This panel wishes to investigate the motivations, adaptations and role of Southeast sea nomadism in the past and the potential to build an ethnoarchaeological frames of reference to better interpret sea peoples' contributions to archaeological and historical reconstruction.
Historical and ethnographic sources refer to 'sea people' or 'sea nomads' playing a crucial role in Southeast Asian historical trajectories, being actively involved into inter-island trade as well as piracy. Sea peoples are also closely associated to the Malayu power, guarding the sea-lanes and guiding the merchants towards their affiliated city-state (Andaya 2008). Can the sea be considered as a territory of its own for human groups? Do groups choose to become economically specialised for a short or extended period? What adaptations archaeologists might observe?
Despite several detailed ethnographic studies (Sopher 1977; Benjamin and Chou 2002; Ivanoff 1997; etc) and a few ethnoarchaeolgical studies (Englehardt and Roger 1997), scarcely any archaeologists and historians take into account these mobile groups into account in their reconstructions. Due to the lack of an ethnoarchaeological framework but probably also to an over-emphasis on literate merchants in cosmopolitan city-ports, their potential inputs into the movements of goods and people in the region have been neglected. Our current hypothesis is that these overlooked and nearly invisible populations might have played an important role in spreading techniques, cultural and natural knowledge in islands Southeast Asia and Oceania and overall in shaping today's Southeast Asian cultures
This panel wishes to address issues such as:
- The origins of sea nomadism? What would be this ephemeral opportunistic or longlasting adaptation entailed?
- Methodologically, how can archaeologists and ethnologist work together to trace them?