later villages. These initial archaeological analyses suggest significant historical changes in the cultural and social meaning of village settlement patterns of the Southern Pai-wan Group over this half-millennium.
Keywords: Pai-wan Group, Taiwan, oral history, historical archaeology, slate houses, settlement pattern, social organization, status symbolization.

Mortuary Treatment, Pathology, and Social Relations of the Jiahu Community
Barbara Li Smith and Yun Kuen Lee, 242

Funeral ritual is a projective symbolic system where the treatment received by a deceased individual does not necessarily reflect the social position of that individual when living. Study of past social relations based on mortuary treatment alone is potentially ambiguous. Because many diseases leave indelible marks on the skeleton, human bones provide independent information reflecting the health and behavior of the deceased. Integrating the studies of mortuary treatment and osteological pathology can achieve a fuller understanding of past societies. Equipped with this hybrid methodology, we tried to unravel the social relations of an early Neolithic community at Jiahu in central China. The considerable difference in the quantity and quality of grave offerings indicates the presence of competitive display in funeral practice. However, the individuals buried in richly furnished graves had higher rates of iron-deficiency anemia than those buried in poorly furnished graves, indicating that higher status at death was not inherited but achieved. Osteoarthritis rates in the females were lower than that of the males, suggesting that they were less engaged in mechanically stressful activities. This sexual division of labor is reflected in a differential mortuary treatment in that fewer females were buried in the communal graveyards and their graves were furnished with less material wealth. Yet, the females had lower iron-deficiency anemia rates, suggesting that playing a physically less strenuous role did not hinder their access to critical resources such as meat in the diet.
Keywords: China, mortuary practice, pathology, social reconstruction, projective ritual.

The Neolithic of Southern China—Origin, Development, and Dispersal
Chi Zhang and Hsiao-chun Hung, 299

According to direct evidence from archaeology and supporting evidence from comparative linguistics, the Neolithic cultures of the Yangtze alluvial plain played a significant role in the origins of rice cultivation and agricultural populations in East and Southeast Asia. The ultimate results of these developments, according to many authorities, were the dispersals of Austroasiatic and Austronesian-speaking peoples into Mainland and Island Southeast Asia. New archaeological discoveries suggest that some of the earliest pottery in the world also occurred in southern China. Therefore, the historical significance of this region cannot be overlooked. This paper provides a brief review of cultural developments and settlement histories in southern China from the early Neolithic (c. 11,000–8000 B.C.) to the terminal Neolithic (2000 B.C.). Geographically, we examine the middle and lower Yangtze alluvial plain, the Lingnan (southern Nanling Mountains) and Fujian region, and the Yungui Plateau of southern China. Against the backdrop of the waxing and waning of Neolithic cultures in the Yangtze Valley we plot the spread of material culture, rice farming and animal domestication out of the Yangtze region to the Lingnan-Fujian region and the Yungui Plateau, and later into Taiwan and Southeast Asia. This study suggests that the origins of rice agriculture and the process of farming dispersal were more complicated than previously assumed.
Keywords: Neolithic, southern China, Yangtze alluvial plain, farming, migration, dispersal.

Pre-Contact Arboriculture and Vegetation in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia: Charcoal Identification and Radiocarbon Dates from Hatiheu Valley, Nuku Hiva
Sidsel Millerstrom and James H. Coil, 330

In order to address long-standing questions in the field of Pacific Island archaeology regarding the extent, timing, and causes of human-induced environmental change, as well as the deep history of the development of distinct regional agricultural and arboricultural adaptations, this study presents and discusses taxonomic identification data for 15 wood charcoal samples recovered from archaeological excavations in the Hatiheu Valley, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands. This is some of the first archaeobotanical data collected and analyzed from this archipelago, and the only direct evidence of past distributions of economic and indigenous tree and shrub taxa in specific temporal and spatial contexts. The 14 native and Polynesian-introduced tree and shrub taxa identified are analyzed in view of their archaeobotanical and more modern distributions, as well as in consideration of radiocarbon dates obtained from five of the charcoal samples. Finally, these results are evaluated in regard to the degree to which they can provide useful cultural and environmental information relating to existing models of prehistoric Marquesan and broader Pacific Island settlement, economy, and environmental change over time.
Keywords: archaeology, archaeobotany, anthracology, charcoal, Marquesas Islands.

Flexibility and Creativity in Microblade Core Manufacture in Southern Primorye, Far East Russia
Trudy Doelman, 352

The purely typological approach to microblade technology often obscures the range of variability seen in the creative and flexible ways microblade cores were prepared and the reasons behind this variability. There is a real need to understand the situational context of microblade production and move the focus of investigation on to the microblades themselves, as these are the key components of an effective risk-reduction strategy. Combining a typological and technological approach to study standardization in core preparation and the resulting microblades made from volcanic glass within a known geological context has shown that key characteristics of both are vital to the successful implementation of this technological approach.
Keywords: microblade technology, typology, risk, volcanic glass, Far East Russia.

Infant Death in Late Prehistoric Southeast Asia
Siân E. Halcrow, Nancy Tayles, and Vicki Livingstone, 371

Important information on demography, epidemiology, inter-population differences in growth, infant burial practices, and social aspects of the community can be gleaned from the study of perinatal bones. The increasing number of perinates unearthed from prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia provides a rare opportunity to investigate these issues. The high number of full-term infants represented at the site of Khok Phanom Di in Central Thailand (4000–3500 B.P.) remains an enigma. This is an important issue for bioarchaeologists as infant mortality patterns are sensitive barometers of the health and fertility of a population. This study investigated the perinatal age distributions of several chronologically spread sites in prehistoric Southeast Asia with differing subsistence modes and evidence of social complexity. Results show that the age distribution in the collection from Khok Phanom Di is different from the other skeletal samples, with a comparatively higher number of full-term perinates represented. Explanations including infanticide, issues of health and disease, and infant burial practices are considered. It seems likely that the age distribution results from different burial rites of pre-term infants as a consequence of social and cultural differences between Khok Phanom Di and the other sites. This study emphasizes the important contribution bioarchaeological research and the comparative study of infant burial rites can make in understanding aspects of social change in prehistoric communities.
Keywords: bioarchaeology, infant burial practices, perinatal age at death distributions, prehistoric mainland Southeast Asia, social organization.

The Use of Flaked Stone Artifacts in Palau, Western Micronesia
Michael Haslam and Jolie Liston, 405

This paper summarizes current research into flaked stone assemblages from the Republic of Palau, Micronesia. We review archaeological analyses of Palau’s flaked stone artifacts, examine ethnohistorical sources for descriptions and potential uses of lithic tools, and present the results of a recent microscopic use-wear and residue study of twenty flaked stone artifacts. We find that while a lithic technology based on bipolar reduction had emerged by at least the beginning of the first millennium B.C., the archaeological and ethnohistorical records demonstrate the relative obscurity of stone tool use in the final stages of prehistory. The artifacts analyzed for residues are associated with radiocarbon dates ranging from ca. 1120 B.C.–A.D. 1640, with the majority recovered from inland earthwork and village complexes radiocarbon dated to approximately two thousand years ago. Residue evidence for wood and bone/skin working is discussed in terms of past social activities and changes in settlement patterns, and in light of the perceived dominance of shell as a tool material on Palau. The potential for soil fungi to influence the interpretation of artifact residues is also considered. The study emphasizes the unique position of residue analyses in contributing to studies of artifact function in the Pacific, and suggests future directions for flaked-stone research on Palau.
Keywords: Palau, Micronesia, stone, residue analysis, microscopy.