Asian Perspectives, vol. 48, no. 1 (2009)


A Reconstruction of an “Officially Expunged” Kingdom in Colonial South India: Panjalamkurinchi through Memory and Archaeology
Raman Seylon, 1

Prior to the turn of the nineteenth century large parts of rural South India bristled with a number of formidable small fortified settlements called palayams. Most of these “forts” were surrounded by hardened earthen walls, within which were private dwellings or aranmani (“palace”) and administrative offices of the local military households known as poligars. The poligar rajas held sway over much of South Indian countryside prior to colonial rule. By 1800 all such mud fortifications were systematically destroyed by the East India Company government in an effort to do away with all such secondary military powers. As a result very little is presently known about these rural strong houses that once dotted and dominated the South Indian rural landscape. This article describes a reconstruction of one of the most formidable of these rural forts situated in the town of Panjalamkurinchi. It is based on Seylon’s own archaeological mapping of the site, along with additional data collected from the colonial archives, military siege maps, and manuscripts containing firsthand accounts of a pilgrim who saw the fort before its destruction. Together these sources present a vivid and complete picture of Panjalamkurinchi in the late 1790s.
Keywords: India, fortifications, palaces, states, rajas, militarism, colonial, ethnohistory, East India Company.

Early Architectural Images from Muara Jambi on Sumatra, Indonesia
Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz, J. David Neidel, and Agus Widiatmoko, 32

Nine terracotta bricks and brick fragments, containing incised drawings of different types of buildings, were discovered at the large Muara Jambi temple complex in eastern Sumatra. Likely dating from between the second half of the ninth and the first half of the fourteenth centuries, these bricks contain the oldest graphic representations of Sumatran architecture. While two of these designs have been previously published, the brick images have not been thoroughly analyzed in order to determine what new light they shed on the domestic architecture and building traditions of early lowland Sumatran settlements. To address this lacuna, we analyze the bricks and their archaeological context in order to interpret when the images were made, who created the images, the purpose behind them, the types of architecture depicted on the bricks, and the reasons behind the diversity of building types represented. Having argued that the majority of bricks shows domestic architecture reflecting a variety of cultural influences, we conclude by suggesting that the presence of such images supports the scholarly view that Muara Jambi was a multi-ethnic trading community.
Keywords: Muara Jambi, Sumatra, Indonesia, house architecture, urban history, Malayu polity.

Health in Pre-Angkorian Cambodia: A Bioarchaeological Analysis of the Skeletal Remains from Phum Snay
K. M. Domett and D. J. W. O’Reilly, 56

Excavations at a pre-Angkorian (c. 350 B.C.–A.D. 200) cemetery in the village of Phum Snay, Northwest Cambodia, have revealed 23 inhumations. This small sample of skeletal remains varies in completeness from a scatter of bone to complete articulated skeletons with an array of grave goods including bronze and iron artifacts. There is archaeological evidence for a possible militarized society, but the overall health of this small cemetery population does not provide further conclusive evidence. Demographically, the skeletal sample lacks many subadults and older adults and is skewed 2:1 toward females, but this is probably a result of poor preservation and sample size rather than any true bias in cemetery organization. Stature in both males and females is wide ranging and may indicate a heterogeneous sample either in terms of genetics or access to resources. Dental health shows evidence for sexual differentiation in diet, with females showing more caries and less advanced attrition than males, perhaps reflecting a sexual division of labor. There is also a very high proportion of adults, both male and female, with intentional ablation of the anterior dentition, most commonly involving the upper lateral incisors and upper canines. Apart from some cases of moderate joint degeneration and minor fracture (hand and clavicle), there is very little evidence for significant disease or trauma. Overall, evidence from this small sample is suggestive of a relatively healthy lifestyle but with some indicators of a non-egalitarian social structure.
Keywords: Cambodia, prehistory, pre-Angkor, skeletal remains, health, dental health.

Community Diversity at Ban Lum Khao, Thailand: Isotopic Evidence from the Skeletons
R. Alexander Bentley, Katharine Cox, Nancy Tayles, Charles Higham, Colin Macpherson, Geoff Nowell, Matthew Cooper, and Tina E. F. Hayes, 79

Isotopes of strontium, carbon, and oxygen were analyzed in human tooth enamel from the Bronze Age site of Ban Lum Khao (c. 1400 B.C.–500 B.C.) in Thailand. The strontium and oxygen isotopes, which generally reflect place of origin, delimit discrete groups among the individuals. Among the females, different groups determined through isotopic signatures were buried with distinctive pottery types. This suggests that social identity, drawn from village of origin, was conveyed by material culture, at least in burial. Although Ban Lum Khao was probably an egalitarian community, this isotopic and archaeological evidence suggests that different social identities were associated with place of childhood origin in this Bronze Age community.
Keywords: prehistoric kinship, matrilocality, patrilocality, strontium isotopes, oxygen isotopes, carbon isotopes, Sr-87/Sr-86, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Southeast Asia.

Cave Sites in Northeastern Luzon, Philippines: A Preliminary Soil Micromorphological Study
Armand Salvador B. Mijares and Helen A. Lewis, 98

Soil micromorphology was among the approaches used to explore site formation in two cave sites in northern Luzon: Eme and Dalan Serkot Caves. Interplay of biogenic, sedimentary, and anthropogenic processes worked and reworked the archaeological sediments at both sites. Eme Cave was found to be highly bioturbated by faunal activities and shrink-swell processes, and caution is needed in interpreting its archaeological contexts. However, thin section study revealed wood ash and possible burnt soil fragments, along with charcoal, attesting to later prehistoric burning activity at the site at some time. In Dalan Serkot Cave, along with standard cave sediments a volcanic ash deposit was identified, apparently deposited before 6200 B.P., that must have affected local communities, and that could be used as a stratigraphic marker for future research in the area.
Keywords: Soil micromorphology, northern Luzon, Palaeolithic, Neolithic, cave sites.

Mid-Holocene Social Interaction in Melanesia: New Evidence from Hammer-Dressed Obsidian Stemmed Tools
Robin Torrence, Pamela Swadling, Nina Kononenko, Wallace Ambrose, Pip Rath, Michael D. Glascock, 119

The widespread distribution in Papua New Guinea of obsidian stemmed tools dated to the mid-Holocene has led scholars to postulate the existence of large interaction spheres. A newly reported artifact from Biak Island, West Papua provides the stimulus for reconsidering the role of this tool type in regional social interaction. The tool was hammer-dressed, a technique unknown for obsidian flaked tools elsewhere in the world and only rarely applied to obsidian artifacts in Melanesia. This new find closely resembles hammer-dressed obsidian stemmed tools from Garua Island, Papua New Guinea, but these are characterized by LA/ICPMS, PIXE-PGME, and INAA to the local Baki and Kutau-Bao obsidian sources in New Britain, Papua New Guinea, whereas the Biak tool is sourced to outcrops on Lou Island in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea. Hypotheses for functional, symbolic, and social roles of hammer-dressing are explored and evaluated on the basis of replication experiments and use-wear analyses. We argue that the complex and exceptionally rare technologies used for manufacturing hammer-dressed stemmed tools and applied to obsidian acquired from two widely separated obsidian sources substantially add to previous evidence for wide-scale social interaction during the mid-Holocene. The existence of these social networks might also have provided a mechanism for the rapid, extensive spread of innovations like Austronesian languages or Lapita pottery.
Keywords: Melanesia, Pacific archaeology, stone tools, obsidian, hammer-dressing, characterization, PIXE-PIGME, LA/ICPMS, instrumental neutron activation analysis.

Radiocarbon Dates and Technological Change in Salt Production at the Site of Zhongba in the Three Gorges, China
Rowan K. Flad, Wu Xiaohong, Lothar von Falkenhausen, Li Shuicheng, Sun Zhibin, and Pochan Chen, 149

The prehistoric chronology of the Three Gorges region along the Yangzi River in China has only become the focus of significant archaeological research in the last decade. The site of Zhongba is one of the most significant sites among those recently studied. Thirty-two radiocarbon dates produced by the C-14 laboratory at Peking University, and five additional dates from the Beta Analytic laboratory in the United States show a clear chronological profile of the activity periods at the site of Zhongba. This radiocarbon profile clarifies two very important issues related to the prehistory of the Three Gorges region. The dates anchor an emerging ceramic-based relative chronology in a series of stratigraphically associated absolute dates. This article discusses these results and suggests explanations for several anomalous dates. The sequence demonstrates the need to reassess radiocarbon sequences by means of ceramic seriation. The dates also demonstrate that three different vessel classes, which dominate the ceramic assemblage at Zhongba and which are believed to have been used in salt production at the site, date to three chronologically distinct phases of activity. The differences among the three types suggest that they represent a sequence of technological changes in the process of salt production at the site.
Keywords: radiocarbon, Three Gorges, China, technological change, salt production, Yangzi River, Zhongba

Ceramic Production in Shang Societies of Anyang
James B. Stoltman, Zhichun Jing, Jigen Tang, and George (Rip) Rapp, 182

This article describes the results of petrographic analyses of ceramic thin sections from the Shang sites of Huanbei and Yinxu in Anyang, Henan, China. The initial goal was to determine the physical composition of locally produced ceramic artifacts. This was accomplished by focusing upon gray wares, the most common ceramic class in Shang contexts at Anyang, and comparing the findings to local, clay-rich sediments in both qualitative and quantitative terms. The resulting data provide objective bases for distinguishing imported ceramic items, notably those with exotic rock tempers and/or distinctive, low-silt pastes, and for making further inquiries into the role of ceramic production and exchange in the development and functioning of Shang society. The study revealed an unexpected amount of compositional diversity within Shang gray wares and indicates that at least three local sediments and three different technologies were utilized in the manufacture of ceramic objects. For most ceramic objects utilized in daily activities, such as storage and serving vessels and drainpipes, untempered loessic sediments were employed. By contrast, for cooking vessels, alluvial sediments tempered either with sand or grit (crushed rock, some of which was exotic) were normally employed. A third technology, for bronze piece molds, utilized loess, which was untempered, but apparently processed so as to concentrate the silt content thus increasing porosity and minimizing shrinkage, properties that would reduce flaws in cast bronzes.
Keywords: ceramic petrography, China, Shang Dynasty, Anyang, Huanbei, Yinxu


Extinction & Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds by David Steadman
Reviewed by Scott M. Fitzpatrick, 204