This session evaluates the role of archaeology in contributing new interpretations to religious practice in Southeast Asia's past. Origins, integration and demise of belief systems are investigated through excavation, analysis and scalar perspectives of the region's rich material culture.
Religion played a critical role in the development of Southeast Asia's prehistoric and historic cultures. Foreign belief systems such as Brahmanism, Buddhism and Islam were adopted, integrated and re-shaped within the local animist foundations generating distinct and in some cases unique interpretations of each religion. Over the past century, text, architectural and art based approaches have established the character of SE Asian religion(s) generating an excellent foundation to begin assessing important questions of practice throughout the region. Recent global discussions of the archaeology of religion (Insoll 2001, 2011) show its evolution beyond proving the existence of text-based facts to providing new insight into practice and variations within material culture. This session presents new research, techniques and questions that seek to explore the articulation of objects, site and landscape within state-level actions that concern entire territories to evidence of household shrines in prehistoric settlements. Topics will include issues such as origins and introduction of religions, material syncretism, ideal versus actual reproduction of material, religious change and its ultimate decline. Finally, and perhaps more importantly, a critical emphasis in our discussions will be the impact of economic, social and political processes in the final manifestation of the religions we find in the archaeological record.