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The Seven Thousand Year Conversation: Tracing Ancestry Through Weaving Traditions in the Asia Pacific Region.

Workshop by Christopher Buckley, on Friday 19 July, from 10.00 - 13.00, at the Textile Research Centre (TRC), Hogewoerd 164, Leiden.

Participants of the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) have free entry; others pay 25 euro. For both groups: please register in advance: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In the past two decades fascinating stories have emerged of human migrations over thousands of years and across vast distances. Most of this work has been led by linguists and geneticists, yet material culture also has a unique, but under-appreciated role to play as a marker of culture.

In this talk, Chris Buckley will discuss one of the last and greatest of human migrations, the Austronesian journey from the Asian mainland via Taiwan and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Austronesian sailors settled a vast region stretching from remote Pacific islands in the east, through the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagos and as far as Madagascar in the west.

They carried with them a suite of textile techniques that originated on the Asian mainland in the Neolithic period, including yarn preparation, a distinctive body-tensioned loom and the warp ikat technique. They used these to make a variety of textiles for practical and ceremonial use, including blankets and sarongs (tubeskirts).

While each island has its own distinct designs, common themes can be seen in motifs and design layout. Taken as a whole, there is evidence for the continuous transmission of weaving from mother to daughter, since at least the late Neolithic period and possibly longer, a transmission that is now under threat from societal change and modernization.

The story told by the distribution of weaving techniques and textile motifs across the Pacific confirms the broad outline discovered by linguists, but it also provides new evidence that the migratory story was not as simple as has been previously supposed. In particular it shows that the “out of Taiwan” story told by linguists is only partly true. Characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques, including the loom and tubeskirt, do not appear to have originated on Taiwan, the supposed homeland of the Austronesian peoples, but seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland. Chris will present evidence for this and discuss the reasons why mainland-derived weaving techniques were important to early migrants.

The talk will be illustrated with Chris’s photographs of weavers and weaving from the islands of Indonesia.


The number of participants is limited. Please register in advance at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For non-ICAS participants there is a fee of €25.


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Hogewoerd 164
2311 HW Leiden.
Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 /
+31 (0)6 28830428  

The TRC is open again from Tuesday, 2nd June, but by appointment only.

Bank account number:
NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59,
Stichting Textile Research Centre

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -27 August 2020: American Quilts

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