Clay Accumulators (Pigs and Piggy Banks): Intersections of Material Culture, Environment, and Symbolism in Majapahit Java and the Early Medieval West

In this paper, I explore the shared experiences of medieval Europe and Majapahit Java (13th to 16th c.) with pigs and the creative impetus for Majapahit celengan (what we would call “piggy banks”). Piggy banks (especially their origin/s) are a topic of popular interest, as attested by numerous articles and blogs of varying scholarly rigor attempting to answer the question “where did piggy banks come from?” I start from two slightly different questions. 1) Why are pigs associated with wealth across Eurasia? And 2), what internal cultural logic can explain the creation of Majapahit celengan? I answer these questions from symbolic and environmental angles using a comparative global environmental methodology that problematize simple questions of origin and grapples with concepts like entangled histories, material nature-culture, hybridity, and what it means to do global environmental history.