Asian Perspectives, 2017 - Volume 56, Number 2 (Fall)

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    Phasook Indrawooth (10 May 1945 – 7 September 2016)
    ( 2017) Shoocongdej, Rasmi ; Ray, Himanshu Prabha
    Professor Emerita of Archaeology, Phasook Indrawooth, passed away peacefully on 7 September 2016 at the age of 72 in Bangkok, Thailand. She joined her husband, who had died a few years earlier. The second of six daughters, Phasook Indrawooth was born on 10May 1945. She became fascinated by Buddhism through her father, Major General Dej Tulwantana, who wrote a book entitled Buddhism: An Intellectual Approach. Having made a significant contribution to the archaeology of Dvāravatī, an early Buddhist state that formed in central Thailand, Phasook Indrawooth went on to become a very distinguished professor and a leading archaeologist in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Indeed, her work has had a profound impact on the archaeology of Thailand as a whole.
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    Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c. 400 B.C.E.–50 C.E. Erica Brindley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 302 pp, 12 b/w illustrations, 3 maps, 3 tables, Bibliography, Index. US $103.00. ISBN 9781316355282.
    ( 2017) Allard, Francis
    It is fair to say that substantially more has been written about China’s northern neighbors in pre- and early imperial times than about its early southern populations. This is perhaps not surprising, considering the perpetual need of Bronze Age and later dynasties to monitor, engage, and appease those powerful and mobile steppe polities that agitated at their doorstep. In contrast, not only was the south geographically distant from the dynastic centers of the Central Plains, it never emerged as a serious military threat. Textual, archaeological, and linguistic data combine to paint China’s vast southern region (from the Yangzi River to northern Vietnam) as a highly segmented ethnic landscape populated by mostly small-scale, pre-literate populations who spoke non-sinitic languages. The absence of any coordinated resistance to – or possibly even awareness of – the southern march of armies is evident from the recorded speed at which China’s early empires managed to incorporate the southern regions into their realms. Thus, by 214 B.C.E., Lingnan (consisting of present-day Guangdong and Guangxi) in southeast China had become part of the Qin empire, while troops dispatched one century later by the Han emperorWudi are said to have taken no more than 3 years to reach and conquer a vast swath of territory covering present-day Fujian (along the southeast coast), Lingnan, northern and central Vietnam, and portions of Yunnan (in southwest China), all of which were soon partitioned into commanderies and constituent counties.
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    Before Siam: Essays in Art and Archaeology. Nicolas Revire and Stephen A. Murphy, eds. Bangkok: River Books, 2014. 432 pp, 312 color illustrations, 56 maps and plans, Notes, Bibliographies, Index. US $49.95. ISBN 9786167339412.
    ( 2017) Stark, Miriam T.
    The millennium-long period that began c. 500 B.C.E. has long vexed Southeast Asian archaeologists and historians for its odd mix of archaeological, documentary, and art historical data that mark a change from the prehistoric period to one recorded by local and visiting historians. We still struggle to understand this period, called variously the Iron Age, the protohistoric period, the Early Historic period, or simply Early South East Asia (with credit to Smith and Watson 1979), during which Southeast Asians embraced profound organizational and ideological transformations (Murphy and Stark 2016). Indianization, Hindicization, localization, Sanskritization: each of these terms captures some elements of settlement, subsistence, and political dynamics of the time. Yet each term reflects an outsider perspective; it is only in the last few decades that archaeologists and art historians have buckled down to do the hard work of understanding the material record of this “millennium-long no-man’s land” from the bottom up (Manguin 2011:xvi).
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    Earliest Dates of Microlithic Industries (42–25 ka) from West Bengal, Eastern India: New Light on Modern Human Occupation in the Indian Subcontinent
    ( 2017) Basak, Bishnupriya ; Srivastava, Pradeep
    Ancient microliths in South Asia have now been dated at least as early as 42–25 thousand years ago (ka), specifically at Mahadebbera and Kana, situated in the West Bengal area of India. This information adds substantively to scientific understanding of early human migrations and significant technological developments during the Pleistocene. Dating was possible through Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) and the associated microliths and other artifacts were examined in detail. In relation to prior findings in the larger surrounding region, the new discoveries allow discussion of raw materials acquisition, possible travel routes, and other issues during a critical time of human evolutionary history.
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    Biocultural Practices during the Transition to History at the Vat Komnou Cemetery, Angkor Borei, Cambodia
    ( 2017) Ikehara, Rona M ; Stark, Miriam T. ; Belcher, William ; Vuthy, Voeun ; Krigbaum, John ; Bentley, R. Alexander ; Douglas, Michele Toomay ; Pietrusewsky, Michael
    Mainland Southeast Asia underwent dramatic changes after the mid-first millennium B.C.E., as its populations embraced new metallurgical and agricultural technologies. Southeast Asians transformed their physical and social environments further through their participation in international maritime trade networks. Early state formation characterized much of the mainland by the mid-first millennium C.E. We examined a protohistoric (200 B.C.E.–200 C.E.) skeletal sample from the Vat Komnou cemetery at Angkor Borei in the Mekong Delta (southern Cambodia) to understand the health impacts of this changing environment. Degenerative joint disease patterns indicate a distinct sexual division of labor. Although intentional dental filing was practiced, its impact on oral-dental health could not be determined. Dental pathologies suggest a mixed diet with more fibrous foods and a lower reliance on soft, processed agricultural foods. A broad-spectrum diet and varied use of the local environment are inferred from the faunal evidence. Stable isotope ratios indicate a relatively greater reliance on fish and estuarine dietary resources than on terrestrial protein. Affinities with other groups in the region are suggested by the cultural practices of the relatively tall, healthy inhabitants from Vat Komnou.
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    Bronze Age Subsistence Change at Regional and Microscopic Scales in Northeast China
    ( 2017) Williams, James T.
    This article investigates Late Bronze Age mobile pastoralism in Northeast China. Analysis of the use-wear patterns provides direct evidence speaking to the subsistence economies during the Bronze Age. The patterns of use-wear are compared to the settlement patterning and environmental contexts to test proposed theories about whether and how subsistence change takes place. The results indicate continuity in mixed animal and plant based economies in both the Early and Late Bronze Age despite changes in climate and population. The relative intensity of economic practice is guided by the environmental context, but this is detected only at the sub-regional level.
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    The Search for Tsunami Evidence in the Geological and Archaeological Records, With a Focus on Japan
    ( 2017) Barnes, Gina L.
    Tsunami damage to archaeological sites in Japan has been recognized since the 1980s, but the Great Tōhoku-oki Earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011 stimulated geologists and archaeologists to find evidence of previous tsunami in Japan, investigate the responses of earlier inhabitants to tsunami, and assess the probability of future occurrences. Excavated sites on the Sendai Plain, partially inundated in this recent tsunami, have been crucial in this endeavor, with recovered data at times contradicting historical sources. Great progress has been made in the science of identifying tsunami deposits and understanding their nature and distribution, aiding in their recognition at archaeological sites. This article provides an introduction to the nature of tsunami waves and their causes, resources available for studying past tsunami worldwide, and difficulties in identifying tsunami sediments. Seventeen case studies of sites where tsunami deposits have been investigated throughout the Japanese and Ryukyu archipelagos are presented. Tsunami can be included within my conception of ‘tectonic archaeology,’ archaeology that must methodologically deal with the influence of plate tectonics on the islands. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and most tsunami relate to the subduction zone setting of Japan; thus, to fully understand the site remains of previous tectonically derived disasters demands knowledge of plate tectonics, seismology, volcanology, sedimentology, and wave physics among others. Integrating these spheres of knowledge into archaeological research opens new avenues of interpretation, including understanding why many Middle Yayoi settlements on the Sendai Plain were abandoned, not to be reoccupied for 400 years.
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    Editors' Note
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    ( 2017)