Pejeng Type Bronze Drums and their Possible Role in Early Rice Cults in Bali – a seminar by Dr Ambra Carlo (Wed, 15 October 2008)

Speaker: Dr Ambra Calo
Date: Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Time: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

In this seminar we inquire whether bronze drums of the ‘Pejeng’ type played a role in rites associated with rice cultivation in Bali during the early first millenium AD. This would trace to the Metal Age the roots of the subak irrigation system, which is first mentioned in inscriptions dated to the eleventh century AD; the term for irrigated rice fields (sawah) appears as early as the ninth century AD. The role of Pejeng drums in early rice cults is suggested by the fact that the drums are mostly found in the vicinity of sources of irrigation water, whether lakes, springs or weirs in rivers. The shape and decoration of Pejeng drums are paralleled in modern representations of female deities associated with rice and irrigation water. The latter arose from a pre-Hindu substratum and were integrated into the Hindu-Balinese pantheon. Rites devoted to such deities are held today at sources of irrigation water, such as where water first enters fields (bedugul) and crater lakes, the highest sources.

About the speaker
Ambra Calo lives in Bali. Her mother tongue is Italian. She received her BA in Psychology and Non-Western Art History in 1994 from the University of California San Diego (UCSD). While enrolled there, she studies the language and culture of Indonesia at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta. Her MA at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, involved research on Chinese and Southeast Asian bronzes at the British Museum. From 2005 to 2007 she conducted research in Indonesia (Bali, Java, Sulawesi, Tanimbar, and Kei), the northern and central highlands of Vietnam, and Yunna and Guangxi, China. In November 2007 she received her PhD in Archaeology with a dissertation on Transitions of Feather World – The Distribution of Bronze Drums in Early Southeast Asia from SOAS. In the past three years she has excavated at Co Loa, north Vietnam, Ban Non Wat, northeast Thailand, and Pulai Ai, Indonesia.

Recently she studies heritage on the south coast of Lombok, Indonesia, for a tourism and mixed-use project. Her article “Heger I Bronze Drums and the Relationships between the Dian and Dong Son Cultures”, in Interpreting Southeast Asia’s Past: Monument, Image and Text, has just been published by NUS Press.