The 'Metal Age' at the niah Caves, c. 2000-500 years ago
The term 'Metal Age', sometimes with locally-specific sub-divisions such as 'early', 'develop d' and 'protohistoric', is used in Island Southeast Asia a harthand for the p · riod from about 200 years g until the arrival of Europ ans. Tt \· as originally pr posed because of th· Ia k f clear chron logical sep<~ ration between the appearan e of iron and bronze in th region, compared with on the Asian Mainland (Bellwood 1999, 116; Fox 1970, 121-2; T. Harrisson 1970, 30; van Heekeren 1958, 1). Despite the fact that people at Niah may have been acquainted with metal from c. 2500 BP (Chapter 7, pp. 289-90), the term Metal Age remains a useful tag for a period beginning c. 2000 BP that is inherent! diverse, and often eclectic. Perhaps because of this diversit there have been remarkably few attempts at synthesi , scholars tending to focus on the technology and distribution of metal artefacts (e.g. Chia 2007; Soejeno 1980) or on dominant external cultural influences and their local manifestations (e.g. been able to undertake thus far. Hence we can only present here a preliminary assessment of the material and its implications for the nature of the 1etal Age in northwest Borneo, Anal !;is is complicated by the lack of an agreed Met
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