Khmer rulers based at Angkor (9th-15th c CE) competed to control one of the largest and longest-lived of the pre modern agrarian polities of mainland Southeast Asia. Angkor is best known for the monuments, hydraulic works and transportation systems around its urban core. As yet, however, we understand little of how the Angkorian elite exerted political and economic control over their broader territory.
This project aims to reconstruct the wider core-hinterland relationships using stoneware production and exchange as a proxy for political expansion and contraction.
In order to track the dynamics of stoneware production and exchange, we are undertaking a large scale program of provenancing and dating of Khmer stoneware kilns. This provides the structure for understanding where and when Khmer stonewares were produced. We are also sampling stonewares from habitation sites, to evaluate the geographical range of stoneware exchange across the Khmer empire from different production centers – as well as how consumption varied over time with the cyclical changes in Khmer hegemony.
The Khmer city of Angkor, one of the most iconic pre-industrial cities of the world, offers an important example of the limits of pre-modern urban development. Ceramic provenance studies offer a useful strategy for investigating how the Khmer created and practiced economies of power beyond the Greater Angkor region.