Asian Perspectives, 2019 - Volume 58, Number 1 (Spring)

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    Karabalgasun – Stadt der Nomaden: Die archäologischen Ausgrabungen in der frühuigurischen Hauptstadt 2009–2011[Karabalgasun – City of Nomads: The Archaeological Excavations in the Early Uyghur Capital 2009–2011]. Burkart Dähne. Forschungen zur Archäologie Außereuropäischer Kulturen Band 14 [ Research on the Archaeology of Non-European Cultures, vol. 14]. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2017. x, 236 pp., 109 illustrations. Hardbound 110€, ISBN 9783954901265.
    ( 2019-04-09) Bemmann, Jan
    Urbanism has been one of the main topics in the humanities for the past two decades. Today, about 54 percent of the world population lives in cities and more than 80 percent of the populations in highly developed countries is urban. These numbers may explain why urbanism is such an important issue for geographers, sociologists, architects, and urban planners. Early cities and early states, which are connected to 'civilizations', dominate historical and archaeological studies even though they covered only 5 percent of the world. This implies that about 95 percent of the globe remains unconsidered. The steppes of Inner Asia is one of these neglected regions mainly for two reasons: their inaccessibility for researchers from highly developed Western countries and the ongoing focus of archaeologists on pastoral nomadic lifeways and their sometimes monumental burials. Only very few international teams from Russia, Japan, and Germany have begun to explore urban sites in Mongolia since the 1990s. Burkart Dähne was a member of such a team and presents in this monograph the results of recent excavations in the largest city of the Turco-Mongol era in Inner Asia, the capital of the Uyghur empire ( C.E. 744–840) Ordu Baligh with the modern name Karabalgasun. The city occupies more than 30 km 2and is situated in the Orkhon Valley, a pasture-rich region in the center of modern Mongolia. In 2007, the German Archaeological Institute started to explore Karabalgasun, which was until then only known by a topographic survey carried out by the first scientific expedition to the Orkhon Valley in 1891 and by two small-scale but mostly unpublished excavations by Kotwicz in 1912 and Kiselev in 1947. An airborne laser scan (LIDAR) conducted in 2007 provided a first idea about the extent of the city and an excellent topographic planning guide for further excavations. Together with Ulambayar Erdenebat, Burkart Dähne was the local head of the excavation until the retirement of the responsible director of the mission, Hans-Georg Hüttel, in 2011, which obviously brought a change in staff and excavation strategy. This circumstance may explain why Dähne regrets in his report several times that the excavations in these parts were discontinued. As a consequence, the construction and layout of the building could not be understood in their entirety.
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    First Islanders: Prehistory and Human Migration in Island Southeast Asia. Peter Bellwood. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell, 2017. 384 pp., 63 figures, 17 plates, bibliographies, index. Hardcover US $95, ISBN 9781119251545; Paperback US $45, ISBN 9781119251552; E-book US $36, ISBN 9781119251583.
    ( 2019-04-09) Higham, Charles
    This is the third iteration of Peter Bellwood's synthesis of the prehistory of Island Southeast Asia. The first was published in 1985 as The Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago, the second in 1997 with the same title. The pace of research over the past two decades has, in the words of the author, required a major reassessment of the prehistory and early history of this region that stretches from Taiwan to Timor and Sumatra to Seram. Ten particular topics have driven the new appraisal, of which the foremost is the weight of new discoveries. Who could have imagined in 1985 that an entirely new human species would be discovered at Liang Bua on Flores or that the genes of a second new species identified at Denisova in Siberia are represented in modern Melanesia? Advances have also been made on the vital chronological frameworks into which to weave the pattern of cultural changes and migratory movements. This is particularly relevant for the arrival of Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) and the long process of rice and millet domestication and the beginning of metallurgy, the last two of which require dovetailing island and mainland evidence. Bellwood also stresses the phenomenal advances over the last decade in genetics that have provided insights into prehistory unimaginable when he began his career in New Zealand half a century ago. These and several other advances in, for example, linguistics and bioanthropology in its many subdisciplines are now straining the ability of any single author to distil with authority. It is therefore an innovative and sensible move on the part of Peter Bellwood to invite twelve colleagues to contribute a section on their specialized fields.
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    Overlooked Imports: Carnelian Beads in the Korean Peninsula
    ( 2019-04-09) Glover, Lauren ; Kenoyer, J.M.
    Analyses of a sample of 68 carnelian and agate beads from Korea's late Proto-Three Kingdoms and Three Kingdoms period (c.e. 100–668) provide evidence for long-distance exchange with South Asia. Three Kingdoms period elites were rejecting locally made stone beads made of local materials for stone beads obtained from long distance trade and made of non-local materials. Some of these beads may also be derived from South, Central, or Southeast Asia as well as from regions of modern China or Mongolia. The beads were recovered from burials at sites associated with the Paekche (RR: Baekje), Kaya (RR: Gaya), and Silla cultural traditions. There have been no local bead workshops found during the Three Kingdoms period and the carnelian beads were manufactured using different drilling technologies compared to earlier Korean drilling. Faceted hexagonal, spherical, and irregularly shaped carnelian beads were perforated using diamond drills, a technology originally developed in South Asia ca. 600 b.c.e. Quantitative analyses of drill hole size and overall size and shape of the beads points to multiple workshops supplying the imported beads. The distribution patterns of the beads in different polities may reflect changes in trade networks over time as well as stylistic choices of bead shapes used as a means of differentiating specific groups or individuals. Evidence for string wear and external weathering indicate that some beads were used for long periods of time enroute to Korea or in Korea itself before burial in mortuary contexts.
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    Ceramics and Society in Mahan and Paekche: A Comparison of Pottery Geochemistry and Craft Production Patterns at the Sites of P'ungnap T'osŏng and Kwangju Palsan
    ( 2019-04-09) Walsh, Rory ; Lee, Goung-Ah ; Lee, Young-Cheol
    The archaeological cultures of the Korean peninsula provide numerous case studies of the formation, structure, and function of ancient complex societies and states. In southwestern Korea, the Mahan (ca. 50 b.c.e.–c.e. 475) occupied a large region marked by similarities in material culture, but decentralized politically. The Paekche kingdom (ca. c.e. 250–660) had its origins as a Mahan polity in the Han River valley, later centralizing its authority and expanding its territory. This article discusses two sites: the Paekche capital of P'ungnap T'osŏng in modern Seoul and a large Mahan town recently excavated in Chŏlla Province known as Kwangju Palsan. The political economy and social structure of each site is investigated using ceramic remains, artifacts that played a large role in daily life across classes and in the elaboration of elite culture. With high-resolution chemical data from Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) on potsherds, specific production signatures can be identified for each site. This allows comparison of the proportion of locally produced and imported pottery at each site and even reveals when P'ungnap T'osŏng and Kwangju Palsan exchanged ceramic goods. These patterns reveal similarities and differences in Mahan and Paekche political economies, ultimately illuminating the Mahan roots of Paekche social organization.
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    Culture Contact and Cultural Boundaries in Iron Age Southern Korea
    ( 2019-04-09) Davey, Jack
    Prevailing models of social development for the southern Korean Iron Age (ca. 300 B.C.–A.D. 300) focus on contact with China as well as the dynamic interaction between local polities to explain the development of socio-political complexity but the nature of this contact has not been critically examined or its more granular processes explored. This article uses two prominent grave good types discovered in southeastern Korean burials to question these models as well as conceptions of archaeological cultures in the region more generally. These objects, Chinese bronze mirrors and iron objects decorated with bracken-like spiral designs, both indicate significant interaction with Han China via its administrative commanderies, but their production and diverse mortuary contexts do not conform to any current model of culture contact, acculturation, hybridity, or entanglement. The variable production processes, expression of exotic motifs through these objects, and the way these objects were interred in graves suggests that we should look for cultural unity and early indicators of socio-cultural complexity within regions where local groups were particularly active in expressing their differences within a set of agreed-upon parameters. I argue that the southern peninsula is best described as a set of interdependent local groups with a similar ritual vocabulary, but little to no political unity even directly prior to the appearance of the Three Kingdoms polities of Paekche, Silla, and Kaya.
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    A Critical Examination of Models Regarding a Han 韓 – Ye 濊 Ethnic Division in Proto-Historic Central Korea, and Further Implications
    ( 2019-04-09) Blackmore, Hari
    This critical review re-considers the logic behind accounts of ethnic groups represented in the proto-historic records of Korea, specifically in terms of the 'Han' 韓 and 'Ye(maek)' 濊貊 in the Central Region of South Korea, dated about 100 b.c.e.–c.e. 300. In the prevailing Chungdo (RR: Jungdo) type Culture model, the 'Han' 韓 people were part of the Mahan confederation of polities in the west, while the 'Ye(maek)' 濊貊 people lived in the north and east. Details vary in the criteria used to define these two 'peoples', for example in classifying Stone Mound Tombs as 'Ye', hypocaust systems as 'Han', or pots with externally angled rims as 'Han'. The present review reveals that Stone Mound Tombs did not appear until perhaps c.e. 250–300, near the end of the period thought to be associated with the 'Ye'. Additionally, some form of boundary appears to have existed between the Han River Basin and the southwestern part of Korea, although such would be unclear in conventional models of Han and Ye territories. Potential implications can now be discussed more productively regarding the formation of the Paekche state and interactions between the Korean peninsula and maritime Siberia, previously overlooked due to a focus on the Yellow Sea and Lelang commandery. This review recommends that future work would be more fruitful and reflective of past lived reality if based upon material use contexts and the identification of common social institutions.
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    Gendered Spaces and Prehistoric Households: A Geospatial Analysis of Mumun Period Pithouses from South Korea
    ( 2019-04-09) Lee, Rachel J.
    This article examines pithouse data to ascertain the social dimension of households, namely gender roles and relations, during the Early Mumun and Middle Mumun pottery periods (ca. 1300–500 b.c.) in Chinju [Jinju], South Korea. Pithouses and their interior remains from the Taep'yŏng [RR: Daepyeong] and P'yŏnggŏdong [RR: Pyeonggeodong] sites are analyzed through geospatial and statistical methods. Results indicate that the spatial expression of gender was minimal throughout the Mumun Period despite household space becoming increasingly differentiated. The house was the domain of all genders who largely shared their spaces. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that gender roles were relatively flexible and a gender hierarchy was lacking at the household level.
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    Wooden Inscriptions and the Culture of Writing in Sabi Paekche
    ( 2019-04-09) Burge, Marjorie
    Surviving inscriptions from the Korean kingdom of Paekche 百濟 (ca. c.e. 250–660) are extremely few in number. Recent archaeological discoveries have uncovered an unprecedented cache of Paekche writing in the form of wooden tablets, known as mokkan 木簡, dateable to the period when the kingdom's capital was at Sabi 泗沘 (c.e. 538–660). This article first looks at the distribution of mokkan finds within the Sabi capital and argues that mokkan were one material surface utilized in the context of a multi-faceted written culture that included other media such as paper and stone. This article proposes that because wood was a relatively cheap, reusable, and disposable medium, mokkan became the material surface of choice for the acquisition of literacy and experimentation with Sinographic script. This meant that mokkan were not only a space for learning individual characters (calligraphic practice), but also for practicing composing sentences according to the rules of Sinitic syntax and in established Sinitic literary forms (composition practice). As a result, mokkan offer a unique window into the development of literary writing among Paekche elites during the late sixth and early seventh centuries. This article explores four examples of Paekche mokkan containing inscriptions that fall into the category of "composition practice," and argues that these compositions suggest literary form was an increasingly valued component of inscriptive practice in Paekche
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    Paekche King Kŭnch'ogo's Twisted Journey to the South: A Textual and Archaeological Perspective
    ( 2019-04-09) Lee,Dennis
    Since the 1950s, most Korean scholars have believed that Paekche King Kŭnch'ogo (r. a.d. 346–375) expanded his territory southward from his base in the Han River basin (present day Seoul) to encompass the entire southwestern Korean peninsula in a.d. 369. Although the nature of his southern conquest has been debated by scholars, the conquest itself has rarely been questioned. Upon closer inspection, however, we find that the sole historical source, the Nihon shoki (compiled a.d. 720), does not describe a Paekche conquest but a punitive military expedition from the Japanese archipelago. This account was later used to justify Imperial Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910. This article explores the twisted historiographical journey of this ambiguous passage from an early Japanese hagiography and its transformation from a tool of Japanese imperialism into an unquestioned Korean narrative of Paekche territorial expansion. A critical examination of the original text and the archaeological context of this supposed Paekche invasion into the southwestern Korean peninsula suggests that such a dramatic southern Paekche expansion was unlikely to have taken place as early as the late fourth century a.d.