Making changes to the blog

Dear readers, you might have noticed of late that I’ve been updating this blog a lot less frequenly that usual, and not because there is a lack of news. On the contrary, there is an ever-growing backlog of archaeology stories from Southeast Asia that I have yet to post, but it has been increasingly hard to keep up!

When I started this blog 10 (!) years ago the internet was a different place. Back then, I used this blog to manually index all the news stories about Southeast Asian archaeology. Today, news is much more easily shared through social media. Combined with my day job at SEAMEO SPAFA, which keeps me pretty busy in the work of promoting research, education and capacity building in Southeast Asian archaeology, I have had less time to attend to this site regularly and I find that many of the news stories I have saved to post for later have already been shared.

No, I’m not taking the website down – I believe the site is still a great information resource, and on a personal level it has been an endeavour I am proud of. But the times have changed, and the way I run this site must change too. For a start, I will post news stories through the Facebook page and Twitter account – this will make the news more timely and frequent. So I encourage you to follow me on those channels. For those who prefer not to use those Facebook or Twitter, I will also put up a Facebook window on this site so that you can read the news without having to be a member of Facebook.

The site itself will be updated with posts that are less time-sensitive, what I call slow posts, such as calls for papers and upcoming conference notifications. These kinds of posts often get lost in the unending stream of news but they need some time to digest and respond to. I will also continue to update the resources page on the website, and maybe post the occasional drone video when it relates to something archaeological.

Moving the bulk of the news posts to Facebook and Twitter will keep to the original spirit of the site as an archive of archaeology news from the region. I’m open to other suggestions on how to make this website more useful to you in the future – leave a comment below or email me. Thanks again for following the Southeast Asian Archaeology Newsblog, and I hope to see and interact with you on Facebook and Twitter.

The Southeast Asian Archaeology Facebook Group

SEAArch on Twitter

Borobudur authority mulls plan to restrict visitors

Authorities are considering restricting the number of visitors to Borobudur to 15 at any one time to limit structural damage to the ancient monument.

Borobudur. Source: Indonesia Investments 20160831
Borobudur. Source: Indonesia Investments 20160831

Govt to Only Allow 15 Visitors at a Time at Borobudur Temple
Jakarta Globe, 30 August 2016

Authorities Indonesia to Limit Visitor Numbers at Borobudur Temple
Indonesia Investments, 31 August 2016

The government plans to limit the number of visitors who will be allowed access to Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, to only 15 at any given time, an official said on Tuesday (30/08).

State-run Antara news agency quoted Nadjamuddin Ramly, the director of heritage and cultural diplomacy at the Ministry of Education and Culture, as saying that there are concerns about the preservation of the ninth-century Mahayana Buddhist temple. He said the Unesco World Heritage Site often receives hundreds of visitors, who all enter the at the same time, which may affect the building’s structural integrity.

He said the government will issue a regulation that limits the number of people allowed to enter at any given time. The figure of 15 is based on research data related to the structural capacity of the building.

Full stories here and here.

Hotels in Bagan’s protected zone in limbo

The Myanmar government is deciding between granting special exemptions or demolishing some 25 hotels that have been illegally built in the protected area of Bagan.

Hoteliers Left in Limbo in Bagan
The Irrawady, 22 August 2016

The government remains undecided on whether to grant official approval to unsanctioned hotels that were built in Bagan’s famed archaeological zone without the permission of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture.

Existing laws prohibit commercial buildings in Bagan’s archaeological zone but for 25 hotels that have already been built, the ministry is debating whether to allow or demolish them, said Aye Ko Ko, director of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, at a press conference on the ministry’s 100-day plan in Naypyidaw on Friday.

“According to the law, hotels, motels and guesthouses can’t be built in archaeological zones unless the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture approves. This approval cannot be authorized by local authorities or our department,” said Aye Ko Ko.

Full story here.

Bagan quake roundup

On August 24, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit central Myanmar, which affected over 400 of the temples in Bagan causing structural damage and collapse in some cases. There were relatively little human fatalities, fortunately.

Damage to Sulamani temple in Bagan. Source: BBC
Damage to Sulamani temple in Bagan. Source: BBC

Myanmar earthquake kills three, damages scores of ancient temples
Channel NewsAsia, 24 August 2016

Myanmar earthquake: One dead and temples damaged
BBC, 24 August 2016

Myanmar Quake Damages at Least 185 Bagan Pagodas
AP, via Wall Street Journal, 24 August 2016

Myanmar earthquake harms pagodas in ancient city of Bagan
NewsNation, 24 August 2016

Powerful quake kills at least three, damages Bagan pagodas
Myanmar Times, 25 August 2016

Famous Bagan pagodas damaged
AFP, via The Tribune, 25 August 2016

Myanmar earthquake: Images from Bagan historic sites
BBC, 25 August 2016

Bagan After the Quake: Concerns Over Manhandling of Debris
The Irrawady, 25 August 2016

Myanmar Earthquake Damages Bagan Temples
AP, via US News, 25 August 2016

Than Zaw Oo: ‘A Natural Disaster Can’t Devalue Bagan’s Heritage’
The Irrawady, 25 August 2016

Director-General of UNESCO expresses solidarity with the people of Myanmar after earthquake in Bagan
Unesco, 26 August 2016

Myanmar President Visits Bagan to Survey Quake-Damaged Pagodas
RFA, via Malaysia Sun, 26 August 2016

Research teams assesses Bagan damage
The Nation, 26 August 2016

Don’t rush Bagan fixes: state counsellor
Myanmar Times, 26 August 2016

Quake destroys Bagan murals
Eleven Myanmar, 28 August 2016

Myanmar Earthquake Rattles Temples of Bagan
Artnet News, 29 August 2016

Nearly 400 Bagan pagodas damaged by earthquake: govt
Myanmar Times, 29 August 2016

Volunteers in Bagan Trained in Earthquake Recovery
The Irrawady, 29 August 2016

Damaged pagodas covered in quake-hit Bagan
Myanmar Times, 01 September 2016

Volunteers Help Rebuild Bagan
Myanmore, 02 September 2016

Bagan earthquake: Is there a silver lining for Myanmar?
BBC, 08 September 2016

Prohibited Bagan pagodas named
Eleven Myanmar, 09 September 2016

The Trouble With Temple Restoration in Myanmar
The Diplomat, 26 September 2016

Two Temples in Bagan Collapse Two Months After Earthquake
The Irrawady, 27 October 2016

Yamashita’s gold as a modern take on an old tale

A new paper in the Journal of Folklore Research argues that the legend of Yamashita’s gold, a source of many a treasure-hunting expedition in the Philippines – is a modern iteration of a post-colonial longing for hope and prosperity.

Excavating a Hidden Bell Story from the Philippines: A Revised Narrative of Cultural-Linguistic Loss and Recuperation
Journal of Folklore Research
Vol. 53, No. 2 (May/August 2016), pp. 86-113

Yamashita’s gold has been found and it’s not what you think
Rappler, 07 August 2016

The hunt for war treasure in the Philippines has hidden meanings
Science Daily, 10 August 2016

Stories of hidden valuable artifacts are told in many parts of the Philippines. One such tale is of a church bell, concealed to prevent theft but now beyond reach (Motif V115.1.3, Sunken church bell cannot be raised). Typically, these stories are transmitted orally. However the small Eskaya community of southeast Bohol maintains a written version of a lost-bell tale included in a larger intergenerational archive of hand-copied literature. Since the early 1980s, the Eskaya have been an object of media interest for having consciously created their own “indigenous” language, writing system, and literary tradition. This paper examines the meanings of the Eskaya variant of the lostbell story in the context of community aspirations for recognition as an indigenous minority. In the Eskaya version, pre-Hispanic native faith is valorized over the corrupted Christianity introduced by Spain. The deliberately concealed church bell and its promised future retrieval recapitulates wider postcolonial narratives of cultural-linguistic suppression and revitalization, underscoring the agency of Eskaya people in their retrieval (or reinvention) of a pre-colonial indigenous identity.

Paper here.

Angkor admission prices to rise next year

Visitors to Angkor Wat will expect to pay about twice as much from next year as a new pricing plan comes into effect in February.

Angkor Wat entrance fee to double
The Telegraph, 05 August 2016

Angkor temple entrance fee to almost double in February
AP, via KSL.com, 05 August 2016

Angkor to hike entrance fees
TTR Weekly, 08 August 2016

Angkor Wat ticket price hike could hurt visitor numbers: experts
Phnom Penh Post, 08 August 2016

Angkor Wat Ticket Prices Set to Rise After Government Takeover
Cambodia Daily, 08 August 2016

Stolen Buriram lintel believed found in San Francisco

A lintel that was stolen from an Angkorian temple in Thailand’s Buriram province is believed to be found in a museum at San Francisco.

Lintel believed to be stolen from Buriram province. Source: Bangkok Post 20160804
Lintel believed to be stolen from Buriram province. Source: Bangkok Post 20160804

Priceless Buri Ram lintel found in San Francisco
Bangkok Post, 04 August 2016

A Buri Ram-based conservation group has kick-started a campaign to press for the return of a “lintel”, a decorative object above a gate, believed to have been smuggled out of Thailand decades ago.

Tanongsak Harnwong, leader of Samnuek 300 Ong conservation group, said the pre-Angkorean lintel, which was made of white sandstone in the Kleang-Baphuon style and featured Lord Yama, or the god of death, surrounded by flowers, was on exhibition at the Chong Moon Lee museum in San Francisco. It was believed to have been stolen from Nong Hong temple in Buri Ram’s Non Dindaeng district some 50 years ago.

He said the group obtained a photo of the lintel and compared it with one taken by the late archaeologist Manit Vallibhotama, who took the photo of the famous Vishnu reclining on the Serpent Ananta lintel at Phanom Rung sanctuary, and found the two were identical. “They look like the same item,” said the businessman-turned-conservationist who was involved in the restoration of Nong Hong temple in 2002-2003.

Full story here.

Shell midden discovered in old church grounds

Archaeologists in the Philippines make a chance discovery of a shell midden when visiting an old church. With the cooperation of the authorities they were able to document the site and suggest future directions for the construction to minimise impact to the site. The site contains human bones, which may indicate some sort of pre-Hispanic burial site.

Pre-Hispanic burial ground unearthed in CamSur town
Philippine Inquirer, 31 July 2016

A team of archaeologists and graduate students from different universities in the United States accidentally found a pre-Hispanic burial ground amid an ongoing construction work of a multipurpose building in a former cemetery here on Monday.

The team, led by archaeologist Dr. Stephen Acabado, was surveying an old church in the village of Santo Domingo in the town along the Bicol River when they stumbled on the burial ground.

“We (archaeological team) were visiting the Camaligan church when I asked my group to see first the (Bicol River). Passing by the old cemetery, I saw there’s construction going on and diggings. When I entered the construction site I immediately saw the shell midden. Wow!” Acabado said.

Full story here.

Tourist ban on touching stupas and Buddhas of Borobudur

Borobudur authorities are enforcing a ban on touching stupas and Buddhas in an effort to preserve the site from damage.

Tourists banned from touching Borobudur statues, stupa
Jakarta Post, 27 July 2016

Travelers visiting Borobudur Temple in Central Java should avoid touching and stepping on the temple’s stupa in order to preserve one of the world’s most sacred heritage sites.

Borobudur Conservation Agency public relations officer Mura told tempo.co that authorities had consistently warned tourists through the loudspeaker regarding the matter.

“Touching the stupa can cause damage to the temple. Although it’s made from stone, it can be broken. The bottom part of the stupa has become soft and it lost its original shape due to being touched repeatedly by tourists,” said Mura while showing a palm print that had corroded the temple’s stone.

Borobudur was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Built in the 8th century, it is the biggest Buddhist monument in the world.

Full story here.