Asian Perspectives, vol. 53, no. 1 (2014)

Editors’ Note, 1


Mapping Local Perspectives in the Historical Archaeology of Vanuatu Mission Landscapes
James L. Flexner, 2
The concept of place is a powerful theoretical tool in the social sciences and humanities, which can be especially useful in archaeological work that involves community-based collaboration. Using place as a starting point, archaeologists can beneficially use their skills to answer questions that are of relevance to the local communities with which we work while also advancing knowledge about the past. For historical archaeology, this often involves engaging in dialogue across multiple lines of evidence, including material remains from the past, written documents, and local oral traditions. Recent fieldwork on the islands of Erromango and Tanna, Vanuatu, exploring early landscapes relating to Christian conversion uses this kind of approach. A major part of preliminary survey work involves mapping features in the mission sites and surrounding areas. Archaeological cartographic techniques help build a sense of place that provides engaging research for a collaborative environment with local Melanesian communities, while also producing new perspectives on colonialism in the South Pacific. This approach is not limited to the recent past, being applicable to any collaborative, community-based archaeological research that incorporates the use of oral traditions.
Melanesia, historical archaeology, Vanuatu, missions, landscape archaeology, mapping, oral traditions, community archaeology

Tracing Post-Dvaravati Culture from Space: Applying Remote Sensing Technique in West-Central Thailand
Podjanok Kanjanajuntorn, Supamas Duangsakun, Budsaba Uamkasem, and Ramphing Simking, 29
This article presents the results of recent research on the historical period of west-central Thailand between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. At this time Dvaravati was in a stage of decline while the prominent rivals of Pagan and Angkor began to prosper. The construction of stone sanctuaries in the Bayon style in west-central Thailand has caused serious debate regarding the influence of Jayavarman VII over that part of Thailand. However, the main point of the present study is that the successors of Dvaravati can be considered to have played a significant part in the socio-economy of that period. This research explores the landscape of the study region using remote sensing techniques as well as carrying out conventional methods of fieldwork. New discoveries and current evidence are discussed, along with some issues concerning the archaeology of the post-Dvaravati, pre-Sukhothai transitional period (c. a.d. 1100–1300). West-central Thailand is believed to have been an economically desirable land with rich resources throughout its history. It is hoped that this work will contribute to the understanding of the social changes after the Dvaravati period when the economic power shifted to other parts of Mainland Southeast Asia.
west-central Thailand, Jayavarman VII, Bayon, post-Dvaravati, remote sensing technology, landscape archaeology, Khmer influence

Finding the “Early Medieval” in South Asian Archaeology
Jason D. Hawkes, 53
The concept of an “early medieval” period (c. 600–1300 c.e. ) in the study of South Asia’s past is well established, yet remains ill defined and poorly understood. As a result, debates regarding grand explanative frameworks, not to mention the meaning and use of the term medieval, have dominated the study of the period. Important though these concerns are, what underpins them, and something that is rarely considered, is how sources and methodologies affect the study of the period. Historiographic review of scholarship on the early medieval reveals that from its inception, the period has been studied exclusively through the examination of documentary sources and monumental remains within the fields of history, literary and religious studies, and art history. Archaeology has been used to support historical theories, largely in order to provide further empirical “proof ” of a perceived decline in trade and urbanism. The continued use of archaeological evidence in this way has meant that the full potential of archaeological inquiry has not been fulfilled, and the impetus for new archaeological research has been stifled. As a result, the early medieval is arguably the most poorly represented period archaeologically in the entire subcontinent. Critical assessment of the limited amount of archaeological evidence that does exist reveals a number of methodological and theoretical concerns that bring into question its applicability and use. These shortcomings not only force one to question historical interpretations, but also limit what can be said, archaeologically, about the period. It is argued that many of the wider uncertainties surrounding the definition and meaning of the early medieval stem from this absence of archaeological research. What is urgently needed is a revitalization of the archaeological approach to the study of the period; some ways are suggested in which this might be achieved in terms of methodological approaches, and questions that could be asked.
early medieval, historiography, history, India, method, theory, South Asia

Obsidian Sourcing at Ulilang Bundok Site and its Implications for Mobility, Exchange, and Social Contexts in the Philippine Metal Age
Stephen Chia, Leee Anthony M. Neri, and Amalia De La Torre, 97
This article discusses the results of chemical analysis to trace the source of the obsidian artifacts from the site of Ulilang Bundok in Batangas, Philippines. The obsidian artifacts used in this study were excavated from the site of Ulilang Bundok while samples of obsidian were also collected from known obsidian sources in Nagcarlan, Batangas, and Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte, for comparative purposes. Chemical analyses of the obsidian artifacts and source samples were carried out 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-elemental analysis and statistical procedures performed on elemental data obtained from the obsidian artifacts and sources provided strong indications that the obsidian artifacts from Ulilang Bundok were made using obsidian obtained from the Nagcarlan source. The chemical sourcing results are significant in that they suggest that obsidian was a limited and valued raw material that was likely mined and traded through expanding social exchange networks. This has further implications for understanding how the complexity and spatial extent of trade reflects emerging social complexity in the Philippines Metal Age.
obsidian, sourcing, compositional analysis, Philippines, Metal Age, trade, social organization


Ancient Ryūkyū: An Archaeological Study of Island Communities by Richard Pearson
Reviewed by Boyd Dixon and Alexandra Garrigue, 116