For several reasons, research on the origins of complex societies in the Old World gives little attention to Southeast Asia relative to other geographic regions (e.g. Cowgill 2004, Stein 2001). The paucity of published material and a prevailing emphasis on insular, rather than mainland, Southeast Asia, particularly after the fifth century A.D. (Christie 1995
Manguin 2000, 2004
Miksic 2000), has dwarfed our knowledge of the Southeast Asian mainland. Significant organizational changes occurred, however, in mainland Southeast Asia, between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500 that established the foundation for the regions earliest states along its South China Sea coasts and major inland river valleys, from Myanmar to Vietnam. Few archaeologists have ventured into this territory, which has traditionally been controlled by historians and philologists. Yet the Southeast Asian mainland, similar to its island neighbors to the south (Lape 2003), was an important cultural crossroads, and archaeological research is essential for deciphering local, regional, and macroregional developments that involved the Near East, South Asia, and East Asia. This review article examines physical and cultural parameters of early state formation because these landscapes shaped, and were shaped by, their human inhabitants. This chapter has three central goals: (a) to provide a historical background on the study of early Southeast Asian landscapes
(b) to discuss the scale and nature of Southeast Asian landscapes that scholars have studied, examining both social and economic forces that structured their production
and (c) to discuss key themes for future research.