SNAFU: Thesis Edition

I have just hit a major snag in my undergraduate thesis.  It’s due on April 1st.  Ignoring all the jokes about my undergrad thesis being due on April Fool’s Day, this is a pretty big problem.  I may need to completely rewrite my thesis.

Until now, I’ve been looking at sites in Southeast Asia and assigning them to whichever polity they belonged to.  I was using those groupings to look at trade routes and connections in the region.

Here’s the catch: all of the information we have for these polities comes from sources that are foreign, non-contemporary, or both.  We don’t have an local sources from this time period telling us what or where or when these polities were.

And here’s the catch of the catch: the polity for which we had the most information (Funan) has recently been shown archaeologically as three separate groups which the foreign entity assumed were all the same people.  Even the polity that has the largest amount of documentary evidence is still not at all what those documents describe.  So I can’t possibly use the documentary sources for information on where and when these polities are, since even the best evidence still gets it wrong.

Bottom line: I don’t know what, where, or when any of these polities actually are.  And since I don’t know that, I can’t very well assign sites to these groups.

Which means the entire premise of my thesis is wrong.  In order to say group A is trading with group B, you don’t just need to be able to define groups A and B.  You need to make sure there actually was a group A and a group B.

I can’t talk about the trade networks, because I don’t know the nature of the groups involved.  And my 100-page thesis is due in 5 days.

It’s going to be a long week.


About Heather Christie

Heather is an archaeologist, photographer, and writer whose research focuses on beads and bead trade, particularly in a maritime sense. She's currently working working on a PhD in Digital Design (focusing on heritage visualisation) at the Glasgow School of Art.
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