Tanah Datar: Early state formation in relation to lowland and highland exchanges on Sumatra
Since the earliest times Sumatra has been renowned for its gold, camphor and precious forest products. As well as these vast and sought-after natural resources the island has yet another asset: its strategic location, bordering the Strait of Malacca, one of the world’s busiest maritime routes. For 2000 years trade linking China and India and points further west has passed its shores. Sumatra, and particularly its eastern coast, was therefore a favourable place for early polities to develop. These coastal polities derived their wealth by controlling the Strait of Malacca and through trading products from the the hinterlands on the international market. Over time highland regions and lowlands polities developed complex interactions that we are only just beginning to understand.
The Tanah Datar Archaeological Project will focus on the time of Ādityavarman (1343-1375 AD), a late ruler of Malayu, who established himself in the Minangkabau area of highland Sumatra. His reign, documented by 14th century inscriptions, constitutes the only chronological anchor for the early history of the region. Therefore, some of the projects research aims are:
1) to gain a better insight into the relations between the lowlands and highlands and effects on the socio-economic conditions in the upper regions,
2) to document the material culture at the transition between pre- and early state formation in the highland region.
The archaeological project is connected to a philological research which aims to translate the whole corpus of the Ādityavarman inscriptions.