Southeast Asia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Southeast Asia’s Islamic archaeology remains unexplored and poorly understood. A perception even persists amongst some scholars that the region does not constitute fertile ground for the archaeologist, with its high humidity destroying valuable remains. This chapter, however, demonstrates that Southeast Asia is home to a fascinating array of early Islamic artifacts. Focusing on the sites of four early Southeast Asian Islamic kingdoms, namely Barus, Lambri, Samudera-Pasai, and Brunei, this chapter considers their archaeology in the context of recent claims that Muslims from China were involved in the region’s Islamization. Consonant with conversion, the chapter demonstrates that all four locations did indeed experience a connection of some sort with China. Most notably, all the sites (except Samudera-Pasai, for which no systematic ceramic evidence is available) yielded considerable amounts of Chinese pottery, pre-modern China’s principal export item. Three of the sites, Lambri, Samudera-Pasai, and Brunei, also witnessed the utilization of numerous Chinese artistic motifs in association with their earliest Islamic artifacts. Most strikingly, however, Brunei provides strong evidence not only of a much earlier sultanate than previously suspected but also of a direct connection with the major Chinese port of Quanzhou. While continually stressing that the presence of Chinese trade items and/or cultural influences does not establish a Chinese (Muslim or otherwise) presence at the examined locations, they do demonstrate that Southeast Asia’s first Muslim kingdoms emerged within an environment suffuse with Chinese trade goods and at a time when Chinese cultural influences were being freely adopted by the local Muslim population.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford handbook of Islamic archaeology
EditorsBethany Walker, Timothy Insoll, Corisande Fenwick
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9780197507872
ISBN (Print)9780199987870
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2021


  • Islamic archaeology
  • Cultural heritage
  • Islamization
  • Islamisation
  • Islamic conquests
  • Periodization
  • Islamic city
  • Regionalisms
  • Landscapes
  • Urbanization
  • Frontiers


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