Accepted paper:

Social complexity and connectedness between Island Southeast Asia and the Marianas


Mary Clare Swete Kelly (University of Wollongong)
Olaf Winter (ANU)

Paper short abstract:

There are no clear indicators for directional influence in the early pottery assemblages of Island Southeast Asia and the Marianas. Focusing our attention primarily on assemblages in the Northern Philippines and the Marianas, we revisit Solheim’s ideas regarding social complexity and connectedness.

Paper long abstract:

In the 1950s, Wilheim G. Solheim II developed seminal ideas about the interrelatedness of pottery sites in Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) through the detailed analysis of pottery assemblages in the Philippines and Vietnam. We examine the broad affinities of early pottery types found throughout ISEA and its links to the Marianas. We demonstrate that contrary to recent arguments, there is no clear evidence for a directional influence from the Northern Philippines to the Marianas in the dating results, nor is there any clear evidence for directional influence in pottery characteristics. From around 3500BP pottery is abruptly introduced across a broad swathe of ISEA and the Pacific. The significance of early dates in the Marianas lies not in ancestral relationships and directional dispersal, but is the fact that the large ocean distances necessary to reach the Marianas speak to the possibility of contact and social relationships not hitherto considered in relation to this time. If peoples had ocean going technology capable of reaching the Marianas, there is no a priori reason to assume that within ISEA they would have dispersed only via sequential, short-range steps: We need to question the very assumption of directionality. Rather, the pottery speaks to broadly defined relationships across ISEA and the Marianas stemming from a common influence, which is interpreted very differently in individual pottery sites and regions. The underlying social and cultural mechanisms remain to be elucidated, but the ideas that underlie Solheim's concept of the Nusantao may be worth revisiting in light of this analysis.

panel P28
Ceramics from mainland and island Southeast Asia: understanding ancient communities, cultural interactions, and socio-economic trajectories.