Thursday, 25 November 2010
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
On 21 October, the Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture, based in the University’s School of Archaeology, will officially open to become the only Asia-specialist centre of archaeological research and teaching in Europe.
Although Asia has some of the world’s richest archaeological and artistic forms of heritage, surprisingly little is known or taught about this period in Britain.
Research and teaching will encompass all areas of Asia and cover the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) through to the historical period.
Asia celebrates a huge diversity of cultures but less research has been conducted into how the different cultures are related. The new Centre will look at how the cultural influences, both within the region and in the wider world beyond, might be connected. The research will not only draw on archaeology but also other disciplines, such as anthropology, art history, linguistics, molecular genetics, the earth sciences and geography.
As from October 2011 the Centre will offer a new Asia-specific Master’s degree stream and new courses in the Archaeology of Asia, Chinese Archaeology and in the Palaeolithic of Asia.
Centre Co-director Professor Chris Gosden said: ‘Asian archaeology and heritage studies are enormously important for understanding how the modern world was shaped, and there is a growing need for world-class expertise in this area. The Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture has been developed to support research and training in various areas of Asian archaeology and heritage studies, and to offer opportunities for scholarly discussion, networking and collaboration.’
One of the Centre’s main aims is to increase the School’s academic links with Asian institutions in order to support major research programmes and encourage further research collaborations and student exchanges.
The Centre will also seek to work with scholars specialising in this field at institutions elsewhere around the world. Researchers at the School of Archaeology already have field projects in China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
To mark the Centre’s launch on 21 October, Dame Jessica Rawson will give a public lecture entitled ‘From Steppe Road to Silk Road: Inner Asia’s Interaction with and impact on China, 2000 BC – AD 1000’. Professor Rawson, Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, is to be affiliated to the School of Archaeology and the Centre, increasing its capacity in Chinese art and archaeology. Professor Rawson’s research covers a wide range, and her current project focuses on the Zhou dynasty (1045-221 BC) and China’s early interaction with Inner Asia. She has served as Keeper of the Department of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum and Warden of Merton College. Professor Rawson is a Fellow of the British Academy and was made a Dame of the British Empire for services to oriental studies in 2002.
The three Co-Directors of the Centre are Professor Chris Gosden, Professor Mark Pollard and Dr Michael Petraglia. Dr Michael Petraglia was recently appointed to the School of Archaeology, in part because of his active field projects in India. These include an international study of the impact of the colossal Toba volcanic eruption (in what is now Indonesia) 74,000 years ago. His most recent research findings of Stone Age tools, suggest that humans migrated out of Africa 70,000 – 80,000 years ago, earlier than previously thought.
Also instrumental in the launch of the new Centre is Dr Nicole Boivin. Dr Boivin has conducted research in South Asia for 15 years and is the Director of the the SEALINKS Project, a new international project funded through a prestigious €1.2 million Starting Grant from the European Research Council. The Sealinks project is exploring the origins and development of early seafaring activity and long-distance trade in the Indian Ocean, including some of the earliest evidence for globalisation.
The new Centre has been supported by a gift from an anonymous donor to enable the creation of a new post of Assistant Director. The financial support will also pay for a research seminar series, conferences and workshops, and researcher and student exchanges.
To visit the Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture website click here.
Saturday, 25 September 2010
Friday, 3 September 2010
Though we are keen to learn more about the effects of the Toba super-eruption on ecosystems, especially given the paucity of such studies in India, we make the case that Martin Williams and his team have overstated their evidence. In a Palaeo-3 comment by Michael Haslam and myself, we assert that the new study provides no compelling evidence that clearly and convincingly links Toba to major and catastrophic impacts on ecological settings in India. For starters, as revealed by the illustration provided in Haslam and Petraglia (above), we point out that climatic cooling was well underway before the volcano exploded, thereby questioning the cause and effect relationship between Toba and environmental deterioration. Moreover, we argue that the so-called forest to grassland transition may be the consequence of natural changes in climatic regimes or even to other local depositional processes, such as the growth of grasses on top of ash. Indeed, we are highly skeptical that all vegetative communities across India responded in the same way after the ash was laid down. Instead, we suggest that a mosaic of ecological conditions existed across the subcontinent after the Toba event. On the basis of the current evidence, we see no reason to accept the claim, as forcefully made by Williams and his colleagues, that Toba altered the course of human and mammalian evolution. And, on this score, it is somewhat surprising to see that Williams and his team admit in a reply that the evidence to demonstrate a causal link between Toba and genetic bottlenecks is tenuous.
The Toba debate will not end here. But, stay tuned for additional publications that will soon appear on Toba and the archaeology of human populations residing along the Indian Ocean rim.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Conducting research with Swahili-speaking refugees in Kenya might have been tricky at that time, politically and research-permission-wise at least. The subsequent emigration of large numbers of Bajuni and others to Europe and North America has perhaps made it easier, though a generation has now grown up in a very different linguistic and cultural environment from that of their original homeland. Asylum-seekers’ histories of displacement, including their knowledge of language and place, are of special interest to the immigration authorities processing their claims and the civil society organisations and lawyers defending their rights. Since 2004 linguist Derek Nurse has engaged with numerous cases of refugees claiming to Bajuni from Somalia, and this work has seen him return to research that he began in northern Kenya in 1978 (Nurse 1980).
The academic fruits of this are now online in his Bajuni Database. This comprises a general overview of ‘Bajuni: people, society, geography, history, language’, a Bajuni lexicon, a grammatical sketch (that updates Nurse 1982), and three maps (one of the whole Bajuni coast, plus sketch maps of Chovae and Chula islands). These aren’t polished documents, but are very useful nonetheless. The overview – part of which is a gazetteer of Bajuni villages down to the Kenya border – is of particular interest. Very few Bajuni remain in Somalia, and their world is clearly not what it was in the days before the dictatorship of Siad Barre and the Somali Civil War. Current prospects for research on the south Somali coast and Bajuni islands don’t look good, and recording what we know of this lost world and its former inhabitants is the best we can do. It is also important for the Bajuni diaspora, and a poignant reminder of the widespread suffering that the Somali conflict has caused.
(This is an abridged version of an original post, 'The Lost World of the Bajuni', on the East African Notes and Records blog.)
Grottanelli, Vinigi L. 1955. Pescatori dell’Oceano indiano: saggio etnologico preliminare sui Bagiuni, Bantu costieri dell’Oltregiuba. Rome: Cremonese.
Nurse, Derek 1980. Bajuni historical linguistics. Kenya Past and Present 12: 34-43.
Nurse, Derek 1982. The Swahili dialects of Somalia and the northern Kenya coast. In M.-F. Rombi (ed.) Etudes sur le Bantu Oriental (Comores, Tanzanie, Somalie, et Kenya. Paris: SELAF. 73-l46.
Nurse, Derek 2010. Bajuni Database. Online at http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~dnurse/bajuni_db.html.
Thursday, 1 July 2010
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Monday, 31 May 2010
Giriama is one of the Mijikenda idioms and is closely related to Comorian, Swahili, and other Sabaki Bantu languages. Cognate bird names can therefore be found in the Comoros as well on many of the islands off the East African coast from Somalia in the north to Mozambique in the south. Tracking the linguistic history and geography of these and other animal names can provide important information about people's migrations and interactions in the past (cf. my 'Island Subsistence: Hunting, Trapping and the Translocation of Wildlife in the Western Indian Ocean'). Bird names are particularly useful in this regard because we have better information about avian distributions and environmental preferences than we do for many other groups of animals.
(For more on the Dakatcha checklist and other aspects of Mijikenda ethnoornithology see the original post on 'Giriama Bird Names', and an earlier one on 'Birds of Omen and Little Flying Animals with Wings', at my East African Notes and Records blog.)
Saturday, 22 May 2010
This article has now been finally published and paginated as part of a special issue on rice.
Friday, 21 May 2010
The Arabian peninsula is in a critical geographical position for understanding human movements out of Africa, as exemplified in a number of papers in a book co-edited by Petraglia and Rose, “The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia” (Springer, 2009). While some inroads have been made to understand the dispersal of modern humans and our archaic ancestors, relatively little interdisciplinary and long-term fieldwork has been conducted to tackle this problem. Our team aims to change this situation -- thanks to a new 5 year agreement with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities and in partnership with Dr. Abdullah Alsharekh of
In March of this year a small team of interdisciplinary specialists conducted a pilot study in the palaeolake region of the
The joint fieldwork programme is part of a 5 year agreement between the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities and the
Saturday, 15 May 2010