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Chris Buckley Seven Thousand Year Conversation

The Seven Thousand Year Conversation: Tracing Ancestry Through Weaving Traditions in the Asia Pacific Region

Presented by Chris Buckley Saturday, February 9, 2019, 10 am Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum

Admission: Free for current members of the TAC; $5 for students and members of FAMSF; $10 General Admission

In the past two decades fascinating stories have emerged of human migrations over thousands of years and across vast distances. Most of this work has been led by linguists and geneticists, yet material culture also has a unique, but under-appreciated role to play as a marker of culture. In this talk Chris Buckley will discuss one of the last and greatest of human migrations, the Austronesian journey from the Asian mainland via Taiwan and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Austronesian sailors settled a vast region stretching from remote Pacific islands in the east, through the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos and as far as Madagascar in the west. They carried with them a suite of textile techniques that originated on the Asian mainland in the Neolithic period, including yarn preparation, a distinctive body-tensioned loom and the warp ikat technique. They used these to make a variety of textiles for practical and ceremonial use, including blankets and sarongs (tubeskirts). While each island has its own distinct designs, common themes can be seen in motifs and design layout. Taken as a whole, there is evidence for the continuous transmission of weaving from mother to daughter since at least the late Neolithic period and possibly longer, a transmission that is now under threat from societal change and modernization.

The story told by the distribution of weaving techniques and textile motifs across the Pacific confirms the broad outline discovered by linguists, but it also provides new evidence that the migratory story was not as simple as has been previously supposed. In particular it shows that the “out of Taiwan” story told by linguists is only partly true. Characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques, including the loom and tubeskirt, do not appear to have originated on Taiwan, the supposed homeland of the Austronesian peoples, but seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland. Chris will present evidence for this and discuss the reasons why mainland-derived weaving techniques were important to early migrants.

The talk will be illustrated with textiles from various regions, particularly ikats, and Chris’s photographs of weavers and weaving from the islands of Indonesia.

Please note: Following this lecture, at 1 p.m., the Twelfth Annual Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Memorial lecture will be given, also in the Koret Auditorium.

Chris Buckley was educated at Balliol College, Oxford and Wolfson College, Oxford, where he received his PhD in physical chemistry. For the past two decades he has lived mainly in Asia, but he now lives in Oxfordshire in the UK. Chris is a researcher in textiles, weaving technologies and traditional culture. His work combines classical qualitative methods with quantitative techniques. He is an independent scholar and a Member of the Common Room at Wolfson College, Oxford.

  1. Recent Publications: Buckley CD, Boudot E. (2017) The evolution of an ancient technology. Royal Society Open Science 4: 170208.

  2. Buckley, Christopher (2017) Looms, weaving and the Austronesian expansion. In Spirits and Ships: Cultural Exchanges in Monsoon Asia, Acri A, Blench RM and Landmann A (eds), ISEAS, Singapore.

  3. E Boudot and C Buckley (2015) The Roots of Asian Weaving, Oxbow Books, Oxford.

  4. Buckley CD (2012) Investigating Cultural Evolution Using Phylogenetic Analysis: The Origins and Descent of the Southeast Asian Tradition of Warp Ikat Weaving, Buckley, CD. PLoS ONE 7(12): e52064.

Image Credit: Weaver from the island of Lembata, Indonesia, weaving a cloth for a sarong with ikat decoration, using a body-tensioned loom. Photo courtesy of Chris Buckley.


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