The OXIS Project


Karaeng Demmanari examines the walls of Kalé Gowa

The Origin of Complex Society in South Sulawesi (OXIS) Project was an international multi-disciplinary project set up by David Bulback and Ian Caldwell Bulbeck in 1996 to study the social, economic and ecological origins of kingdoms (or complex chiefdoms) in the Bugis-speaking areas of South Sulawesi between c. 1200 and 1600 CE. Previous textual and archaeological research had pointed to wet-rice agriculture, iron metallurgy, and organised trade as the major economic factors underpinning the establishment of complex polities in South Sulawesi. OXIS was designed to assess the relative importance of these factors, and also to seek evidence of a hypothesized age of trade-based kingdoms representing a substantially earlier foundation of chiefly authority and succession known as the Age of Galigo, after the name of an epic Bugis poem.

The OXIS project stemmed from the discovery in 1993 of the ancient palace centre of Luwu at Malangke, on the central alluvial plain of the Gulf of Bone. Here was found the grave of the first Muslim ruler of Luwu, La Patiwareq, who converted to Islam in February 1605. Nearby lies the grave of his religious teacher, Dato Sulaiman. The village of Matano, on the mountainous northern shore of Lake Matano, was also identified as the possible source of the iron for which Luwu was famous.

OXIS ran for three years, from October 1997 to October 2000 and more than forty researchers participated. Excavations in Luwu started in April 1998 and continued, with rest periods, until March 1999. A final period of fieldwork in the lower and upper Cenrana valley was carried out over a three week period in July 2000. Basic materials analysis of artifacts from both regions was done at the OXIS laboratory at the Makassar Archaeology Office. Pollen and phytolith analyses were carried out at the Australian National University and metallurgical analysis at the University of Queensland.

The initial analysis of the data from Luwu and the Cenrana Valley was published the end of the three year research period in the form of a monograph (Bulbeck and Caldwell, 2000, Land of Iron; The archaeology of Luwu and the Cenrana valley. Hull: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies Occasional Monograph Series, University of Hull). Indonesian OXIS researchers held a workshop on the project in December 1999 and published an edited volume of papers (Moh. Ali Fadillah and I. Sumantri, [eds]. 2000, Kedatuan Luwu; Perspektif arkeologi, sejarah dan antropologi. Makassar: Lembaga Penerbitan Universitas Hasanuddin atas kerjasama dengan Institut Etnografi Indonesia). An international OXIS workshop was held at the Australian National University in August 2000.

More than 40 books and articles in Indonesian and English have resulted from the OXIS project, many of them co-authored.  Land of iron; The historical archaeology of Luwu and the Cenrana Valley is available in Pdf from the Books & Monographs page. See also the Australian National University 2000 Workshop report in Papers & Theses