Few archaeologists are familiar with the variety of states and empires that characterized premodern Southeast Asia. Angkor, or the Khmer Empire, has become the exception to this rule as researchers have returned to its epicenter after a long period of geopolitical conflict. This lecture reflects on two decades of field-based archaeological research to review the anatomy and physiology of the Khmer Empire, based for most of its 600-year history in Greater Angkor. Angkorian urbanism holds intrinsic interest, but also comparative value in studying ancient states. So does the less-developed topic of political economy regarding both Angkor’s agrarian foundations and its industrial-scale ceramic and metallurgical production. Discoveries of large-scale stoneware ceramic kiln complexes and vast iron production sites have prompted archaeologists to consider competing models of state production, and implications these models hold for understanding the Khmer Empire.
Dr. Miriam T. Stark (Professor, Anthropology, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, Hawai’i) has co-directed field-based archaeological projects across Cambodia for more than 25 years in collaboration with Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and APSARA Authority. Her work blends research and capacity-building to study the political economy and landscapes of Cambodia’s premodern states (find most of her publications here). She also currently directs the University of Hawai’i’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, a nationally-funded center whose mission is to support the study of Southeast Asia.
Dr. Eve Zucker, CKS President and Lecturer in Anthropology, Yale University, USA