Material Matters: Reflections on the History of Settlement Development Across Mainland Southeast Asia


Despite decades of research into the historic settlements of Mainland Southeast Asia, our understanding of the region’s long-term settlement history remains incomplete. We know, for example, that mainland Southeast Asia was home to the world’s most extensive pre-industrial low-density urban complex at the site of Greater Angkor in Cambodia – but we don’t know how the site, and its low-density configuration, fits within the broader settlement history of the region. Yet understanding these settlement histories is important not only for understanding what happened in the past, but also for how we interpret settlement patterns developing across the region today. Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Ben Dharmendra takes us on a journey spanning millenia to explore the long-term history of settlement development across Mainland Southeast Asia.

About Ben Dharmendra:

Ben Dharmendra recently completed his PhD at the University of Sydney. His research is focused on how human settlements develop through time and the effects they create. His PhD project involved reconstructing the long-term history of Mainland Southeast Asian settlements and how this history influenced the development of the region from around 500BCE to 1900CE.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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