Asian Perspectives, vol. 50, nos. 1 & 2 (2011)


Traditional Corporate Group Economics in Southeast Asia: An Ethnographic Study with Archaeological Implications
Brian Hayden, 1

From the late nineteenth century to the present, social scientists and archaeologists have been intrigued by village-level corporate groups living under a single roof. Yet remarkably little is known ethnographically about the internal economic and social dynamics of these groups or why such groups emerge at certain time periods or places. My research focuses on some of the last indigenous corporate groups in mainland Southeast Asia. I document the advantages corporate organizations provide for members (mainly risk reduction), the high costs often involved for members, the range of status and wealth within such groups, and the probable motivations of individuals for organizing corporate groups. I contrast the communitarian models with aggrandizer models for the creation of corporate groups, but note considerable variability within the corporate residential phenomenon. I postulate that residential corporate groups were probably much more widespread in the Neolithic and Metal Ages of Southeast Asia than historically was the case.
Keywords: corporate groups, longhouses, Southeast Asia, archaeology, ethnography, economics, social evolution.

Mobility, Economic Strategies, and Social Networks: Investigating Movement in the Mewar Plain of Rajasthan
Teresa P. Raczek, 24

Mobility is an important part of life for those who practice a variety of economic strategies including foraging, pastoralism, craft production, service provision, and performance. Studies of mobility can contribute to broader understandings of social networks, community formation, and social identity in South Asia during the first few millennia ʙ.ᴄ., a time of early social complexity. Previous ethnographic and archaeological research in the region shows a range of ways that mobile people form relationships with those who are more settled. In contrast to research that studies mobile people through the lens of sedentism, this study examines mobility directly, by focusing on the direction, range, and patterns of movement of the people who inhabited the site of Bagor (c. 5500 ʙ.ᴄ.–ᴀ.ᴅ. 200) in Rajasthan, India. For much of its occupation, Bagor was used as a temporary camp by people with a high degree of mobility and a broad range of subsistence strategies. Although the links between Bagor and nearby permanent settlements have been clearly demonstrated, the direction, extent, and range of their movements during different time periods was previously unknown. This study examines the lithic raw materials from the 2001 re-excavations conducted by Deccan College (Pune) and pairs those results with a new survey of stone material sources in the region. Visual raw material analysis of the Bagor lithics indicate that local materials outnumber non-local materials and that approximately one-third of the Bagor chert artifacts may have come from regions to the south and southeast. In later time periods the use of non-local materials declines, which may reflect corresponding shifts in mobility. A comparison of the raw material distribution with the artifacts from Gilund, a contemporary sedentary settlement, shows a difference between their uses of raw material. Gilund utilized more local materials, and fewer non-local materials than Bagor.
Keywords: mobility, lithics, Bagor, Ahar-Banas Complex, raw materials, Rajasthan.

Intensive Archaeological Survey in Southeast Asia: Methodological and Metallurgical Insights from Khao Sai On, Central Thailand
T. O. Pryce, A. H. Bevan, R. Ciarla, F. Rispoli, C. Castillo, B. Hassett, and J. L. Malakie, 53

Intensive surface surveys are a well-established method in the landscape archaeology of many parts of the world, but have remained relatively rare in Southeast Asian research. This article summarizes the contribution of existing surveys in the latter region and offers results from a short but informative survey of a metal-producing landscape in central Thailand. We argue that there is much to be gained from a fuller integration of systematic landscape reconnaissance into wider Southeast Asian research agendas and consider some of the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach in this cultural and physical environment.
Keywords: settlement survey, landscape, archaeometallurgy, Metal Age, Thailand, geoarchaeology.

Commentary: A Critical Review of Environmental Archaeology in Northeast China
Peter Weiming Jia, 70

Environmental archaeology in northeastern China has reached a critical period of development, although the state of progress varies across this large geographical region. The lack of collaboration between archaeologists and associated scientists remains the main obstacle in current research. Almost exclusively conducted by dedicated scientists, research in the field is often ignored by archaeologists because it is not presented within an archaeological context. Furthermore, the research is not of a high spatial and temporal resolution: there is the tendency to make broad generalizations about large regions over long periods of time and to disregard areas that do not fit their general climatic models. Another problem is the misguided borrowing of concepts developed in other parts of the world, for example, the Holocene Climate Optimum (HCO), which is well defined in prehistoric Europe but is still being developed in China. Many researchers have simply applied this term to the same period in China and assumed that the climate around that period resembled that of prehistoric Europe, despite the fact that this is currently unsupported by local palaeo-environmental evidence. Other obstacles to the development of environmental archaeology include deterministic approaches and oversimplistic research procedures. To address these problems, a conversion of qualitative data to quantitative data on temperature and precipitation is required. Future research should be conducted by teams of scientists and archaeologists working collaboratively on both natural and archaeological deposits, in order to establish a strong foundation for further environmental reconstruction research.
Keywords: Northeast China, environmental archaeology, environmental determinism, high resolution, quantitative approaches.

The Bronze Age Mortuary Vessels of Ban Non Wat
Tim Barribeau, 91

This article analyzes the evidence for the beginnings of social differentiation in the Bronze Age site of Ban Non Wat in Northeast Thailand through the analysis of Bronze Age burials and the artifacts associated with those interments, with special emphasis paid to ceramic vessels. Vessel form, decoration, location, and associated artifacts were the primary bases for the analyses. Statistical, numerical, and spatial analyses were performed to gain a fuller understanding of the social basis for burial practices and to examine the implications of interment practices for inferring social structures at Ban Non Wat. A seriation chronology was developed based on vessel forms and their relative frequencies in various burial contexts in order to determine the temporal implications of various patterns of interments. The results showed that there were distinct changes in the mortuary practices across the Bronze Age, with early burials being spread around the site and having a large number and wide variety of artifacts, which then slowly developed into a tradition of burials with fewer artifacts in more localized areas. Over this time period, the occurrences of bronze artifacts decreased, and there was a change in the forms of associated pottery found. There also appear to have been specific forms of pots that are associated with burials that had large numbers of interred artifacts, or are found with bronze goods.
Keywords: Thailand, Bronze Age, vessels, pottery, seriation, burials.

Interpreting Social Differentiation by Examining the House and Settlement Patterns and the Flow of Resources: A Case Study of Pai-wan Slate House Settlements in Southern Taiwan
Maa-ling Chen, 107

Archaeologists have recently suggested that the practice of daily and social life is the prime aspect by which social rules, meanings, and relations of power are embedded for social control. A high degree of system (either political or economic) integration indicates a strong, centralizing, and coordinating control and constraint on practice of mundane life and the flow of resources that eventually will shape the development of settlement patterns as well as house structure and size, and the flow of resources. This study focuses on analyzing evidence, such as the settlement configuration, house shape and size, and distribution of imported or prestige goods, to detect the existence of social differentiation in aboriginal settlements of Taiwan during the Protohistoric period.
Keywords: spatial analysis, Taiwan, settlement pattern, Pai-wan, social differentiation.

Recent Recovery of Unpublished Field Notes of Theodore D. McCown’s Paleoanthropological Explorations in the Narmada River System, India, 1964–1965
Kenneth A. R. Kennedy and Elizabeth Langstroth, 132

The 1982 discovery of the “Narmada Man” middle Pleistocene fossil cranial remains by geologist Arun Sonakia in the Narmada valley of India raised a number of questions about the crania’s antiquity, stratigraphic context, and nature of associated lithic cultural materials. Although archaeological research had been carried out in 1964–1965 in the region by a research team led by Theodore McCown from the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. McCown’s untimely death left the results of his team’s investigations unpublished and difficult to access by other scholars. Recently recovered field notes from this archaeological project, reporting on the locations of investigated sites, some specifics of the tools recovered and their probable cultural chronologies, and other observations significant to understanding the Palaeolithic prehistory of the Narmada valley, are presented by the authors along with commentary about significance of these field notes for future research in the region.
Keywords: palaeoanthropology, India, Narmada valley, palaeolithic, Acheulean.

An Son and the Neolithic of Southern Vietnam
Peter Bellwood, Marc Oxenham, Bui Chi Hoang, Nguyen Kim Dzung, Anna Willis, Carmen Sarjeant, Philip Piper, Hirofumi Matsumura, Katsunori Tanaka, Nancy Beavan-Athfield, Thomas Higham, Nguyen Quoc Manh, Dang Ngoc Kinh, Nguyen Khanh Trung Kien, Vo Thanh Huong, Van Ngoc Bich, Tran Thi Kim Quy, Nguyen Phuong Thao, Fredeliza Campos, Yo-Ichiro Sato, Nguyen Lan Cuong, and Noel Amano, 144

Between 4500 and 3500 years ago, partially intrusive Neolithic populations in the riverine basins of mainland Southeast Asia began to form mounded settlements and to develop economies based on rice cultivation, fishing, hunting, and the domestication of animals, especially pigs and dogs. A number of these sites have been excavated in recent years and they are often large mounds that can attain several meters in depth, comprising successive layers of alluvial soil brought in periodically to serve as living floors. The site of An Son is of this type and lies in a small valley immediately north of the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam. Excavated on five occasions since 1978, and most recently in 2009, it was occupied from the late third into the late second millennium ʙ.ᴄ. An Son has produced evidence that attests the domestication of pigs and dogs in all layers apart (perhaps) from the most basal one, which was not investigated in 2009, together with the growing of rice of the subspecies Oryza sativa japonica, of Chinese Neolithic origin. The oldest pottery has simple incised and punctate zoned decoration with parallels in central Thailand, especially in the basal phases at Nong Nor and Khok Phanom Di. From its middle and later occupation phases (1800–1200 ʙ.ᴄ.), An Son has produced a number of supine extended burials with finely decorated pottery grave goods that carry some unique forms, especially vessels with wavy or serrated rims. The An Son burials represent a Neolithic population that expressed a mixture of both indigenous Hoabinhian and more northerly (probably Neolithic southern Chinese) cranial and dental phenotypes, perhaps representing a likely ancestral population for some of the modern Austroasiatic-speaking populations of mainland Southeast Asia.
Keywords: Vietnam, Neolithic, human biological history, prehistoric food production, prehistoric pottery.