Asian Perspectives, vol. 49, no. 1 (2010)


Early Pottery in South China
Tracey L-D Lu, 1

Potsherds of thick walls with coarse inclusions have been found in several archaeological sites in South China, associated with flaked or ground stone tools and ground organic implements. This paper focuses on the natural and cultural contexts, the chronology, and the characteristics of the early pottery found in South China, as well as the impetus to the origin of pottery and several related issues. It is argued that the earliest potters in South China were affluent foragers, who lived on diversified natural resources and were members of egalitarian societies.
Keywords: South China, pottery, terminal Pleistocene, early Holocene, foragers, subsistence strategies, exchange, ethnoarchaeology.

The earliest pottery in this region is tentatively dated to approximately 12,000 years ago, characterized by thick, crumbled walls built by hand pinching and without decoration. Although potsherds found in South China may not be the earliest in terms of the absolute dates, they represent the very beginning of pottery manufacturing as a technological invention from the terminal Pleistocene to the early Holocene in southern East Asia. Based on current archaeological data and the results of multi-disciplinary analyses, it is argued that South China seems to have been an area for the origin of pottery, which might have been associated with subsistence strategy changes. Furthermore, there might have been cultural exchanges between the prehistoric potters in South China and those in adjacent areas.

Social Variation and Dynamics in Metal Age and Protohistoric
Central Thailand: A Regional Perspective

Chureekamol Onsuwan Eyre, 43

Southeast Asia is one major region where applications of sociopolitical frameworks emphasizing progressive development and increasing degrees of social hierarchy have been argued as inadequate for understanding past societies. Settlement systems in Thailand that existed throughout the period of technological change incorporating the bronze and iron ages have not yet been investigated from a heterarchical viewpoint. While reconnaissance and systematic surveys conducted over the past few decades in Thailand have discovered hundreds of prehistoric sites, a recent survey stressing intensive methodologies to test heterarchical and hierarchical frameworks for best fit with settlement patterns in the region of Kok Samrong-Takhli Undulating Terrain (KSTUT) in the eastern side of the Upper Chao Phraya River Valley has revealed unexpected patterns of land use and settlement systems. This article discusses the methodology and results of the KSTUT Survey in central Thailand.

A two-stage survey, a reconnaissance survey followed by a 58 km2 intensive survey, was conducted in order to locate sites across different landscapes, to identify subregional ceramic variation and possibly geographic shifts in ceramic subregions over time, and to determine evidence for economic specialization among sites of varying sizes. The 25 sites dating between 2000 b.c. and a.d. 1000 provide evidence for a prehistoric settlement system emphasizing long-lived, often large, but heterarchically related occupations. Sharp changes including the appearance of site hierarchy occurred rapidly just prior to the protohistoric period c. a.d. 400, about 1000 years later than previously thought.
Keywords: social complexity, Metal Age, Thailand, heterarchy, intensive survey, settlement systems.

Children Playing and Learning: Crafting Ceramics in Ancient
Indor Khera

Jaya Menon and Supriya Varma, 85

It is only in the recent decade that distinct archaeological studies on children have emerged. One of the ways in which children have been made archaeologically visible has been in the context of craft and learning frameworks where they have been perceived as active agents in the production of material culture. Archaeologically, the work of novice crafters can be discerned through attributes of small size, asymmetrical forms, and other deficiencies in manufacturing techniques suggesting inadequate conceptual frames as well as less developed physical skills. The deposits recovered during the excavations in the northwestern part of the ancient site of Indor Khera have been dated between 200 b.c. and a.d. 300. The excavations have revealed in an early phase a potter’s house within and around which several miniature vessels with similar characteristics were found, perhaps the work of children. Further, numerous tiny terracotta and clay lumps indicate that to begin children might have been given small bits of clay to play with. It appears that the ceramic craft may have involved a gradual learning process that included play, observation, and experimentation.
Keywords: children, ceramic production, learning, playing, miniature vessels, Indor Khera, Upper Ganga Plains, India.

South Asia—Perennial Backwater or Object of Biased
Assessment: A Discussion Based on Current Archaeological,
Anthropological, and Genetic Evidence

Varun Singh, 110

The evolution of humans from primates is well attested in Africa, considered to be the only place where the ancestors of modern humans could have evolved. The most ancestral human form, Homo erectus, is also thought to have migrated out of Africa. Recent genetic research has added support to an ‘‘Out of Africa’’ migration of modern man. However, the latest findings of population genetics have, by challenging the route of exodus, placed Asia and especially South Asia in a particularly prominent position. This new idea that humans emerging out of Africa undertook a long journey along the coasts of Asia toward Australia has also received recent support from archaeology. The long-standing belief that modern humans reached Europe by first journeying through the Levant, was based on the discovery of modern looking skeletons in southern France. This discovery of the ‘‘Cro-Magnons’’ in France spurred an intense search for more evidence of human presence in Europe. The wealth of data thus accumulated in Africa and Europe has formed the basis for all the discussion on human evolution and migration. Asia by contrast has suffered neglect both in terms of lack of interest and exploration of the same magnitude accorded Africa and Europe. What evidence exists has only attracted passing notice, the bulk of the data eluding the attention of western scholars. This article attempts to address this imbalance by bringing together all current information relating to the fields of anthropology, archaeology, and genetics. The area covered is by size enormous, but the focus is on the strength of evidence for colonization of South Asia from outside as opposed to contributions made by the indigenous people.
Keywords: South Asia, Homo sapiens, mtDNA, symbolic behavior.

Obsidian Sourcing in Bandung, Indonesia
Stephen Chia, Lufti Yondri, and Truman Simantunjak, 148

This article presents the results of a study to determine whether the obsidian artifacts found in Gua Pawon, Dago, and Bukit Karsamanik in Bandung came from the well-known sources of Gunung Kendan in Nagreg, Kampung Rejeng in Garut, or elsewhere. Obsidian artifacts for this study were obtained from earlier archaeological excavations at Gua Pawon and from chance finds at the sites of Dago and Bukit Karsamanik in Bandung. Samples of obsidian were also collected from the known obsidian sources in Gunung Kendan in Nagreg and Kampung Rejeng in Garut for comparative purposes. Analyses of these samples were done on a scanning electron microscope using the energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer at the University of Science Malaysia, Penang, and the electron microprobe at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Multi-element analysis was undertaken, and statistical procedures were performed on data obtained from the artifacts and the sources. The results of the study thus far suggest that the obsidian artifacts from Gua Pawon were made using obsidian obtained from both Gunung Kendan and Kampung Rejeng sources, while those from Dago and Bukit Karsamanik have yet to be determined. More samples from all the known obsidian sources are needed to determine the variability within and between all the different sources. Temporally, the study also revealed that prehistoric humans at Gua Pawon exploited the same obsidian resources over several thousands of years.
Keywords: Malaysia, obsidian, stone tools, Neolithic, chemical composition, sourcing.

Late Holocene Subsistence Practices Among Cis-Baikal
Pastoralists, Siberia: Zooarchaeological Insights from Sagan-
Zaba II

Tatiana Nomokonova, Robert J. Losey, Andrzej Weber, Ol’ga I.
Goriunova, and Aleksei G. Novikov, 157

Roughly 3000 years ago, nomadic pastoralists began to arrive in the Cis-Baikal region of eastern Siberia. While the archaeological record of these groups is quite extensive, most research on pastoralists here has focused on mortuary traditions while questions about subsistence practices have been left largely unaddressed. Few habitation sites from the late Holocene here contain stratified deposits, and virtually none have been subject to modern excavation methods or zooarchaeological analyses. We present new faunal data from the recently excavated agan-Zaba II site located on the west coast of Lake Baikal. This site offers a unique opportunity to examine diachronic patterns in diet and subsistence practices of local pastoralists. It contains stratified deposits associated with different periods of pastoralist occupation spanning much of the late Holocene. Significantly, it is the first site of this period in the region to be screened with fine-meshed sieves and to be systematically studied by zooarchaeologists. The results of our research reveal a series of new insights on pastoralist subsistence practices. First, the primary domesticates in all periods were sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. Cattle appear to increase through time at the site while horses remained relatively rare. Second, pastoralists at Sagan-Zaba regularly hunted Lake Baikal’s freshwater seals, long after the introduction of domesticated livestock. Third, hunting of terrestrial mammals, particularly roe deer and red deer, was also common at the site. Finally, our data demonstrate that pastoralists here also regularly fished. This subsistence practice was previously unrecognized in the region, likely due to lack of sieving of sites. Furthermore, these data suggest that historically documented fishing by modern local pastoralists and increases in sedentism were not completely the result of Russian-period settlement of the region but instead were occurring in Cis-Baikal long prior to the modern era.
Keywords: Siberia, Lake Baikal, nomadic pastoralists, late Holocene, Iron Age, subsistence, zooarchaeology.

An Examination of Chronology, Ethnic Group, and Social
Ranking Based on Mortuary Data from Central Korea

Bong Won Kang, 180

Archaeological excavations conducted in 1997–1998 at the Hageori site in central Korea uncovered a total of 63 burials. The range of dates for the burials varies widely. Mortuary analysis was conducted on 24 burials thought to date sometime between the fifth and seventh century a.d. According to the archaeological data, mortuary practices at the site changed through time from multiple burials (in a sidepassage stone-chamber tomb) to single burials. This article describes the mortuary practices at the site and attempts to explain how and why they changed over time. Using archaeological data and a literature review, the ethnic group of the tomb builders is inferred. In addition, attention is given to examining the relationship between energy expenditure and social stratification based on stylistic variation of the burials discovered at the site.
Keywords: Korea, archaeology, mortuary practices, chronology, ethnic group, social stratification.

Provenance and Technology of Lithic Artifacts from the
Teouma Lapita Site, Vanuatu

Christian Reepmeyer, Matthew Spriggs, Stuart Bedford, and Wallace
Ambrose, 205

Fifty-six obsidian artifacts and 141 non-obsidian artifacts were excavated in three field seasons at Teouma, Efate Island, central Vanuatu. Using LA-ICP-MS the majority of the obsidian artifacts were provenienced to the obsidian subsource of Kutau/Bao on West New Britain in the Bismarck Archipelago, Papua New Guinea. This study is the first geochemical analysis of a significant assemblage of West New Britain obsidian south of the Solomon Islands. Moreover, this finding represents only the second sizable assemblage of West New Britain obsidian in Remote Oceania beyond the Reefs–Santa Cruz Lapita sites and further establishes Vanuatu as a key area in understanding the initial Lapita settlement of Remote Oceania. Six obsidian artifacts were sourced to the Banks Islands, northern Vanuatu, supporting the hypothesis that sources there were known and utilized from the initial colonization of the Vanuatu Archipelago. A single artifact from the West New Britain subsource of Mopir was found. This is the only Lapita-period Mopir obsidian artifact found so far outside the Bismarck Archipelago. The geochemical analysis was accompanied by a quantitative attribute analysis investigating the reduction technology of the flaked assemblage.
Keywords: provenance studies, obsidian exchange, Vanuatu, Lapita, colonization, western Melanesia.