What's in a name? The status of Dvāravatī today
Nicolas Revire (Thammasat University/Paris 3-Sorbonne nouvelle)
Paper short abstract:
This paper ponders whether the application of such a broad concept as "Dvāravatī" is appropriate or, indeed, even useful for the appreciation and understanding of this complex and multifaceted material culture phenomenon of early central Thailand.
Paper long abstract:
What do we really know about Dvāravatī? Lasting from approximately the sixth to the ninth centuries CE and focused in today's central Thailand, Dvāravatī in one or another form has been of major concern to Thai and Southeast Asian art historians and archaeologists for over 80 years. Moreover, it has recently been the focus of several international blockbuster exhibitions. Dvāravatī is often referred to as a kingdom, a time period, a material culture, a geographical entity, an art style, even just a "culture", or any combination of these. What does the material and epigraphic evidence support? Academic debates mainly relate to issues of dating and geographical extent, such as, which centuries marked the beginning and end of a so-called "Dvāravatī period" and how extensive were the geographical limits of these art forms. However, virtually no discussion has taken place about why this artistic or cultural period should be defined by the name of an elusive polity or to what extent something called "Dvāravatī art" has any reality. This paper presents an overview of recent findings and compares different interpretations as well as reassesses commonly held assertions about Dvāravatī.
Recent advances in the archaeology of central Thailand