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New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory


This volume was created to celebrate the achievements of Professor Peter Bellwood, who has spent a successful and distinguished career of almost 50 years researching the prehistory of Southeast Asia and the Pacific. No other individual has had such a profound impact on our understanding of the archaeology of the region. Peter’s extensive knowledge of Southeast Asian prehistory is embedded in decades of fieldwork across the Indo-Pacific, from the Society and Marquesas Islands in the east to Vietnam in the west. His five books, Man’s Conquest of the Pacific (1978), The Polynesians (1978), Prehistory of the Indo-Malayan Archipelago (1985), First Farmers (2005) and First Migrants (2013), not to mention the numerous journal articles, monographs and book chapters, have been extremely influential, and his passion for understanding the past has inspired more than a generation of archaeologists. Peter is probably one of the few archaeologists working in Southeast Asia and the Pacific who has embraced a multidisciplinary approach to unravelling the prehistoric past by integrating historical linguistics with archaeology and anthropology. His firm belief in the farming/language dispersal hypothesis has often courted controversy and stimulated considerable literary debate in both the fields of archaeology and linguistics. Indeed, several of the chapters in this book challenge one or other aspects of his hypotheses on the migration of farming communities across Southeast Asia.

Another noteworthy achievement of Peter’s career was his role in consolidating the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association (IPPA), of which he remained the Secretary and General Editor (or Secretary General and Editor) between the late 1970s and late 2000s. During his stewardship of the society, Peter headed the organisation of nine Indo-Pacific Prehistory congresses, always held in India, Taiwan or Southeast Asian countries. The congresses provided a unique opportunity for archaeologists from South Asia to China, Australia and the Pacific to share their interests, experience and research. Peter was instrumental in organising funds for Asian archaeologists to attend the congresses and have their contributions prepared for publication for the international audience in the Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association. This journal continues to serve (now as the Journal of India-Pacific Archaeology) as a useful outlet for the publication of other contributions such as student thesis summaries, papers from other Asia-Pacific conferences, and miscellaneous contributions ready for submission by the call-up due date. Peter’s famously encyclopaedic knowledge of archaeological sites and finds are a result of his commitment to reading and editing the research work of Southeast Asian and other colleagues. Peter’s achievements as the General Secretary of IPPA was acknowledged by a session in his honour during the 2009 Hanoi conference and the succeeding proceedings published as a Special Issue in Antiquity 2011 Vol. 85(328).

In addition to his outstanding contribution to research and international collaboration, Peter has demonstrated an inexhaustible commitment to the advancement and training of aspiring young researchers from across Southeast Asia. Many of the archaeologists who obtained their Master’s and PhD degrees under Peter’s supervision have continued on to become research leaders in their own rights, and many have contributed to this volume. Some within senior academic and cultural heritage administration positions sadly could not find the time to contribute to this volume when approached by the editors. However, it has been possible to include a wide variety of chapters by colleagues with whom Peter has productively engaged over the years.

The research herein reflects the broad diversity of Peter’s interests, and is a product of multidisciplinary efforts in archaeology, biological anthropology and linguistics to understand cultural developments in the prehistory of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

This volume was refereed by two independent reviewers who commented on each of the individual chapters. We are grateful to all the authors for their participation in this endeavour and the referees and manuscript readers.

Publication was possible through financial assistance from The Australian National University grant and Grant in Aid by JSPS (Nos 23247040 and 16H02527). Thanks are also due to Chikako Ogawa who assisted in formatting chapter pages.

Philip J. Piper

Hirofumi Matsumura

David Bulbeck

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