|SOUTHEAST ASIAN ARCHAEOLOGY
ISSUE NO. 9
ELISABETH A. BACUS & RASMI SHOOCONGDEJ
Institute of Archaeology Dept. of Archaeology
University College London Silpakorn University
31-34 Gordon Square Bangkok 10200
London WC1H 0PY UK Thailand
Greetings all! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the newsletter, it was established in 1992 with the aim of disseminating information on current research in Southeast Asia and other relevant information using an informal format. Through the newsletter we hope to encourage communication among archaeologists residing in different countries who share a research commitment to Southeast Asian archaeology. Please continue to send short research summaries, information on upcoming conferences and symposia, symposia paper abstracts, summaries of workshops, recent publications, dissertations and theses, granting programs, etc. in English or your native language to the editors at the above addresses, or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com In the near future we hope to have the Newsletter (including back issues) available on the web; we'll keep you posted on this development.
Our sincerest thanks to Kamaruzaman Abdul Rahman and Laura Lee Junker who have served as editors of the newsletter for the past several years. Their efforts and improvements of the newsletter are deeply appreciated. We are now seeking new editors for the newsletter, and if you are interested, please contact either of us for further details.
current Research Projects
I wayan ardika, Dept. of Archaeology, Udayana University, Indonesia - Excavations at Bodalem and Sembiran, Bali.
jean-michel chazine, The Past and Present Use of Caves and Shelters in Island Southeast Asia.
CHUNGYU CHEN, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan - Archaeological Studies in the South China Sea Region.
Magnus Fiskesjo, PhD candidate, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Chicago - Ethnoarchaeology of the Wa People of the China-Burma Fronteir.
I. Glover, Nguyen Kim Dung, Nguyen Chieu and MARIKO YAMAGATA - The Tra Kieu Site Project.
BUI CHI HOANG, Center for Archaeology, Institute of Social Science, Ho Chi Minh City and MARIKO YAMAGATA - Archaeological Research on Sa Huynh Culture in Thu Bon River Valley.
D. KYLE LATINIS, PhD candidate, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Hawaii - projects include ethno-archaeological research in Maluku, arboreal-based subsistence econmies, and historic and proto-historic period in Maluku.
JIANG ZHI LONG, Yunnan Provincial Institute of Archaeology - projects include the Bronze Age of the Shizhaishan Culture and other Bronze Age cultures of Yunnan Province.
CHRISTINE PRIOR, Rafter Radiocarbon Lab, Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science, New Zealand - research projects include radiocarbon dating of pollen and phytoliths, and reservoir correction for marine shell samples.
Mohd. Kamaruzaman A. Rahman, Dept. of History, National University of Malaysia - projects include Dongson drums in Malaysia, beads and pottery of Pulau Kelumpang, Perak.
PAMELA ROGERS, Archaeological Assessment Ltd, Hong Kong - Phuket Ethnoarchaeology Project.
TRUMAN SIMANJUNTAK, PUSLIT ARKENAS, Jakarta - projects include investigation of caves in the Southern Mountain of Java.
GEOFF WADE - Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong - Chinese Texts as Sources for Early Southeast Asian Pre/History.
Sitipong Dilokwanich (PI), Kasem Kulparadit, Chaiporn Siripornpibul, Rasmi Shoocongdej, John Spies, Krit Chareonthong, and Somsak Laoyipa.
An Exploration and Data Base System of the Caves: Mae Hong Son Province
This multi-disciplinary project is supported by the Thailand Research Fund (TRF). It aims to collect primary and secondary data relating to caves (e.g., geology, hydrology, archaeology, forestry, wildlife, land use and community) which is organized in a relational database system to assist in their classification and investigation of their past, present and future transformations. The research area covers the watersheds of Lang and Khong in Amphoes Muang and Pang Mapa, Mae Hong Son province.
Prior to survey, the research team designed data collection forms and located caves on topographic maps to show their distribution and clustering. Later the team sampled cave clusters across the watershed area, and were near villages, for example, Muang Pam, Pa Deang and Mae Lana.. These samples represent caves of geological and archaeological significance. All researchers had working groups to record specific data, though they examined the data for accountability and reliability before entering them into the database system.
In the first year, the research team explored three cave clusters: Pangkam, Pa Deang and Pa Mon. These clusters, of three and nine caves each, are of geological and archaeological significance, respectively. The geological and geomorphological characteristics of the mountainous areas are heterogeneous reflecting ecological complexity and abundant natural resources, and have been occupied since prehistoric period. Current human activities such as agriculture, forestry or tourism have affected fragile cave resources and ecological systems. This database on cave resources, therefore, provides important information for natural resource conservation and development of the area with little damage to the environment.
Carl Heron, Ian Glover, Rasmi Shoocongdej, and Jill Thompson. Characterization and Radiocarbon Dating of Natural Resins from Spirit Cave, Thailand
Spirit Cave in Northern Thailand was excavated in the mid-1960s by Chester Gorman as part of an investigation of hunter-gatherers and their involvement in the incipient cultivation of plants. The cave remains one of Thailand’s most important archaeological sites, partly due to the radiocarbon dates of around 6000 BC for pottery from the surface of layer 2, obtained on bamboo charcoal removed from the baulks between squares. Solheim (1972) pronounced that the pottery was among the oldest in the world. However, it must be recalled, that there may have been a hiatus of many generations between the abandonment of Spirit Cave at the close of Layer 2, and its subsequent re-occupation by people bringing ceramics. The excavation has never been published, and indeed, the archive is now thought to be lost. The 20 sherds made available to us (from a total of 426) were brought to the UK some years ago for drawing, but were not studies further.
Among the surface finishes recognized were resin-coated pottery. The vessels were impressed, then coated with a resin (as Gorman had concluded though no analysis was undertaken). Six of the 20 pottery fragments display putative resin deposits. Recent preliminary analysis using combined gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) has confirmed a natural resin. The identification of the botanical source of the resins, an evaluation of their use(s) in the archaeological record of Southeast Asia and the direct dating of the pottery fragments forms the basis of the research programme.
The aims of the project are to identify the resin (to genus) from Spirit Cave, and to compare them with resin-coated sherds from well-excavated contexts in Northern Thailand. The source(s) and use(s) of resins in the archaeological and ethnographic record of SE Asia will be explored as well as the uses of the Spirit Cave vessels. Comparative samples of resin (collected in 1997 by CH) on ceramics recently excavated from the Iron Age site of Noen U-Loke, Northeast Thailand (Higham and Thosarat 1998) are available. RS is working at sites in the vicinity of Spirit Cave and may be able to generate other material.
The botanical source of the resins will determined through the identification of biomarkers and characterization of biopolymer (if present) using combined Gc/MS, pyrolysis-GC/Ms and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and spectroscopy. The preliminary GC/MS data obtained confirms triterpeniod and sesquiterpenoid constituents. Van Aarssan et al. (1990) method will be followed.
The dating of the Spirit Cave resins by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) should allow a re-evaluation of the site's history. We intend to establish the validity of dating resins on ceramic at Noen U-Loke (where a detailed radiocarbon sequence has been obtained from stratified charcoal). The dates obtained will correspond to the date of procurement (i.e. when the resin was tapped).
Dammar, tapped from trees belonging to the subfamily Dipterocarpoideae, may be the source of one of the resins. Dammar resin is used primarily in caulking and waterproofing. Trees belonging to Dipterocarpus spp. grow around Spirit Cave today. Triterpenoids in dammars are dominated by sammarane, oleanane and ursane hydroxydammarenones are useful indicators though oxidation reduces their abundance. Nevertheless, it may still be possible to recognize them by their nor-compounds and lactones. Compositional studies of aged dammars from art-historical paintings and sedimentary contexts offer comparative data. In addition, authentic samples of dammar resin (D.alatus) are available. Pine resins comprise diterpenoid skeletons and would be easily distinguishable, even after degradation. In an ethnographic study of plants use by modern Shan peoples around Spirit Cave, Yen (1977) observed that trees of the genus Canarium were abundant at Spirit Cave, although other parts of the plants are consumed. Canarium resins contain large amounts of a-amyrin and b-amyrin. Dammarane triterpenoids have not been reported. They emphasized the importance of securing authentic specimens. To this end, fresh resins will be obtained from Thailand.
The pottery from Spirit Cave has long been cited as the oldest pottery in SE Asia and as indicating the beginning of Neolithic settlement. More recently, doubts have been expressed concerning the association of the resin-coated (and other) pottery with the dated charcoal; resolution of this is very significant for dating the appearance of pottery (and agriculture) in Southeast Asia.
PETER LAPE, Dept of Anthropology, Brown University.
In July 1998, a new public exhibition opened in the Rumah Budaya (Cultural Center) in the Banda Islands of the Maluku province of eastern Indonesia, on the archaeology and history of the islands. The exhibit, which grew out of my archaeological research on the late pre-colonial period in these spice trading islands, was intended to be a way for me to give something back to the people of Banda, who had helped me in many ways during the 14 months I spent in the islands. However, the giving went both ways, as the experience of making this exhibit deepened my understanding of the role the past plays in the present in Banda, and the impact of my own research on local history. I present my experiences here in order to inspire other archaeologists to try similar projects in other places.
Conducting archaeological research in small tightly knit communities like the villages of Banda means that everyone knows about you. Often a large audience observes you looking at the ground, digging square holes, and taking notes and pictures. However, it is difficult to convey to the public the true nature of one’s work—especially while busily engaged in it. Despite my attempts at pit-side explanation in between digging and note taking, I was aware that most people had little idea of what I was up to. Occasionally rumors surfaced that indicated some concern over my activities (e.g. I was digging for treasure, disturbing sacred sites or graves, etc.), that must be familiar to archaeologists anywhere in the world. An exhibit, I felt, would be a good way quell rumors, and educate large numbers of people about my investigations into the past of their islands. Rather than simply taking the data and running, I could ensure that the knowledge I gained was available and useful to the local community.
While I think museum exhibits are a great way to inform people about archaeological research, there are potential problems, especially in Banda where the past is politicized, and knowledge of the past is an important source of social power. The oral, rather than written, nature of local Banda history means that the overall structure of the stories is quite different from textual or academic ones. I wanted to create an exhibit that didn’t claim to be the one absolute “correct” story of the past, to the detriment of a rich and varied oral tradition. But, I also wanted to convey what I think are real advances in knowledge as a result of my research, in a way that was understandable to local people and tourists alike, as well as show off the interesting artifacts we unearthed.
My approach was to incorporate local people into the design and construction of the exhibit. I recruited 12 students from the local high school, and their biology teacher volunteered to help. We met as a group a few afternoons a week, after school, for about two months. Before we began the actual design and installation of the exhibit, we spent time with some basics. Some meetings were devoted to my explanations of how archaeology works, and its relation to history. I invited knowledgeable village elders to present their versions of Banda history to the group, and we had some lively discussions about pretty sophisticated topics, such as techniquies to contextualize the material objects of the exhibit give them meaning, the nature of our audience, and how to incorporate multiple story lines into our single exhibit. I invited two Indonesian archaeologists to come to Banda, and we all spent two days on one of the outer Banda islands surveying, excavating a site and processing artifacts.
The first homework assignment was for the students to write their own version of the history of Banda, and all 12 responses were fascinating to me, worthy of further analysis in their own right. Some were timeless and mythological, relating, for instance, the coming of Islam to the islands, while others were focused solely on the Dutch arrival and conquest of the islands in 1621. No history incorporated the 20th century, except for a few mentions of WWII, and few considered times prior to the 16th century.
We hashed out a basic exhibit layout as a group, and I tried to restrain my own input to matters of visual design only, based on my own previous experience designing and installing museum exhibits. I stood back, and allowed the students interests and and ideas to guide the xhibit design. In the end, we decided to use not only archaeological material from my research, but historical objects borrowed from the Rumah Budaya’s own collection and other individuals, maps, and paintings of historical scenes. Our time period ranges from the geological history of the islands to recent developments, such as the building of the airstrip and high school in the 1980's. Students went out and recorded stories from people, including versions of myths and accounts of life during the war, or during the last years of the Dutch colonial plantation system. Some borrowed my cameras and took photographs of what they thought were historically important places or buildings.
We used locally available materials for the construction of the exhibit; signs were paper glued onto plywood, pressed flat with sand bags, and sealed with clear spay paint. The students used my laptop computer to write and print textual material, and we all worked on translating the texts into both English and Indonesian. As usual, the last days before the opening were hectic, with some late night glueing sessions, and last minute corrections or alterations. But all was in place for our grand opening ceremony. We invited the media (from Ambon, a 7 hour ferry ride away) and local and provincial dignitaries, and served food and drinks, interspersing speeches with gong sembilan music. The exhibit got great reviews from locals and visitors alike, and the TV crew made an hour documentary about our project that has already been rebroadcast several times.
In all, this was a very rewarding experience for me, and I think for the students who worked with me, besides leaving behind a permanant contribution to the local community. The sucess of the project has inspired plans for a state-funded museum, which would utilize one of the many historic buildings from the Dutch colonial era which stand empty and unused in Banda today. The project has also created some local expertise in cultural resource management and exhibit design, which will become increasingly valuable when the islands are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. While a project like this was not easy to do, and would be impossible for those researchers operating under severe time restraints in the field, I encourage those who can to try--the payback is worth it.
For further information, feel free to contact Peter Lape at Department of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912 USA, tel: 401-863--3251, fax: 401-863-7588, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (See also his web site at the address listed at the end of this newsletter.)
Dan Penny, Centre for Palynology & Palaeoecology, School of Geography & Environmental Science, Monash University, Clayton Vic 3168, Australia. Environmental Change and Human/Environment Interactions in Northeast Thailand.
This research project has three aims:
(1) To document environmental change in the continental highlands of north-west Thailand from c. 20,000 years BP. More specifically, to document variations in the strength and duration of the seasonal monsoon circulation in response to global scale climatic changes associated with the most recent glaciation and deglaciation This information can then be used to test existing models of climatic change at a regional scale, and at a extra-regional scale, such as synthetic climate modelling experiments.
(2) To contribute to existing archaeological perspectives on human/environment interactions in the region, principally but not exclusively focussing on the impact of prehistoric land use and resource exploitation on regional vegetation patterns. The transition from hunter-gatherer communities to agricultural societies is known to have occurred in north-west Thailand during the Holocene epoch, and thus information regarding the changing relationship between human populations and the environment is likely to contribute significantly to the understanding of agricultural origins.
(3) To provide a record of vegetation change through the Late Quaternary, documenting the changing biogeography of the region. The response of vegetation to changing climates and the intensification of human resource use through the Holocene, and over the last few thousand years in particular, will be a distinct focus.
The project will analyse plant microfossils preserved within lake sediments. Once an understanding of which plant taxa may have occurred at a particular time is established, then the modern ecology and habit of these plants or their near relatives can be applied to these ancient floras. The site chosen for this analysis is the large freshwater lake, Kwan Payao, in the Payao province of north-west Thailand, 97 km north-west of Chiang Mai. The lake has an area of ca. 15.6 km2, and is situated within an alluviated valley at approximately 390 amsl, with the surrounding mountains rising to 1600 amsl. These mountains support a cool, humid lower montane forest. The areas receives an annual rainfall of between 1500 – 2000 mm, the majority of which falls May through October, when the south-west monsoon brings moist trade winds from the Indian ocean and Gulf of Thailand.
All analyses will be based on a 6 metre sediment core (lab no. 2PY) collected in early 1996 by Dr Lisa Kealhofer of the Dept. of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA; 104 pollen samples are available from this core. Preliminary analysis of several of these samples, conducted earlier this year, has confirmed preservation of plant microfossils. An additional core (lab no. PY1) of ca. 60 cm depth, which I collected in mid-1995, will be used to provide a more detailed study of the most recently deposited sediments. Plant microfossils, specifically pollen and spores of higher plants, charred plant remains and siliceous algae, will be prepared for analysis through chemical treatment of the sediment samples, and analyzed using microscopes.
The results of this project will make a substantial contribution to the understanding of past environmental change in the region. It is the first record with the potential to measure environmental variability from the last glacial period to the present, and as such will present the first evidence of environmental conditions at this time-scale. It will also test, in a qualitative fashion, existing models of climate change from the last glacial maximum to the present. Also of importance is that there are very few palaeoenvironmental data available within SE Asia, and this research will provide an environmental context for archaeological research in north-west Thailand, and contribute to the debate regarding agricultural intensification.
MIRIAM STARK, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Hawaii
The Lower Mekong Archaeological Project (LOMAP) begins another field season in January 1999 in Takeo Province, Cambodia. The Mekong Delta region is famous as the heartland of one of the earliest civilizations in mainland Southeast Asia, and reputedly contained multiple urban centers between the 1st-6th centuries A.D. Among these are the sites of Oc Eo (in Vietnam) and Angkor Borei (in Cambodia), and archaeological work is now in progress in each area. Vietnamese archaeologists have now worked at dozens of sites from the Early Historic period, but we still know little about the ecology and economy of early historic period settlements in Cambodia's Mekong Delta. Documentary evidence tells one narrative of kings, of missions to China, and of contact with Indian traders and Brahmins. Yet archaeological evidence tells another story that focuses on understanding landscape structure and change in a context of developing political complexity.
For the 1999 field season, LOMAP concentrates research in and around Angkor Borei under the field direction of Dr. Miriam Stark and Mr. Bong Sovath. Planned fieldwork includes test excavations and site reconnaissance with students and additional faculty from the University of Hawai'i and the Royal University of Fine Arts (Phnom Penh). A two-week archaeological field school at Angkor Borei is planned for undergraduates from the Royal University. Dr. Paul Bishop (University of Glasgow) will also undertake the first stage of geoarchaeological research to begin to undertake paleoenvironmental reconstruction and to study hydraulic features in and around Angkor Borei.
The Lower Mekong Archaeological Project (LOMAP) begins its other field season in January 1999 in Takeo Province, Cambodia. The Mekong Delta region is famous as the heartland of one of the earliest civilizations in mainland Southeast Asia, and reputedly contained multiple urban centers between the 1st-6th centuries A.D. Among these are the sites of Oc Eo (in Vietnam) and Angkor Borei (in Cambodia), and archaeological work is now in progress in each area. Vietnamese archaeologists have now worked at dozens of sites from the Early Historic period, but we still know little about the ecology and economy of early historic period settlements in Cambodia's Mekong Delta. Documentary evidence tells one narrative of kings, of missions to China, and ofcontact with Indian traders and Brahmins. Yet archaeological evidence tells another story that focuses on understanding landscape structure and change in a context of developing political complexity.
For the 1999 field season, LOMAP concentrates research in and around Angkor Borei under the field direction of Dr. Miriam Stark and Mr. Bong Sovath. Planned fieldwork includes test excavations and site reconnaissance with students and additional faculty from the University of Hawai'i and the Royal Universityof Fine Arts (Phnom Penh). A two-week archaeological field school at Angkor Borei is planned for undergraduates from the Royal University. Dr. Paul Bishop (University of Glasgow) will also undertake the first stage of geoarchaeological research to begin to undertake paleoenvironmental reconstruction and to studyhydraulic features in and around Angkor Borei.
recent & forthcomng publications
JANE ALLEN and Miriam stark (Guest Editors) 1998. The Transition to History in Southeast Asia. International Journal of Historical Archaeolgy 2 (3 and 4).
elisabeth a. bacus 1996 (pub. in 1998). Late Prehistoric Chiefly Polities in the Dumaguete-Bacong Area and Central Philippine Islands. Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 24.
Charles Higham and Rachanie Thosarat 1998. Prehistoric Thailand from Early Settlement to Sukhothai. Bangkok: River Books.