Thursday, 1 September 2016

When Did Horses Come to Indonesia/ISEA? [old post]

I'm taking part in an induction week here in Leiden and things are very busy at the moment. I'm writing a few brand new things for this site but I haven't had time to finish them, so here's some old content while you wait. Things will suddenly be a lot quieter at the weekend and for most of next week, so expect new posts then.

      Horses (Equus ferus caballus) are not native to Indonesia or Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) and their bones are not commonly found at archaeological sites in the archipelago. They were first domesticated on the Eurasian steppe, with the earliest known sites discovered in Kazakhstan, and were introduced to Indonesia at some point in the last few thousand years. Precisely when is difficult to ascertain, although horses appear in inscriptions and texts from fairly early periods.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Eastern Indonesia in the Desawarnana [repost]

This is the first post from West's Ancient World that I'm putting on this site. It was originally published in December 2015, and can be found here. I'll start putting up original material in a couple of days, but this is just to populate the site a little.

       The earliest written documentation of several Indonesian islands occurs in canto 14 of the Desawarnana, the East Javanese topogenic poem of 1365 CE. There's been a lot of academic discussion about which names refer to which places, especially in the case of some particularly obscure ones, but it's generally easy to tell which part of Indonesia or Malaysia is being described. It's rather harder to tell whether the text accurately depicts the actual realm of Majapahit, though. In any case, the full text of the fifth stanza of the fourteenth canto goes like this (Robson's 1995 translation):
Taking them island by island: Makasar, Butun and Banggawi,
Kunir, Galiyahu and Salaya, Sumba, Solot and Muwar,
As well as Wa
an, Ambwan, Maloko and Wwanin,
Seran and Timur as the main ones among the various islands that remember their duty.


     I've decided to start a new blog on history and prehistory in Indonesia and the southwestern Pacific. My earlier blog, West's Ancient World, included lots of material on Amazonia, Africa, and Australia, as well as plenty of other tangential topics. This one is exclusively about Indonesia, New Guinea, and the surrounding area. I'm starting a master's degree in Southeast Asian Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands in a few days, so concentrating on Indonesia - not just academically but also online - seems like a good idea at this point.