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Science Policy

Investigating Cultural Evolution Using Phylogenetic Analysis: The Origins and Descent of the Southeast Asian Tradition of Warp Ikat Weaving
Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Author: Christopher D. Buckley

by Christopher D. Buckley

The warp ikat method of making decorated textiles is one of the most geographically widespread in southeast Asia, being used by Austronesian peoples in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, and Daic peoples on the Asian mainland. In this study a dataset consisting of the decorative characters of 36 of these warp ikat weaving traditions is investigated using Bayesian and Neighbornet techniques, and the results are used to construct a phylogenetic tree and taxonomy for warp ikat weaving in southeast Asia. The results and analysis show that these diverse traditions have a common ancestor amongst neolithic cultures the Asian mainland, and parallels exist between the patterns of textile weaving descent and linguistic phylogeny for the Austronesian group. Ancestral state analysis is used to reconstruct some of the features of the ancestral weaving tradition. The widely held theory that weaving motifs originated in the late Bronze Age Dong-Son culture is shown to be inconsistent with the data.
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