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Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology - ISEAA

Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology - ISEAA Investigating prehistory in Southeast Asia and developing archaeological resources for scholarly and public access. ISEAA was founded by Dr. Joyce White in 2013.

Established in October 2013, the new Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology (ISEAA) continues and builds upon the decades-long archaeological research programs in Thailand and Laos at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. In June 2013, Penn ended funding for these research programs and transferred current research and publications projects to the ISEAA. ISEAA joins a number of non-profits that

Established in October 2013, the new Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology (ISEAA) continues and builds upon the decades-long archaeological research programs in Thailand and Laos at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. In June 2013, Penn ended funding for these research programs and transferred current research and publications projects to the ISEAA. ISEAA joins a number of non-profits that

Operating as usual

Li et al. published "Luobi Cave, South China: A Comparative Perspective on a Novel Cobble-Tool Industry Associated with ...
03/15/2022

Li et al. published "Luobi Cave, South China: A Comparative Perspective on a Novel Cobble-Tool Industry Associated with Bone Tool Technology during the Pleistocene–Holocene Transition" in the Journal of World Prehistory https://www.researchgate.net/publication/359184202_Li2019_Article_LuobiCaveSouthChinaAComparativ . They conduct a technological analysis of a ‘cobble-tool’ industry associated with a bone tool technology from Luobi Cave, Hainan Island, dated to c. 11–10 ka, and compare it with the well-studied typical Hoabinhian site of Laang Spean in Cambodia. While there is a slight similarity in operational sequence (chaîne opératoire), a major difference is that the Luobi Cave site can be rejected as a potential Hoabinhian site. The excavated material indicates a high degree of innovation and demonstrates a new sort of variability in the tool-kit of modern human groups during the Late Pleistocene–Early Holocene transition in South China and Southeast Asia. This study represents an initial attempt to decipher the technological cultural variability in this region. We suggest that the emergence of behavioral modernity and cultural variability should be evaluated at both regional and sub-regional scales, instead of defining them as uniform, progressive and incremental, processes.

Deng et al. published "First Farmers in the South China Coast: New Evidence From the Gancaoling Site of Guangdong Provin...
03/13/2022

Deng et al. published "First Farmers in the South China Coast: New Evidence From the Gancaoling Site of Guangdong Province" in Frontiers in Earth Sciences DOI: 10.3389/feart.2022.858492 . Based on analysis of macroscopic plant remains (see figure) and phytoliths, as well as AMS radiocarbon dating at the Gancaoling site, this study demonstrates the emergence of agriculture in the south China coast could be dated back to as early as 4,800-4,600 cal. BP., with the cultivation of rice and foxtail millet. This discovery provides further evidence supporting the universality of mixed farming in southern China and sheds new light on the study of agriculture's southward dispersal. The crop package of rice and millets possibly spread into the south China coast from Jiangxi via the mountain areas and then into Mainland Southeast Asia.

It's expensive, but institutional libraries may be interested in purchasing The Oxford Handbook of Early Southeast Asia.
03/06/2022
The Oxford Handbook of Early Southeast Asia

It's expensive, but institutional libraries may be interested in purchasing The Oxford Handbook of Early Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia ranks among the most significant regions in the world for tracing the prehistory of human endeavor over a period in excess of two million years. It lies in the direct path of successive migrations from the African homeland that saw settlement by hominin populations such as Homo erectu...

Pipal Heng published "Landscape, upland-lowland, community, and economy of the Mekong River (6th-8th century CE): case s...
02/27/2022

Pipal Heng published "Landscape, upland-lowland, community, and economy of the Mekong River (6th-8th century CE): case studies from the Pre-Angkorian centers of Thala Borivat and Sambor" in World Archaeology https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2022.2032312 . This paper tracks upland-lowland dynamics in Pre-Angkorian (6th-8th century CE) Cambodia by focusing on land-use and economy along the Mekong River. Proto-urban settlements emerged throughout the Tonle Sap and Mekong Delta alluvial plains but also appeared at key centers such as Thala Borivat, Sambor, and Wat Phu along the Mekong River’s more narrow corridors (see map). The diversified economy that involved movement of forest resources and food between these tropical upland-lowland ecotones, observed during the colonial period, emerged by the 6th-7th centuries CE and coincided with political consolidations during the Pre-Angkor period. Analysis of this region suggests that non-Khmer (ethnic minority) swidden agricultural groups who now dominate the uplands have premodern roots in the region. Using upland-lowland settings to study tropical habitation, this archaeological study offers a risk-reduction exchange-based model for understanding Cambodia’s premodern Mekong organization.

The new, updated version of the online SEA archaeology bibliographic database is now accessible with more than 17,000 re...
02/22/2022

The new, updated version of the online SEA archaeology bibliographic database is now accessible with more than 17,000 references! https://pennds.org/archaeobib/ Give it a whirl and let us know what you think. You can "report an issue" online and also send us references to add. We were not able to hire students this year to add new references, but either in the summer or fall we will hire 1-2 students to continue adding citations.

Hao Li et al. published "Mobility and settlement dynamics of Large Cutting Tool makers in the subtropical forests of Sou...
02/15/2022

Hao Li et al. published "Mobility and settlement dynamics of Large Cutting Tool makers in the subtropical forests of South China: A simulated ecological approach" in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2022.103353 . By analyzing large cutting tools (LCTs) from the Baise Basin in southern China dating from about 0.8 Ma, this case study aims to clarify some of the behavioral strategies for the region. By employing two primary lines of evidence that consider both quantitative environmental variables and technological tool attributes, the results suggest that hominids preferred to adopt behavioral strategies associated with short-distance travelling and small-territory ranging. Furthermore, given the low density of stone artifacts and LCTs in all excavated sites, the somewhat homogenous landscape, and the even distribution of plant-dominated resources throughout the basin, site occupation and/or settlement was likely temporary in nature. With the use of ecological simulations, this study provides new data for understanding lifeways of early humans in the humid subtropical forests of South China. Image shows LCTs from the fourth terrace of the Baise Basin.

Maloney et al. published "Making impact: Towards discovering early projectile technology in Island South East Asian arch...
02/13/2022

Maloney et al. published "Making impact: Towards discovering early projectile technology in Island South East Asian archaeology" in Archaeological Research in Asia https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ara.2022.100351 . This review article shows that projectile tools are poorly documented across Island South East Asia (ISEA) prior to the onset of major climatic change at the close of the last ice-age. Records of hunting and subsistence related to projectile technology, including flaked stone and osseous tools, rock art, and historical records, are each reviewed here. A vanguard methodological approach for identification of projectile tools in the early archaeological records of ISEA is advocated. Traceology, backed by empirical data and contextualised tool life histories, is needed to advance the archaeological understanding of technological adaptations. Methodological advances elsewhere present the latest techniques in recognising projectile tools, and are here adapted to the islands of Eastern Sunda, and to Sahul. Image shows Datum Saman figures from East Kalimantan holding probable spears and spear throwers.

Forestier et al. published "The first lithic industry of mainland Southeast Asia: Evidence of the earliest hominin in a ...
02/08/2022

Forestier et al. published "The first lithic industry of mainland Southeast Asia: Evidence of the earliest hominin in a tropical context" in L'Anthropologie https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anthro.2022.102996 . They review recent discoveries of ancient sites in mainland Southeast Asia and southern China confirm the presence of old lithic industries as early as 0.8 Ma, i.e., at the transition between the Early to Middle Pleistocene. The diversity of lithic tool types and manufacture methods encountered from the Middle Pleistocene in peninsular Asia shows a technical variability that stands out as a counterexample to diffusionist hypotheses of a cultural fabrication inherited from the West. Mapy shows sites mentioned in the article.

Maloney et al. published "A late Pleistocene to Holocene archaeological record from East Kalimantan, Borneo" in Quaterna...
02/06/2022

Maloney et al. published "A late Pleistocene to Holocene archaeological record from East Kalimantan, Borneo" in Quaternary Science Reviews https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107313 . They report that recent archaeological excavations at Liang Jon, a limestone rockshelter, have revealed a cultural sequence covering the period from around 16.7 kyr cal BP until the late Holocene—a time of dynamic environmental, social, and economic change throughout Island Southeast Asia. They describe the excavation and present chronostratigraphic and initial summary data to outline the significance this cultural sequence has in reconciling archaeological evidence and dated rock art records from early human cultural behaviour at the easternmost margin of the Late Pleistocene continental landmass of Sunda. Summary data, including stone artefacts, marine shell beads (see image), faunal remains, and a pre-Austronesian burial, contributes to understanding regional trends associated with widespread cultural and technological change during the Pleistocene to Holocene transition, when the present-day island of Borneo was formed. They document the first Hoabinhian and microlith stone tools from early Holocene Borneo.

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Li et al. published "Luobi Cave, South China: A Comparative Perspective on a Novel Cobble-Tool Industry Associated with Bone Tool Technology during the Pleistocene–Holocene Transition" in the Journal of World Prehistory https://www.researchgate.net/publication/359184202_Li2019_Article_LuobiCaveSouthChinaAComparativ . They conduct a technological analysis of a ‘cobble-tool’ industry associated with a bone tool technology from Luobi Cave, Hainan Island, dated to c. 11–10 ka, and compare it with the well-studied typical Hoabinhian site of Laang Spean in Cambodia. While there is a slight similarity in operational sequence (chaîne opératoire), a major difference is that the Luobi Cave site can be rejected as a potential Hoabinhian site. The excavated material indicates a high degree of innovation and demonstrates a new sort of variability in the tool-kit of modern human groups during the Late Pleistocene–Early Holocene transition in South China and Southeast Asia. This study represents an initial attempt to decipher the technological cultural variability in this region. We suggest that the emergence of behavioral modernity and cultural variability should be evaluated at both regional and sub-regional scales, instead of defining them as uniform, progressive and incremental, processes.
Deng et al. published "First Farmers in the South China Coast: New Evidence From the Gancaoling Site of Guangdong Province" in Frontiers in Earth Sciences DOI: 10.3389/feart.2022.858492 . Based on analysis of macroscopic plant remains (see figure) and phytoliths, as well as AMS radiocarbon dating at the Gancaoling site, this study demonstrates the emergence of agriculture in the south China coast could be dated back to as early as 4,800-4,600 cal. BP., with the cultivation of rice and foxtail millet. This discovery provides further evidence supporting the universality of mixed farming in southern China and sheds new light on the study of agriculture's southward dispersal. The crop package of rice and millets possibly spread into the south China coast from Jiangxi via the mountain areas and then into Mainland Southeast Asia.
After a 2 year hiatus, ISEAA has now published another newsletter issue covering activities from just before the pandemic to upcoming plans. You can access the link from our website newsblog here https://iseaarchaeology.org/2021-iseaa-newsletter-finally-in-print/
It's expensive, but institutional libraries may be interested in purchasing The Oxford Handbook of Early Southeast Asia.
Pipal Heng published "Landscape, upland-lowland, community, and economy of the Mekong River (6th-8th century CE): case studies from the Pre-Angkorian centers of Thala Borivat and Sambor" in World Archaeology https://doi.org/10.1080/00438243.2022.2032312 . This paper tracks upland-lowland dynamics in Pre-Angkorian (6th-8th century CE) Cambodia by focusing on land-use and economy along the Mekong River. Proto-urban settlements emerged throughout the Tonle Sap and Mekong Delta alluvial plains but also appeared at key centers such as Thala Borivat, Sambor, and Wat Phu along the Mekong River’s more narrow corridors (see map). The diversified economy that involved movement of forest resources and food between these tropical upland-lowland ecotones, observed during the colonial period, emerged by the 6th-7th centuries CE and coincided with political consolidations during the Pre-Angkor period. Analysis of this region suggests that non-Khmer (ethnic minority) swidden agricultural groups who now dominate the uplands have premodern roots in the region. Using upland-lowland settings to study tropical habitation, this archaeological study offers a risk-reduction exchange-based model for understanding Cambodia’s premodern Mekong organization.
The new, updated version of the online SEA archaeology bibliographic database is now accessible with more than 17,000 references! https://pennds.org/archaeobib/ Give it a whirl and let us know what you think. You can "report an issue" online and also send us references to add. We were not able to hire students this year to add new references, but either in the summer or fall we will hire 1-2 students to continue adding citations.
Learn more about the history of SEA archaeology next month with this virtual talk by Cyler Conrad on H. van Heekeren.
Hao Li et al. published "Mobility and settlement dynamics of Large Cutting Tool makers in the subtropical forests of South China: A simulated ecological approach" in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2022.103353 . By analyzing large cutting tools (LCTs) from the Baise Basin in southern China dating from about 0.8 Ma, this case study aims to clarify some of the behavioral strategies for the region. By employing two primary lines of evidence that consider both quantitative environmental variables and technological tool attributes, the results suggest that hominids preferred to adopt behavioral strategies associated with short-distance travelling and small-territory ranging. Furthermore, given the low density of stone artifacts and LCTs in all excavated sites, the somewhat homogenous landscape, and the even distribution of plant-dominated resources throughout the basin, site occupation and/or settlement was likely temporary in nature. With the use of ecological simulations, this study provides new data for understanding lifeways of early humans in the humid subtropical forests of South China. Image shows LCTs from the fourth terrace of the Baise Basin.
Maloney et al. published "Making impact: Towards discovering early projectile technology in Island South East Asian archaeology" in Archaeological Research in Asia https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ara.2022.100351 . This review article shows that projectile tools are poorly documented across Island South East Asia (ISEA) prior to the onset of major climatic change at the close of the last ice-age. Records of hunting and subsistence related to projectile technology, including flaked stone and osseous tools, rock art, and historical records, are each reviewed here. A vanguard methodological approach for identification of projectile tools in the early archaeological records of ISEA is advocated. Traceology, backed by empirical data and contextualised tool life histories, is needed to advance the archaeological understanding of technological adaptations. Methodological advances elsewhere present the latest techniques in recognising projectile tools, and are here adapted to the islands of Eastern Sunda, and to Sahul. Image shows Datum Saman figures from East Kalimantan holding probable spears and spear throwers.
Forestier et al. published "The first lithic industry of mainland Southeast Asia: Evidence of the earliest hominin in a tropical context" in L'Anthropologie https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anthro.2022.102996 . They review recent discoveries of ancient sites in mainland Southeast Asia and southern China confirm the presence of old lithic industries as early as 0.8 Ma, i.e., at the transition between the Early to Middle Pleistocene. The diversity of lithic tool types and manufacture methods encountered from the Middle Pleistocene in peninsular Asia shows a technical variability that stands out as a counterexample to diffusionist hypotheses of a cultural fabrication inherited from the West. Mapy shows sites mentioned in the article.
Maloney et al. published "A late Pleistocene to Holocene archaeological record from East Kalimantan, Borneo" in Quaternary Science Reviews https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107313 . They report that recent archaeological excavations at Liang Jon, a limestone rockshelter, have revealed a cultural sequence covering the period from around 16.7 kyr cal BP until the late Holocene—a time of dynamic environmental, social, and economic change throughout Island Southeast Asia. They describe the excavation and present chronostratigraphic and initial summary data to outline the significance this cultural sequence has in reconciling archaeological evidence and dated rock art records from early human cultural behaviour at the easternmost margin of the Late Pleistocene continental landmass of Sunda. Summary data, including stone artefacts, marine shell beads (see image), faunal remains, and a pre-Austronesian burial, contributes to understanding regional trends associated with widespread cultural and technological change during the Pleistocene to Holocene transition, when the present-day island of Borneo was formed. They document the first Hoabinhian and microlith stone tools from early Holocene Borneo.
Ingicco et al. published "The early lithic productions of Island Southeast Asia: Traditions or convergences?" in L'Anthropologie https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anthro.2022.102997 . They describe the lithic technology from the islands of Java, Sumatra, Flores, Sulawesi and the Philippines taken one by one, and compare the similarities and dissimilarities between these sometimes isolated and sometimes connected geographic entities. Excavated assemblages are emphasized. It appears that each of these islands might have had its own evolutionary trend with its own rhythm. For example, there are some important differences between the different islands, notably regarding the importance of retouches and the prevalence of flakes versus cobbles. See map for sites discussed