1st Edition

The Archaeology of Portable Art Southeast Asian, Pacific, and Australian Perspectives

    364 Pages
    by Routledge

    364 Pages
    by Routledge

    The development of complex cultural behaviour in our own species is perhaps the most significant research issue in modern archaeology. Until recently, it was believed that our capacity for language and art only developed after some of our ancestors reached Europe around 40,000 years ago. Archaeological discoveries in Africa now show that modern humans were practicing symbolic behaviours prior to their dispersal from that continent, and more recent discoveries in Indonesia and Australia are once again challenging ideas about human cultural development. 

    Despite these significant discoveries and exciting potentials, there is a curious absence of published information about Asia-Pacific region, and consequently, global narratives of our most celebrated cognitive accomplishment — art — has consistently underrepresented the contribution of Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. This volume provides the first outline of what this region has to offer to the world of art in archaeology. 

    Readers undertaking tertiary archaeology courses interested in the art of the Asia-Pacific region or human behavioural evolution, along with anyone who is fascinated by the development of our modern ability to decorate ourselves and our world, should find this book a good addition to their library. 

    Section 1: Southeast Asia 2. The Contribution of Southeast Asian Material to a Global Understanding of Portable Art 3. The Ubiquity of Light Coloured Disk Beads: Insights from the Comparison of Pleistocene Marine Shell, Ostrich Eggshell, Bone, Ivory, and Stone Disk Beads 4. Shell Keepsakes and Ornaments from the Niah Caves, Northwest Borneo: A Scalar Understanding of Value and Meaning 5. Glass Beads in Early Historic Mainland Southeast Asia: Mortuary Ritual and Meaning? 6. Beads: Small Artefacts as Evidence for Understanding Filipino Prehistory 7. A Small Greenstone Jewellery Workshop in the Tabon Caves Section 2: Pacific 8. Portable Artefacts in the Pacific - Approaches and Directions 9. Pendants of Stone, Shell, and Tooth from Southern Vanuatu 10. Modified Canines: Circular Pig’s Tusks in the Pacific and Beyond 11. Te Whakapapa o Te Mahi Taonga o Aotearoa: Understanding the Portable Art of New Zealand within an Indigenous Archaeology Framework 12. Cypraea Shell Ornament Use in the Marianas, Remote Oceania 13. Dissecting ‘Value’: Theory, Method, and Fijian Chiefly Breastplates Section 3: Australia 14. The Estoric and Decorative Use of Bone, Shell, and Teeth in Australia 15. Beads and Boundaries 16. Maker’s Marks: Identifying Master Shield Makers from Aboriginal south-east Australia 17. An Object of Desire: Tales of a Fat-Tailed Macropod 18. Marine Shell Ornaments in North Western Australian Archaeological Sites: Different Meanings over Time and Space 19. Portable Art in Australia’s Western Desert 20. Developing Approaches for Studying Past Australian Indigenous Use of Glass Beads 21. Lithics as Portable Art 22. Future Directions for Asian-Pacific Portable Art Research.


    Michelle C. Langley is a DECRA Research Fellow in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Her research revolves around issues of human behavioural evolution in both Neanderthals and Modern Humans, and specialises in the traceology of hunter-gatherer technologies. 

    Mirani Litster is a Research Officer in the Department of Archaeology and Natural History at the Australian National University. Her research focuses on the archaeology of past globalisation and interaction in the Indian Ocean and Australasia.

    Duncan Wright is a Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, specialising in Australian Indigenous archaeology. Since completing a doctorate at Monash University in 2010 he has conducted extensive fieldwork in Australia-Pacific and Europe. A principal focus of his research is understanding the long-term human story of places that retain significance for contemporary communities.

    Sally K. May is a Senior Research Fellow with the Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit, Griffith University, Australia. As an archaeologist and anthropologist her research focuses on relationships between people, landscapes, material culture and imagery, with inspiration drawn primarily from fieldwork in northern Australia.

    "This volume explores the rich world of portable art in the Asia-Pacific, from the earliest examples of beads and other ornaments made by Pleistocene hunter-gatherers in Australia and Southeast Asia to the staggering diversity of small carved objects and related artworks from the recent past and ethnographic present of Oceania. The book provides an important compilation of the many discoveries of portable art made at archaeological sites across this vast region. It also presents a stimulating discussion of what portable art is and what it means from a uniquely Australasian perspective, as well as from the viewpoint of those interested in the origin of art and the evolutionary history of our species."

    - Adam Brumm, Griffith University, Australia