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(P15) Comparative studies of hunter-gatherers in Asia: from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles for long-term periods

Convenor: Kazunobu Ikeya, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan; Sakkarin Na Nan, Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna Nan

Abstract: Hunter-gatherers in Asia have some characteristics: they have adapted to diversified circumstances from the far north to tropical zones, and have contacted and maintained relationships with neighbours. The continuity, social changes, and historical transitions from nomadic to sedentary life of hunter-gatherers in Asia from prehistory to the present will be discussed.

Keywords: social change, continuity, prehistory, Southeast Asia, modern nations

Format: standard panel

Precirculated papers: none required


Among past anthropological studies of hunter-gatherers, academic theoretical contributions related to hunter-gatherers in Asia have been fewer than those related to Africa or North America. Nevertheless, regarded on a global scale, hunter-gatherers in Asia present some interesting regional characteristics: from prehistory to the present, they have adapted to diverse circumstances from the far north to tropical areas, and from terrestrial ecosystems including tundra and forests to water ecosystems including sea and lakes. It seems possible that they coexisted and had several relationships with Homo neanderthalensis and Denisova hominin during the Paleoasian period. Moreover, they maintained various relations with Chinese and Indian civilisations, some kingdoms including those of Thailand, and modern nations from advanced countries to developing nations. Furthermore, Southeast Asia and South Asia are the only areas where nomadic and semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers still exist today. 

In this session, the cultural continuities and social changes of hunter-gatherers in Asia from prehistory, i.e., tens of thousands of years ago, up to the present time will be considered mainly using examples of hunter–gatherers in Southeast Asia and South Asia. Moreover, in social culture, in order to associate modern ethnography with archaeological materials, we will highlight the relationship between technologies of subsistence and their symbolic behaviours including burials and accessories. Adding to this, the historical transition from nomadic to sedentary life will be one of the central themes. Through comparison of their presentations, common and disparate features of techniques, economies, and societies among hunter-gatherers in Asia can be discussed in depth. The comparison of cases across Asia will permit us to make new contributions to the future development of research on contemporary hunter-gatherer societies.




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