Beads, Trade, and Power in Early Southeast Asia

I was very pleased to be able to help organize and attend Dr. Alison Carter’s public talk at Macalester College, on the topic of “Beads, Trade, and Power in Early Southeast Asia,” yesterday. It was well-attended, and exciting.

If you take the longue durée seriously, and imagine as I do that some things persevere through generations and centuries, and that therefore early history can be very important, then archaeological knowledge is crucial for people like myself, even though my focus is contemporary.  I have many notes for myself.

Dr. Carter’s presentation was hugely engaging, and dealt precisely with some of the themes we are discussing in one of my seminars at the moment, “Ritual and Ecology in Southeast Asia,” which includes the Angkor civilization and its ‘collapse.’ Those themes are complexity, emergence, and collapse, and especially understanding the nature of those processes: is the emergence of complexity dependent on trade network transformations, commodity transformations, local manufacture, the rise of local elite classes, etc., etc.?  What drove early complexity, and what processes underwrote and sustained it?  What was the nature of that complexity?

Dr. Carter will shortly be traveling to the Society of American Archaeology (SAA) conference in Honolulu, where she will be chairing a symposium titled “Technology in Southwest China and Southeast Asia II: Working with Stone, Ceramics, and other materials – tecnological innovation in Southeast Asia, Southwest China, and Beyond,” and presenting a paper on “The production of stone beads in Southeast Asia.”

Also, Dr. Carter has a blog. It’s fantastic, and I have frequently linked to it from here. Most recently, she’s written on the enigmatic jar burials discovered in the Cardamom mountains. Here it is: go, read.



Beads, Trade, and Power in Early Southeast Asia” – A Public Talk by Dr. Alison Carter


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