Śriwijaya: Myth or Reality?

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Śriwijaya: Myth or Reality?

Type: Master thesis
Title: Śriwijaya: Myth or Reality?
Author: Bottenberg, Roy-William
Issue Date: 2010-05-04
Abstract: Śriwijaya was a kingdom on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia between 600 and 1400 A.D. It was discovered in 1918 in written records of Sumatran, Indian, Arabian and Chinese origin by Georges Coèdes. The records portrait Śriwijaya as a thalassocracy, a strong maritime empire that controlled the Straits of Malacca. In the last ten to twenty years, the image of Śriwijaya as a strong maritime thalassocracy, with a powerful navy, international trade and little contact with its hinterland as parameters, is falling apart. Archaeological excavations and surveys reveal no strong maritime empire, but polities or kingdoms, on Sumatra only and not polities across the Straits of Malacca. Almost all the archaeological data gathered in this thesis of the provinces of South-Sumatra and Jambi on Sumatra is placed in the context of the peer polity interaction theory and the mandala theory. A closer look at the archaeological data, together with the written records, to prove Śriwijaya did not last more than six centuries. It appears that the first polity of Śriwijaya was the polity at Palembang, South-Sumatra from roughly 650 to 1025 A.D, and the second polity of Śriwijaya was the polity at Jambi, Jambi from 1079 to 1400 A.D. The Cola raid in 1025 A.D. at Palembang shifted the capital of Śriwijaya to Jambi to maintain better contact with its hinterland by means of the Batang Hari river, for products such as gold, tin and non-timber forest products to reach the international market through Śriwijaya. Written records change when the capital shifted. Epigraphical sources on Sumatra on Śriwijaya dissappear, and its name changes in Chinese records. Despite the fact archaeological data reveals no strong thalassocracy, but instead reveals trade polities with good contact with their hinterland to maintain their trade products on which the international market depends, the image of Śriwijaya as a thalassocracy remains alive, by old epigraphical and other written records together with nation-building and Cultural Tourism by the Indonesian government. Future research should focus on the archaeological differences in material culture between Palembang and Jambi to define if Śriwijaya lasted over six centuries or if it was only the early polity at Palembang, where the polity at Jambi was different than its predecessor.
Supervisor: Hinzler, H.I.R.Bausch, I.R.
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archaeology
Language: English
ECTS Credits: 20
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/18901

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