Unity in Diversity: Using Regional Datasets From South and Southeast Asia in Reconstructing a Collective Prehistoric Past

1Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER)

2Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines

The modern geopolitical divisions of South and Southeast Asia led to the regions being considered as independent geographical entities that have generally been examined separately, with these extensive landmasses (and seascapes) remaining an under-utilised area for comparative archaeological research, and a potential for comparative regional analyses, datasets and methodologies. South and Southeast Asian Prehistoric records (considered here as including the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic), present real opportunity for collaborative research and the development of comparative perspectives, methods and research questions, given their similarities in natural and cultural features, amidst unique regional trajectories and nuances. Datasets generated from one region, such as the rich monsoon records from the Central Monsoon Zone of South Asia, may aid in addressing questions of palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic variability in Southeast Asia. The rich faunal, archaeobotanical, and chronological datasets from Southeast Asia can actively contribute towards understanding subsistence and possible palaeoenvironmental settings in South Asia, even potentially contributing to the construction of more holistic and comprehensive chronological frameworks. The prehistoric connectedness between these regions may have also been possible, as zones of hominin interaction or areas of hominin movement. Research in this direction is therefore necessary.

As both regions witness a recent rise in empowering local perspectives in the historiography of archaeological research considering lingering colonial legacies, we also hope this session can explore locally contextualised research methods and perspectives that may provide novel and better-adapted means to tackle questions and issues arising within each. This session seeks contributions that have the potential to contribute to our understanding of the prehistoric past in both South and Southeast Asia, assist building and developing new and novel datasets and methodologies, and highlighting the possible interconnectedness between the regions, and contribute towards ongoing discourses in global prehistory, where such datasets are commonly only considered peripherally, if at all.