Asian Perspectives, vol. 52, no. 2 (2013)

Special Topic Articles: Landscape Archaeology in Southeast Asia


Defining Ifugao Social Organization: “House,” Field, and Self-Organizing Principles in the Northern Philippines
Stephen Acabado, 161

The idea that complex agricultural and irrigation systems lead to centralized control has been refuted in the last three decades. Indeed, ethnographic and archaeological literatures regarding this relationship have been forthcoming in recent years. This article contributes to this body of work by investigating the Ifugao agricultural system. Spatial patterning and ethnographic information from Ifugao suggest that a recursive relationship between the landscape and its users exist where environmental constraints necessitate cooperation among terraced rice field systems. Correlated to this discussion, this article examines the applicability of the “house” concept in defining Ifugao social organization. Results of my ethnographic investigations suggest that the house concept complements kinship analysis, and thus, contributes to a better understanding of Ifugao social relationships. Moreover, this article argues that the agricultural field becomes the node of Ifugao social relationships. In this sense, the agricultural field becomes an emergent property that defines Ifugao social organization. This study provides archaeologists with a model to investigate the precolonial social structure of the Ifugao.

Keywords: landscape, Ifugao, Philippines, house, emergence, self-organization, agriculture

Landscape Evolution in Cebu, Central Philippines: The Impact of Sea Level, Social History, and Tectonism on Archaeological Landscapes
John A. Peterson, 190

Landscape formation is often discontinuous and punctuated by rapid change, and cultural landscapes may be fragmented and found in chronological and spatial mosaics rather than continuous progressions. Human occupation of the Carcar area of the central Philippines is discussed relative to these effects. Pleistocene evolution of landscapes in Cebu is a complex array of uplifted fossil coral reef platforms that form the lower benches of the central cordillera of the island. These formed during periods of high sea level, and their present altitude has been increased by periodic tectonic uplift. Submarine fossil coral reef platforms are components of this landscape evolution, and at least two at depths of 20 m and 60 m below the present sea level formed in the mid- to late Pleistocene. A submarine flank-margin cave, Marigondon Cave, formed in the 20 m reef platform when subaerial in the period from 80,000–10,000 b.p. More recent Holocene-era sea level change, rising by 1.8 m above present sea level in the period from 2000–6000 b.p. , altered coastal terrain and constrained human settlement to the upper extent of the present coastal plain. Subsequent upland degradation has buried the mid-Holocene shoreline below 2–3 m of colluvial deposits. These two contexts for human settlement are situated in the complex mosaic of the present geography of Cebu, with other localized settlement opportunities such as danao (sinkholes), caves and rock shelters, shorelines, bajadas, and high cordilleran river valleys. The history of physical processes is interleaved with human history, and the choices and cultural changes that themselves impact the landscape.

Keywords: landscape archaeology, Philippines, Southeast Asia, Cebu, geoarchaeology, chronostratigraphy

Visibility and Power: Preliminary Analysis of Social Control on a Bandanese Plantation Compound, Eastern Indonesia
David R. Carlson and Amy Jordan, 213

This article evaluates the extent to which the architectural organization of a Dutch plantation compound was designed to aid in plantation administrators’ and owners’ ability to engage in acts of social control via surveillance. The particular compound, Groot Walling, is located on Banda Besar, the largest of the Banda Islands, Maluku Province, Indonesia. Our initial hypothesis is that the compound was designed to aid in surveillance activity by administrators against slaves and contract workers. After discussing the history of the islands and prior historical archaeological research into surveillance, we employ GIS-based visibility analysis to evaluate this hypothesis. A series of single viewsheds were calculated within Groot Walling and compared against viewsheds generated from hypothetical organizations of that same compound. The results, while preliminary, are not consistent with our hypothesis, and we tentatively reject it. We follow up these results with some exploratory analyses, utilizing a series of total viewsheds to try to better characterize the visual properties of this compound. We then suggest some alternative hypotheses for our results, and end with a discussion of future research directions.

Keywords: plantations, historical archaeology, landscape archaeology, surveillance, Banda Islands, Indonesia, Dutch colonialism

Cultural Landscapes of War and Political Regeneration
Nam C. Kim, 244

This article examines the production, uses, and reuses of cultural landscapes within contexts of warfare and political change. Ancient concerns over defense and security have led societies to construct fortification features involving extensive modifications to landscapes in many parts of the world. Social memories are often tied to these militarized landscapes, with embedded meanings and values that persist and morph through time. Due to the potential commemorative power offered by militarized landscapes, leadership strategies related to political regeneration can make use of these built environments. Consequently, the significance of these locales is not limited to military functions, as they can be appropriated by later societies for political agendas. The Co Loa site of modern-day Vietnam’s Red River delta, for instance, illustrates such a locality where warfare and politics intersect. Still standing largely intact today, the site’s monumental system of fortification features dominates the local landscape, reflecting broad alterations of the surrounding terrain. Although the system was originally put into place during the Iron Age, later societies have capitalized on the site’s physical and ideological properties for various military and sociopolitical agendas.

Keywords: landscape archaeology, warfare, political regeneration, warscape, Vietnam, Co Loa

Kingdom on the Beach Ridges: A Landscape Archaeology of  Tambralinga in Peninsular Siam
Wannasarn Noonsuk, 268

Located on the east coast of peninsular Siam, an isthmian tract between the South China Sea and the Bay of Bengal, Tambralinga had the cosmopolitan openness associated with islands to trade and cultural influences. It was involved in maritime exchange since the late centuries b.c. , and its heartland had the highest densities of bronze drums, early Visnu images, lingas, Hindu shrines, and stone inscriptions in peninsular Siam. During its peak in the early centuries of the second millennium a.d. , according to historical documents, it sent a series of envoys to China and sent an army across the ocean to occupy the northern part of Sri Lanka. However, its early development and landscape have been less studied. This article explores the relationships between land and life in Tambralinga’s heartland, today’s Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, during the fifth to thirteenth centuries a.d. As a pioneering work on this topic in peninsular Siam, this article discusses the distributions of late prehistoric sites and early Hindu shrines in relation to geography using data from GIS-based studies, archaeological surveys and excavations, and ethnographic interviews. The results demonstrate that the landscape of Tambralinga was vital to its development. Its heartland opened out to the South China Sea, where an intensive maritime trade took place, and it had mountains in its backyard that were the source of forest products and tin, valued highly by foreign merchants. The floodplain between the shores and the mountains produced rice and cattle for the population of the kingdom. Tambralinga had beach ridges, running in the north–south direction, as the core of its landscape, which facilitated communications among clusters of communities. Rivers and walking trails provided passageways between various ecological zones and connected the kingdom to the west coast of the isthmus as well.

Keywords: landscape archaeology, archaeology of Hinduism, peninsular Siam, maritime Southeast Asia, Tambralinga, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Buddhism and its Relationship to Dvaravati Period Settlement Patterns and Material Culture in Northeast Thailand and Central Laos c. Sixth–Eleventh Centuries a.d. : A Historical Ecology Approach to the Landscape of the Khorat Plateau
Stephen A. Murphy, 300

This article employs the research paradigm of historical ecology to investigate the spread and development of early Buddhism in the Khorat Plateau during the Dvaravati period. The movement of this religion into the region was largely determined by preexisting settlement patterns, with moated sites being particularly important. The arrival of Buddhism also introduced monumental architecture and a definable art style. These moated settlements were dependent on large-scale river systems such as the Mun and Chi, particularly in regard to water management, agriculture, transport, and communication. A study of the distribution of sema stones also provides evidence for the spread of Buddhism, while Buddha images carved into rock faces on mountaintops and evidence for rock shelters illustrate that the tradition of forest monks was functioning alongside the more established urban monasticism. The relationship between Buddhism and society is explored, illustrating how the arrival of this religion resulted in new cognitive and physical conceptions of the landscape best demonstrated by changes in settlement planning. Finally, it is shown that Buddhism did not function outside of society but existed in an interdependent relationship with both the lay community and local rulers, with patronage being granted in return for not only spiritual guidance but political legitimization.

Keywords: Buddhism, historical ecology, urban monasticism, forest monks, Northeast Thailand, Central Laos, Khorat Plateau, Dvaravati, Chi and Mun Rivers, sema stones

The Social and Ecological Trajectory of Prehistoric Cambodian Earthworks
Michael Dega and D. Kyle Latinis, 327

This article moves discussion of prehistoric earthworks in Cambodia from normative archaeology into an ecological landscape structure, based on archaeological data sets. Discussions provide a synthesis of archaeological and newly borne-out ecological explanations for original site construction, occupation, landscape use, sustainability of occupation for the earthwork culture over a 2000-year period and terminal use of the sites. A model is presented to assess site abandonment and post-earthwork region settlement patterns.

Keywords: Cambodia, prehistoric circular earthworks, landscape archaeology, historical ecology, sustainability, site abandonment modeling

Designs of Kings and Farmers: Landscape Systems of the Greater Angkor Urban Complex
Scott Hawken, 347

Greater Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries a.d. The rulers of Angkor left behind magnificent temples, along with extensive, centrally planned landscapes and massive urban complexes. However, the landscape of Greater Angkor also represents a decentralized planning tradition. This article addresses the different scales of economic landscapes at Greater Angkor: from massive rice-field superstructures watered by artificial irrigation, to smaller patches of fields organized around local temples and ponds. Contrary to widely accepted views, the design of extensive cultural landscapes does not require the presence of an elite controlling authority, or the guidance of a commonly conceived plan. Within Greater Angkor, the design of extensive landscapes often occurred at the local level, most likely involving local traditions rather than abstract, centrally approved plans. The relationship between centralized and decentralized planning traditions is investigated using a topographic classification of the landscape based on extensive mapping from remote sensed imagery from 2007–2010. Covering 1000  km2 of rice fields, and including 22,000 km of rice-field bunds, the topographic classification of the rice-field systems reveals two very different ways of building. These two systems are best described as coaxial systems and cardinal systems: both suggest dramatically different development models and socioeconomic frameworks. The two different, and extensive, development processes had a lasting physical impact on the resulting landscapes, and are still actively used today. This article discusses the evidence for both central and local plans as well as more complicated examples, where both central and local plans seem to have influenced the design of landscapes. Illustrated examples of centrally planned landscapes and local approaches to planning landscapes demonstrate this premise.

Keywords: Greater Angkor, urban landscape, Khmer studies, landscape archaeology, archaeological rice fields, cultural landscapes, archaeology, coaxial field systems, cardinal field systems, radial field systems, landscape morphology, GIS, remote sensing, Angkorian land use, land division systems


Early Buddhist Architecture in Context: The Great Stupa at Amaravati (ca. 300 BCE–300 CE) by Akira Shimada
Reviewed by Peter Johansen, 368

Rock Carvings in Hong Kong by William Meacham
Reviewed by Christopher Davis, 371

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