BRONZE AND GLASS AS CULTURAL CATALYSTS AND TRACERS IN EARLY SOUTHEAST ASIA – BROGLASEA
BROGLASEA: Bronze and Glass as Cultural Catalysts and Tracers in Early Southeast Asia, c. 1000 BC to c. AD 500
Traditionally, India and China were seen as sources of Southeast Asian ‘civilisation’. BROGLASEA combines the study of copper-base alloys and glass, which constituted critical transmission media for ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’ ideologies and value systems. A detailed reconstruction of exchange networks identifies foreign influences and local responses during Southeast Asia’s steep cultural trajectory of the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Southeast Asia as a culturally receptive and innovative crossroads between East and South Asia, perspectives from early metal and glass networks
BROGLASEA’s aim was to provide a critical prehistoric case study for the complex cultural transmissions by which a major region can have its endogenous socio-economic and political characteristics transformed by the imitation, adaptation and adoption of exogenous practices. The principal vectors of external stimuli, migration and trade, and the concomitant questions of cultural and economic convergence versus divergence, remain profoundly relevant to our early 21st century paradigms of globalisation and transnational integration and governance e.g. the WTO, the UN, the EU, and the ASEAN.<br />Southeast Asia’s colonial period name, Indochina, reflected a tendency to downplay local agency and regard foreign influences as paramount to understanding regional’s history. Modern scholarship highlights a marked and persistent Southeast Asian trait for innovation, in the sense that foreign cultural practices were adopted after having been modified to meet local needs, thus catalysing the development of regional societies. This cultural flexibility is to be expected given Southeast Asia’s geographical situation, which, as the crossroads between East and South Asia and the Pacific, has witnessed millennia of variable-intensity population movements, some of which settled and added their cultural practices to the regional pool.<br />The uniqueness of BROGLASEA is reliable and testable material culture data that adds, via the proxies of copper-base and glass raw material sourcing and stylistic and technological homologies, much-needed precision to the identification of the specific culture-regions that impacted late prehistoric Southeast Asia. These networks represent diachronically-shifting webs of supply and demand pressure for exotic goods and their local imitations in the context and as a consequence of Southeast Asia’s evolving social complexity.
BROGLASEA’s geochemical analyses permitted accurised geolocalisations for glass and copper-base alloy raw materials and mixing/alloying/recycling behaviours that, in conjunction with technological reconstructions of production processes and typological characterisations, furnished robust linkages between sources of Southeast Asia’s foreign stimuli and regional responses. This was critical as prevalent terminology affords only an imprecise differentiation between ‘China’ and ‘India’, when these regions were not unified in the 1st millennium BC but comprised of diverse culture-political entities.
Non-ferrous/non-precious metal production (mineral, slag, crucible, furnace, mould) and consumption (metal) assemblages were recorded and sampled in the field in consultation with site directors, museum conservators and national authorities. The samples were exported to Saclay (France), where they were cut in two. The first half was mounted in resin and polished to a mirror finish before elemental analysis by X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF). If the sample was small or significantly corroded its elemental composition was determined by Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (SEM-EDS). The samples’ microstructure was then studied for thermo-mechanical treatments with Optical Microscopy (OM). The second half of the sample was sent to Nancy for Lead Isotope Analysis (LIA) by Multi-Collector Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass-Spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS). Glass consumption assemblages were likewise recorded in the field but selected samples were exported whole to Chicago (USA) for elemental analysis by Laser-Ablation Inductively-Coupled Plasma Mass-Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). Samples representing clusters in these elemental data were then sent to Nancy for lead, strontium and neodymium isotope analysis by MC-ICP-MS.
The analysis of Bronze Age metal assemblages from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan shows there were multiple networks linking Southeast Asia and China from the late-2nd millennium BC. The analysis of Iron Age glass assemblages from Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, elucidating networks with NE, W & S India and Sri Lanka from the mid-1st millennium BC. Both artefact classes adding nuance to decades of scholarship.
To date BROGLASEA has resulted in 6 peer-reviewed academic papers, 4 book chapters, 4 invited presentations and 13 multi-author presentations at international conferences in China, France, Japan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Poland, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. These numbers will grow significiantly in coming years as each site assemblage is interpreted in turn and published both in journal and monograph chapter form, as well as meta-data syntheses.
Le Meur, C., Cadet, M., Partner, V., Foy, E., Cloquet, C., Dillmann, P., Thote, A., Pryce, T.O., under review. Typo-technological, elemental and lead isotopic characterization and interpretation of Ðông Son miniature drums.
Pryce, T.O., Cadet, M., Allard, F., Kim, N.C., Hiep, T.H., Dung, L.T.M., Lam, W., Foy, E., Cloquet, C., Dillmann, P., under review. Copper-base metal supply during the northern Vietnamese Bronze Age: metallographic, elemental and lead isotope data from Dai Trach, Gò Mun, Thành Dên and Xuân Lâp. Journal of Archaeological Science.
Cadet. M, Tereygeol. F, Sayavongkhamdy. T. Souksavatdy. V, Luangkhoth. T, Chang. N, Dillmann. P, Pryce. T.O, (in press), Late Prehistoric copper smelting in the Lao PDR: Experimental reconstruction based on the Vilabouly Complexe evidence, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
S. Seman, L. Dussubieux, C. Cloquet, Thomas Pryce. Strontium isotope analysis in ancient glass from South Asia using portable laser ablation sampling. Archaeometry, Wiley, In press, 63 (1), pp.88-104. ?10.1111/arcm.12618?.
Mélissa Cadet, Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy, Viengkeo Souksavatdy, Thonglith Luangkhoth, Philippe Dillmann, et al.. Laos' central role in Southeast Asian copper exchange networks: A multi-method study of bronzes from the Vilabouly Complex. Journal of Archaeological Science, Elsevier, 2019, 109, pp.104988. ?10.1016/j.jas.2019.104988?.
Pryce, T.O., Calo, A., Prasetyo, B., Bellwood, P., O’Connor, S., 2018. Copper-base Metallurgy in Metal-Age Bali: Evidence from Gilimanuk, Manikliyu, Pacung, Pangkung Paruk and Sembiran. Archaeometry 60, 1271–1289. doi.org/10.1111/arcm.12384
Pryce, T.O., Cadet, M., 2018. Ancient copper-base metallurgy in the Lao PDR, in: Patole-Edoumba, E., Demeter, F. (Eds.), Pà Hang: La Montagne Habitée. 100000 Ans d’histoire de La Biodiversité et de l’occupation Humaine Au Nord Du Laos. La Rochelle, pp. 196–207.
BROGLASEA aims to provide a critical prehistoric case study for the complex cultural transmissions by which a major region can have its endogenous socio-economic and political characteristics transformed by the imitation, adaptation and adoption of exogenous practices. The principal vectors of such external stimuli, migration and trade, and the concomitant questions of cultural and economic convergence versus divergence, remain profoundly relevant to our early 21st century paradigms of globalisation and transnational integration and governance e.g. the WTO, the UN, the EU, and the ASEAN.
Southeast Asia’s colonial period name, Indochina, reflects an entrenched tendency to downplay Southeast Asian agency and regard foreign influences as paramount to understanding the region’s history. It would be obtuse to deny the importance of external influence but a dogmatic ‘Indochina’ standpoint overlooks a marked and persistent trait for innovation, in the sense that foreign cultural practices were adopted after having been modified to meet regional needs, and that these adaptations subsequently catalysed the development of Southeast Asian societies (e.g. Bellina, 2014). This cultural flexibility is perhaps to be expected considering Southeast Asia’s geographical situation, which, as the crossroads between East and South Asia and the Pacific, has witnessed millennia of variable-intensity population movements, some of which settled and added their cultural practices to the regional pool.
Such a ‘middle-ground’ perspective has been espoused in various forms over three decades but the uniqueness of the BROGLASEA proposal is that reliable and testable material culture data will add much-needed precision to the identification of the specific culture-regions that impacted late prehistoric Southeast Asia. The artefact classes under study, copper-base alloys and glass, are thought to have constituted critical transmission media for foreign (for which read ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’) ideologies and value systems, and as such may have been prestigious materials sought after by Southeast Asia’s putative incipient political élites from the beginning of the Bronze and Iron Ages, respectively. Copper-base alloys and glass also share the analytical advantage of having sufficient archaeological ubiquity to be useful for large spatial studies and their physico-chemical characteristics lend themselves to the reconstruction of production, exchange and consumption networks using high-resolution elemental and isotopic analyses. These networks, which previous methodological iterations indicate to span several thousand kilometres and years (Dussubieux & Gratuze, 2010, Pryce et al., 2014a), represent diachronically-shifting webs of supply and demand pressure for exotic goods and their local imitations in the context and as a consequence of Southeast Asia’s evolving social complexity. BROGLASEA will allow for substantially greater confidence when inferring cultural influence and borrowing between widely separated social groups during the critical processes that shaped late prehistoric Southeast Asia and touched its terrestrial neighbours and far-flung maritime contacts.
BROGLASEA’s collaboration between the French UMRs “Prétech”, “TRACES”, “NIMBE” and the Elemental Analysis Facility of the Chicago Field Museum, as well as with western institutions in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and their counterparts in Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, has been founded to provide expertise in all necessary disciplines and regions. We intend that this research raises the profile of Southeast Asian late prehistory as worthy of global methodological and theoretical comparison but also draws attention to the damage wrought by the region’s rampant looting problem, which particularly targets the copper-base and glass artefacts that could otherwise tell us so much.
Monsieur Thomas Pryce (UMR 7055 Préhistoire et Technologie)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
PRETECH UMR 7055 Préhistoire et Technologie
Help of the ANR 419,090 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2016 - 36 Months