Population, Trade and Settlement in Early Southeast Asia

Prof John N. Miksic

"Archaeology shows that ancient Singapore was a rich trading port in the 14th century. Thousands of artifacts have been found to prove this."

This project targeted archaeological excavation and analysis of artifacts from proto-historic sites in Southeast Asia that formed links in networks of ancient exchange and communication networks.

Early historic (ca. 11th-16th centuries AD in Maluku; 1st to 6th centuries AD in Cambodia and Myanmar; 11th century in Jambi, Sumatra) settlement, exchange, communication and influence within Southeast Asia are under-researched topics.

The analysis conducted through this project constitutes an important component of multi-disciplinary long-term research conducted by A/P John Miksic and his collaborators. These include the University of Hawaii Sago Project in Maluku in 1990, the Creativity and Culture Program of the Rockefeller Foundation grant to the Center for Khmer Studies, Siem Reap, Cambodia; and the Osteoarchaeology Research Group, NUS. Preliminary survey and testing was conducted as part of D. Kyle Latinis' Ph.D. dissertation work with the National University of Singapore. Fieldwork for the project was conducted in Maluku,Singapore, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

The project supported fieldwork to acquire samples, which were analyzed using archaeological tests of age and artifact composition vital to satisfying professional standards for archaeological reporting and interpretation. Because of the scarcity of interdisciplinarians working in Southeast Asian archaeology however, they have rarely been applied in this region.


Objectives included:

  1. Acquisition of vital new information regarding the evolution of Southeast Asian civilization and the role of maritime trade in that process
  2. Breaking new ground in the study of the physical remains of early Southeast Asian people.
  3. Exploitation of interdisciplinary methodology through the application of archaeological laboratory methods (radiocarbon dating, energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence compositional analyses, scanning electron microscopy, and thin section petrography) to archaeological materials from Maluku, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
  4. Expansion of newly-formed connections between the Southeast Asian Studies Programme, NUS, and Cambodian institutions including the Center for Khmer Studies and the Royal University of Fine Arts.
  5. Training of students in advanced laboratory techniques
    Collaborative arrangements were made with the Physics Department's Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence laboratory. The Osteoarchaeology Research Group (ORG) at NUS obtained rights to study two 2,000-year-old skeletons discovered at Angkor, Cambodia, by the École Française d'Extrême-Orient. APSARA, the Khmer institution which supervises the development of the Angkor region, was fully involved in the project. At NUS, the ORG consists of approximately 10 specialists from the Faculty of Medicine and 2 from the FASS.

The radiocarbon analysis and petrographic sampling required the use of labs outside of Singapore which specialize in scientific analyses of archaeological material.

A/P Miksic, of the Southeast Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore, was the leader of an archaeology project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation through the Center for Khmer Studies. Three Cambodian sub-projects were approved by the board of the Center. Cambodian and Indonesian counterparts participated fully. A/P Miksic is also the fieldwork supervisor of Mr. Shah Alam Mohd Zaini's project in Sri Ksetra, Myanmar. Rethy Chhem was the leader of the Osteoarchaeology Research Group and is also a member of the board of the Center for Khmer Studies.


A list of A/P Miksic's publications is available for download here.



John N. Miksic is Associate Professor in the Southeast Asian Studies Programme, and a researcher at the Asia Research Institute.

A/P Miksic was born in Rochester, New York, USA, and has lived in Kedah and Penang, Malaysia (4 years, 1968-72; U.S. Peace Corps volunteer); San Pedro Sula, Honduras (1975; taught at a Cornell University field school); Medan, north Sumatra (1976-77; archaeological fieldwork); Bengkulu, Sumatra (1979-1981; USAID consultant in rural development planning and management); Yogyakarta, Java (1981-1987; project specialist in archaeology supported by Ford Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council); and Singapore (1987-now; associate professor in history, Southeast Asian Studies, and the Asia Research Institute). He is an archaeologist/historian/art historian whose interests include ancient cities, temples, sculptures, and ceramics in ancient Southeast Asia. His research focuses on Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Myanmar. He has translated Malay historical texts and Indonesian archaeological reports into English.


A/P Miksic can be contacted by:
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Telephone: (65) 6516 6338

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Dean's Office, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences National University of Singapore

  • Add: The Shaw Foundation Building, Block AS7, Level 5
  • 5 Arts Link, Singapore 117570
  • Tel: +65 6516 6133
  • Email: fashelp@nus.edu.sg
  • Fax: +65 6777 0751
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