Monday, April 3, 2023 - 5:30pm
Online via Zoom, and Luce Hall 202 (34 Hillhouse Avenue)
The archaeological record now includes several early figurines, some in museums, manufactured in South Asia yet excavated from distant, outremer findspots. Scholarship has focused on the origins of these objects as commodities. Recently, they have become attestations of Indian involvement in Indian Ocean networks supplementing textual indices in multiple languages. Burgeoning archaeological evidence from the Arabian Peninsula and the Eastern coast of Africa favors such an interpretation. Like a commodity model, it assumes a stable origin for small portable objects and, by extension, a stable emblematic meaning. Critics have already proposed the idea of multiple lives or afterlives over time. But a moving image meant many things at once to South Asian makers, mariners, and merchants. “Afterlives” are necessarily variable too. The existing record, I posit, can be read with what is known about its deposition conditions to demonstrate the varied semiotic potentials inherent in how Indian Ocean networks worked.
Divya Kumar-Dumas, Research Affiliate, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), is a historian of art and architecture who specializes in the designed landscapes of first millennium South Asia attested in archaeology and text. She treats landscapes as conceptually-driven architectural projects of place-making in the past. Her current research unpacks typologies for first-millennium Southern Asian ports using digital tools. She hopes to better understand relationships between known archaeological places and things to histories of Indian Ocean networks, trade, and movement. Related projects include “Indian Ocean Figures that Sailed Away,” an online series held at ISAW about a range of first-millennium archaeological finds of South Asian manufacture excavated far from the subcontinent.
The event is in a hybrid format. Register at: https://cutt.ly/Apr3SA