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Reviewed by:
  • Southeast Asian Archaeology: Wilhelm G. Solheim II Festschrift
  • Peter Lape
Southeast Asian Archaeology: Wilhelm G. Solheim II Festschrift. Victor Paz, ed. Manila: University of the Philippines Press, 2004.

This Festschrift volume edited by Victor Paz is a fascinating read and would be a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in the intellectual history and present state of Southeast Asian archaeology. Comprised of 31 chapters from a wide variety of contributors including Bill Solheim's colleagues, students, and others who have been influenced by his work, it provides a glimpse into the intersection of Solheim's biography and the trajectory of archaeology in Southeast Asia since the late 1940s.

The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 ("Bill and Archaeology") includes seven chapters that trace Solheim's contributions to the field, his life history, and the development of archaeological research in Southeast Asia. I found this part to be the most interesting and valuable section of the volume. Many of the oral traditions of the early days of research in the region, the [End Page 110] origins of professional organizations (such as the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association), academic journals (such as Asian Perspectives), and departments (particularly those at the University of Hawai'i and the University of the Philippines) are here committed to print. For those of us who are relative newcomers to the region and the field, this section provides fascinating insights into the particular history of the discipline and the region. Chapters by Shutler, Golson and Kennedy, Ronquillo, and Meacham in particular give a personal glimpse into Solheim's life as an archaeologist and the early days of current institutions like IPPA and Asian Perspectives. Other chapters further contextualize this personal history in terms of continuing theoretical debates about ceramics (Stark) and population movements (Oppenheimer). Glover closes this section with a discussion of Western scholarly involvement in Southeast Asian archaeology in relation to larger political shifts from colonialism to postcolonial nationalism.

It is interesting to note that the conflicts of interest between foreign and local archaeologists in the current nationalist environment described by Glover seem to have been largely circumvented by Solheim himself. Many of the contributions in the second and third parts of this volume are written by Solheim's students from Thailand and the Philippines, and their contributions are examples of the legacy of Solheim's deep and ongoing commitment to training Southeast Asian students in archaeology. The strength of the archaeology program at the University of the Philippines, for example, is in part a result of Solheim's participation as resident scholar, teacher, and mentor of students. Solheim appears to be a model for moving beyond foreign–local conflicts, through engaging and mentoring colleagues and students, teaching in Southeast Asian institutions, and promoting wider interest in Southeast Asian archaeology both within and beyond academia.

Parts 2 and 3 ("Island Southeast Asia" and "Mainland Southeast Asia") are comprised of a mix of descriptive reports and methodologically and theoretically oriented papers from these respective regions. As editor, Paz clearly cast a wide net in his quest for contributions, and the result is voluminous if somewhat mixed in quality. Indeed, a heavier editorial hand might have made for a lighter read; the binding on my copy soon gave out under the strain of supporting over 600 pages. A number of chapters are descriptive site reports, which at first seemed to be a poor fit for this volume. However, as detailed reports on Southeast Asian sites are rarely published, I also welcome any opportunity to get this material into print. Standouts include chapters by Szabo, Kelly, and Peñalosa on Ille Cave, Palawan, and Voeun and von den Driesch on Angkor Borei fish. Three of these chapters include descriptions of older excavations that had not been previously published, or reports on recently reexcavated sites. These valuable contributions include Lertrit's chapter on new excavations at Sab Champa, Welch and McNeil on partially completed analysis of ceramics excavated from Ban Suai in 1966, and Allen's report on the 1963–1964 excavations at Ban Makha, which presumably have not been published before. Several excellent chapters focus on the Hoabinian and are more analytical in presentation, including...