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Reviewed by:
  • Land of Iron. The Historical Archaeology of Luwu and the Cenrana Valley
  • Ian C. Glover
Land of Iron. The Historical Archaeology of Luwu and the Cenrana Valley. David Bulbeck and Ian Caldwell. 2000. Hull: Centre for South-East Asian Studies, University of Hull. 141 pp, 7 figures, 8 maps, 9 tables. ISBN 0-903122-08-1.

The authors describe this as the second, but still preliminary, report on the joint Australian-British-Indonesian OXIS project on the Origin of Complex Society in South Sulawesi, and it includes short reports on 29 excavated sites, and 56 sites which were surveyed in the ancient kingdom of Luwu at the head of the Gulf of Bone, Sulawesi, in central Indonesia.

The slim volume contains five sections: (1) A historical account of the kingdom of Luwu based on oral traditions, especially the epic 'La Galigo' cycle, and the historical lontara texts for which South Sulawesi is justifiably famous; (2) A summary of the field research program in different parts of ancient Luwu; (3) An interpretation of the research findings in the light of the historical traditions with suggestions for a new chronology based on radiocarbon dates and an analysis of the imported, largely Chinese ceramics found at many of the sites; (4) Four appendixes listing the ceramic finds and forty-two new radiocarbon dates; and (5) A six-page bibliography, useful in its own right since the abundant literature on the cultures and history of South Sulawesi is not always easy to track down as it occurs in Dutch, Indonesian, French, English, and German, not to mention sixteenth- and seventeenth-century descriptions in Portuguese.

The volume is perhaps best read in company with the book, The Bugis, by [End Page 172] the French anthropologist Christian Pelras (1996) on which in some ways it is a commentary. Pelras advanced a proposition, developed on the basis of a reading of the lontara and analyses of the La Galigo epic cycle by many people including himself and Ian Caldwell, that Luwu was the earliest of the historical Bugis kingdoms and its court, from the fifteenth century, was the source of much of Bugis elite culture and traditions. Luwu and its successors were essentially agrarian kingdoms in which external trade was important but not the main source of the wealth and power of the rulers. In contrast, the La Galigo cycle tells of an earlier society—perhaps between the twelfth and fourteenth century A.D.—with divinely descended rulers centered in the northern part of what is now southwestern Sulawesi, in which the political economy depended on maritime trade with other parts of the Indonesian archipelago. The La Galigo society came to an end in the early fourteenth century and after a period of anarchy, the 'Age of Chaos' mentioned in later Bugis chronicles, a number of new, sago and rice-based agrarian kingdoms arose, of which Luwu was the first and for long predominant.

In the OXIS project Bulbeck and Caldwell are attempting to test this reconstruction through excavating and dating ancient settlement sites in and around Luwu—an ambitious attempt and perhaps the first sustained such piece of research in Southeast Asia aiming to integrate historical and archaeological data within a closely defined region. Additionally, they have examined coastal-hinterland relationships around the Gulf of Bone within the framework of Bronson's well-known (1977) model. To this end they set out (pp. 14–15) a number of hypotheses, which can be summarized thus:

  1. 1. That the Bugis kingdom of Luwu was founded at Malangkene by the fourteenth century A.D. on the basis of earlier, but not perhaps Bugis occupation of the region.

  2. 2. That the presence of high-grade iron ore, rich soils, and dammar (fossil resin) deposits in the region were sufficient to ensure the prosperity of the kingdom.

  3. 3. That another, more southerly kingdom of Cina located near the mouth of the Cenrana River was either a trade-based or agrarian kingdom (or both?), later absorbed for some time by Luwu.

Fieldwork was started in 1992 with an extended survey and trek across Sulawesi by Caldwell when he recognized many archaeological sites, which were identified by local informants with places...