Edmund Edwards McKinnon has been intermittently resident in Southeast Asia since 1960. He studied agriculture at the Edinburgh and East of Scotland College of Agriculture and thereafter held posts in plantation agriculture in Indonesia and South India. He discovered the mediaeval harbour site of Kota Cina near Belawan, Deli in 1972 and since then has been involved in archaeological and art historical research in Sumatra. He has gone on to identify several mediaeval settlement sites in north Sumatra and Aceh, including Kota Rentang, as well as Pulau Kompeh in Aru bay and the Pancu / Lambaroneujid site west of Banda Aceh. He noted the destruction of prehistoric shell middens at Hinai in the early 1970s and thereafter became interested in mediaeval export ceramic wares.
Ed has been involved in excavation work at Kota Cina and Kota Rentang in north Sumatra; in Palembang and Batujaya with the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), at Cot Me near Ladong; and at Lhok Cut, Lamreh, Aceh Besar regency with the Earth Observatory of Singapore, helping to recover evidence of historical tsunamis in the Aceh region.
His current interests include mediaeval inter-regional commerce between the Middle East, South Asia and China, the trading activities of the Tamil guilds and their cultural and linguistic impact on the Karo element of north Sumatra; the arrival of Islam, mediaeval trade ceramics, including South Asian red earthen wares and Chinese and Southeast Asian stonewares; and early Dutch colonial accounts of the hinterland of Kota Cina, in particular the Karo area of northern Sumatra.