This panel brings together multi-scalar research on social organization and interaction in the later Metal Age and Early Historic Period of island Southeast Asia to examine the possible generative role of Metal Age societies on the formation of Early Historic maritime trading polities.
Among the significant enigmas is the nature of social formations underlying expanding exchange relations in later "Metal Age" societies of the Southeast Asian island archipelagos ca. 500 B.C. to A.D. 500-800, and the generative role these societies may have played in emerging Early Historic maritime trading polities. Metal Age archaeological research until very recently has been largely focused on more visible burial remains rather than the settlement traces of "lived" social practices, single sites rather than regional archaeological landscapes almost certainly associated with "communities" and social networks, and precise origins of "exotic" preciosities flowing into the archipelagos rather than local contextual evidence of their social meaning that might explain the scale and intensity of these long-distance exchanges. However, archaeologists working in the region are increasingly engaging in discussion of how these Metal Age societies may have been structured (i.e. hierarchical, "heterarchical", etc.), how social relations might have been constituted and manipulated through material exchanges at multiple geographic scales, and local processes leading up to complex political and social landscapes of later historically known chiefdoms and states. This session brings together research on social organization in the later Metal Age and Early Historic Period by more nuanced studies of social meaning at burial/ritual sites and in the intimate setting of comparative household archaeology, but particularly archaeological work at the expanded regional scale of "communities" (individually and in inter-regional interaction), using methods of archaeological settlement pattern/social landscape studies, social network analysis, exchange goods/production proveniencing, and GIS-based spatial models of interaction and exchange.