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survey carried out by the first scientific expedition to the Orkhon Valley in 1891 and by two small-scale but mostly unpublished excavations by Kotwicz in 1912 and Kiselev in 1947.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.