Dr Martin Polkinghorne

20032021

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Research Biography

Martin Polkinghorne is a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Flinders University.

Martin completed his PhD at The University of Sydney focussing on the people and technology that made the temples of Angkor. Between 2011 and 2014 he led an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery project on pre-modern craft economies in Cambodia. This initiative discovered the first historic bronze foundry known in Southeast Asia and continues to excavate at Angkor.

Martin is a Chief Investigator of the ARC funded Greater Angkor Project's Urbanism after Angkor (14th - 18th century CE): re-defining Collapse. The Greater Angkor Project is changing Cambodian history after the demise of Angkor, from depictions of defeat and loss toward recognition of adaptation and renewal. In a complementary research program, Martin led the ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) project New Light on Cambodia’s Dark Age: The capitals of Cambodia after Angkor (1350 – 1750).

Together these projects are conducting the first archaeological investigations of Cambodia's Early Modern Period capitals on the banks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap arterial rivers. Research of Cambodia during a time of quickening international trade retrieves this period from a perceived Dark Age, and reveals critical linkages between the celebrated Angkorian past and the present-day.

Martin is Director of the University of Sydney Angkor Research Facility in Siem Reap, an Honorary Research Fellow of the Asian Studies Program, The University of Sydney, and a Member of the Advisory Board of Friends of Khmer Culture Incorporated.

Research Interests

The focus of Martin's early career research was the production systems of pre-modern Asia, specifically at Angkor. During his Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship he discovered and excavated the first bronze workshop known in historic Southeast Asia. Additionally, he excavated a centre of sandstone manufacturing to understand how the Angkorian temples and sculptures were made.

Martin held a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, New Light on Cambodia's Dark Age: The capitals of Cambodia after Angkor (1350 - 1750). While the decline of Angkor is among the most significant events in the history of Southeast Asia, there is little known about the settlements that followed. This project conducted archaeology at Cambodia's Early Modern Capitals during a time of great expansion in international trade to retrieve the period from a perceived Dark Age, and revealed critical linkages between the celebrated Angkorian past and the present day. The research responded to an urgent need to conduct excavation of sites at risk of urban and industrial development.

Recognising the emergence of new urban forms after the demise of Angkor challenges the global "Collapse of Civilisation" trope, and is the objective of the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Urbanism after Angkor (14th-18th century CE): re-defining Collapse (Admin Org: The University of Sydney). This project proposes that continuity, renewal, variety and adaptation are as apparent in Cambodia's Early Modern Period as loss and failure. As a Chief Investigator, Martin and his collaborators continue long-standing multi-disciplinary investagations at Angkor and are conducting excavations at the Early Modern Period capitals on the banks of the Mekong and Tonle Sap arterial rivers.

Supervisory Interests:

  • Archaeology of Southeast Asia
  • Angkor
  • Archaeometry
  • Archaeology of the Early Modern Period
  • Politcal Economy and Archaeology

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