Asian Perspectives, 2009 - Volume 48, Number 2 (Fall)

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    Smelting Iron from Laterite: Technical Possibility or Ethnographic Aberration?
    (University of Hawai'i Press (Honolulu), 2009) Pryce, T.O. ; Natapintu, S.
    The existing Southeast Asian archaeological literature commonly presupposes that the region’s extensive laterite deposits are rich in iron and have been used as ore sources for the smelting of iron. We summarize what is known about laterite in light of the universal physico-chemical requirements for the bloomery smelting of iron, and suggest that in each instance the interpretation of laterite as an iron ore should be proven and not assumed. We present a case study from the fourteenthto fifteenth-century a.d. site of Ban Kao Din Tai, recently excavated by Thai and Cambodian archaeologists in Buriram Province in northeast Thailand. The proximity of this site to known laterite deposits, along with the recovery of laterite fragments near what are thought to be smelting furnaces, could imply that past metalworkers were exploiting a local source of iron oxides for metal production. Here we discuss the likelihood of this association. If laterite is not a ubiquitous iron source for Southeast Asian iron production, then there is strong research potential to examine iron’s possible role in regional exchange networks. Iron production and consumption evidence may provide an exciting new angle for investigating Southeast Asian social interactions, and we outline some of the analytical techniques that could elucidate them.
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    48:2 Table of Contents - Asian Perspectives
    (University of Hawai'i Press (Honolulu), 2009)
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    Changing Marine Exploitation During Late Pleistocene in Northern Wallacea: Shell Remains from Leang Sarru Rockshelter in Talaud Islands
    (University of Hawai'i Press (Honolulu), 2009) Ono, Rintaro ; Soegondho, Santoso ; Yoneda, Minoru
    The previous excavation by Tanudirjo and our recent excavation at Leang Sarru in the Talaud Islands, located between northern Sulawesi and southern Mindanao, reveal intermittent human colonization and marine exploitation in these remote islands as early as 35,000 to 32,000 b.p. The evidence indicates that humans migrated and colonized the northern part of Wallacea by ocean crossings of over 100 km, equivalent to the human migrations from southern Wallacea to Sahul, and Sahul to the Bismarck Archipelago during the late Pleistocene. The 14C dates obtained from he marine shell samples collected during our excavation and the earlier excavation by Tanudirjo, along with other archaeological evidence enable us to conclude that the site was occupied during at least four main periods: (1) the earliest phase during 35,000 to 30,000 b.p.; (2) the intensive occupation phase during 21,000 to 17,000 b.p., partly corresponding with Last Glacial Maximum (LGM); (3) the early Holocene during 10,000 to 8000 b.p.; and (4) during the ‘‘Metal Age’’ with some ceramic evidence not identified by 14C dates. Such intermittent use of the site tentatively shows that humans in Wallacea might not have had the strategies and skills to sustain continuous colonization or habitation of remote islands like Talaud, having limited terrestrial resources during the late Pleistocene and even in the Holocene before the maturity of an agricultural system and knowledge as part of their subsistence strategies. We also discuss the past maritime exploitation and adaptation from the late Pleistocene to the early Holocene in the Talaud Islands.
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    A.D. 1680 and Rapa Nui Prehistory
    (University of Hawai'i Press (Honolulu), 2009) Lipo, Carl P. ; Hunt, Terry L.
    A.D. 1680 remains a central date in the prehistory of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The date was first proposed as the year of an epic battle calculated from the number of generations recounted in the oral traditions. Later this estimate was linked to a radiocarbon date from the Poike Ditch. While the emphasis of the date has shifted in the literature from being the timing of a war between prehistoric groups, it is now taken to represent a prehistoric turning point of environmental collapse and social upheaval. Here, we examine the origins of the a.d. 1680 date and evaluate the reasoning behind its initial determination as well as its empirical basis. We conclude that a date of a.d. 1680 cannot be considered a reliable date or event of transformative cultural change. Additional chronological investigations are necessary to distinguish changes in the archaeological record as either prehistoric or occurring in the aftermath and as a consequence of European contact.
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    Intensive Dryland Agriculture in Kaupō, Maui, Hawaiian Islands
    (University of Hawai'i Press (Honolulu), 2009) Kirch, Patrick V. ; Holson, John ; Baer, Alexander
    The late pre-contact political economies of Hawai‘i and Maui Islands were supported in large part by intensified dryland field systems, focused on the cultivation of sweet potatoes. Three such systems have been well documented for Hawai‘i Island, and one for Moloka‘i Island, but none previously for Maui. We report here the results of remote sensing and GIS analysis, combined with ground survey, of such an intensive field system in Kaupo¯ District, Maui. The field system is archaeologically manifested by a closely spaced grid of east-west trending embankments, delineating small field plots, bisected at right angles by longer north-south trending walls, which primarily appear to be territorial divisions. A range of smaller features such as enclosures, shelters, and platforms are found within the field system area indicating the presence of a complex social community integrated within the system. In aggregate the field system covered between 12.5 and 15 km2, and could readily have supported a population of 8000–10,000 persons. Hawaiian oral traditions indicate that Maui king Kekaulike made Kaupo¯ his seat in the early eighteenth century. Two large temples, Lo‘alo‘a and Kou, are situated at the east and west extremes of the field system, and further indicate the significance of this highly productive landscape.