Globalization at the dawn of history

The emergence of global cultures in the Mekong and Red River Deltas

Authored by: Alison Kyra Carter , Nam C. Kim

The Routledge Handbook of Archaeology and Globalization

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415841306
eBook ISBN: 9781315449005
Adobe ISBN:


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Several decades ago, researchers argued that the earliest forms of cities and complex political systems emerged in Southeast Asia from approximately 500 bce to 500 ce, a period sometimes referred to as the Iron Age (e.g. Higham 2014) or Early Historic period (Stark 2004). Scholars believed that these early polities were heavily influenced by an essentially unidirectional flow of cultural elements into the region from the more ‘advanced’ civilizations of ancient India and China (Wheatley 1983; Winzeler 1976). This perspective, based predominantly on textual sources, generally saw the transmission of advanced technology and political models by diffusion, migration, or simple military and cultural imposition (Bayard 1992: 13). Archaeological research in recent decades has altered this view, clearly showing that incipient urbanism and socio-political complexity in mainland Southeast Asia were not simply derivative (e.g. Bellina et al. 2014; Bellina and Silpanth 2008; Higham 2012; Indrawooth 2004; Kim 2013; Stark 2006a). Instead, they were outcomes of local trajectories of long-term cultural change working in concert with external contacts. External influence from China and India was important, but this interaction was not the principal cause for the emergence of early states in Southeast Asia (Lam 2011). Moreover, we argue these inter-regional interactions were by no means unidirectional. They were mutually stimulating and part of a burgeoning system of networks and connections involving far-ranging maritime and overland exchange.

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