A historical perspective on the Australian contribution to the practice of archaeology in Southeast Asia

22nd November 2013

David Bulbeck

Introduction*

Archaeology in Southeast Asia is still at the sage of completing the basic outline of human evolution and culture history in the region. As yet it is unclear whether Homo arrived in Southeast Asia closer to one million or two million years ago (Anton 1997). The region’s archaeological and palaeoanthropological record is sporadically documented until the last 40,000 years, for which period we do find suitable rockshelter deposits virtually across the whole of Southeast Asia. Of course, the quantity of information exponentially increases as we move towards the present, but even an issue as fundamental as the capital site of the celebrated state of Srivijaya (seventh to fourteenth centuries AD) has been resolved only within the last decade (Manguin 1992). The relative paucity of data in the region has provided a situation far from ideal for the development of archaeological theory which, to the degree that it has been explicitly formulated, tends to follow an idealist conception of culture history, within the constraints of cultural ecology. Similarly, in human evolution, theoretical debate is largely focused on the number of species which should be recognised and their likely relationships by descent.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Bulbeck, D.
A historical perspective on the Australian contribution to the practice of archaeology in Southeast Asia
June 2000
50
45–53
Article
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