From the 26th to the 29th of March the Tanah Datar Archaeological Project hosted an international workshop with guests from far and near. Our guests provided expertises in various interrelated fields of study that have been the backbone of this project from the onset. The group of researchers, including Prof. Dr. John Miksic an archaeologist from the National University in Singapore, Prof. em. Dr. Hermann Kulke a historian from the Universität Kiel and Prof. Dr. Arlo Giffiths an epigraphist from the Ecole Française d'Extreme Orient, as well as the project directors Dominik and Mai Lin, and other team members such as Budi Istawan from the BP3 and Pak Lucas from the Balai Arkeologi Medan discussed topics regarding the material from the site of Bukit Gombak and the surrounding area in connection with more broad themes and questions. Several of the topics talked about and reflected upon included:
- early state formation in the context of lowland and highland exchanges
- the reconstruction settlement patterns before, during and after the interregnum of Ādityavarman
- relations between the highlands and lowlands and its effect on the socio-economic conditions of the highlands
- megalithic remains in Tanah Datar as grave markers and communal meeting sites
- material culture: local earthenware and imported ceramics (e.g. the Indian influence (?), imports from mainland Southeast Asia and China during the Sung, Yuan and early Ming Dynasties)
- the connection to Dharmasraya: new finds at the BP3 Museum e.g. stone and bronze images from Tanah Datar and Dharmasraya
- Ādityavarman and his inscriptions
- revised Chinese sources on the late Srivijaya-Melayu period
These themes and questions set the backdrop for a preliminary analysis of some of the finds made at Bukit Gombak and surrounding areas during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. For instance it became clear that the repertoire of imported ceramics found at Bukit Gombak includes pieces from a manifold of Southeast Asian countries (for example China, Vietnam, Cambodia) as well as from India and even as far as Persia. This opens an entirely new array of questions concerning the involvement of the Tanah Datar region and the site of Bukit Gombak in a far greater international setting than previously anticipated. Also the importance of pottery and ceramics for dating has once again become apparent with initial indications pointing toward a intensive settlement during the 14th century and thereafter, a period with almost no material evidence not only on a regional or even Sumatra-wide level, but also on a macro-scale, where this post- Ādityavarman era remains a ‘dark-age’ within all of Southeast Asia.
These new insights and developments, substantially bought about by the visit of our guests and their contributions, show the truly international character not only of the workshop and its participants itself but also of the material being discussed!