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The Sub Champa Museum and the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum

Over the weekend the Nation featured two museums of archaeological interest in Thailand, the Sub Champa Museum in Lopburi and the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum in Pathum Thani.

Source: The Nation 20150627

Source: The Nation 20150627

How our ancestors lived
The Nation, 28 June 2015

Two museums, one of Lop Buri, the other in Pathum Thani, pay testament to the ancient way of life

The historical parks of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai have long been attracting tourists, both Thai and foreign, yet the ancient Dvaravati resettlement of Sub Champa in Lop Buri province, itself a fascinating historical site, is barely known outside the area.

Located in the Lop Buri-Pasak valley and a mere two hours by car from Bangkok, Sub Champa is a moated site that was a thriving Dvaravati city more than a millennium ago as well as a major trading centre in the central highlands.

Run today by the Subdistrict Administrative Organisation, it is promoting itself as a prototype local learning centre, one that encapsulates the Sub Champa Historical Site, the Sub Champa Museum and the Sirindhorn White Champak Forest. The site was discovered quite by accident back in 1970 during a pest eradication inspection by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and excavation started soon afterwards with an impression collection of artefacts, skeletons and ruins unearthed over the years.

Full story here.

The archaeology of an Angkorian household

The Phnom Penh Post’s feature on an ongoing excavation in Angkor Wat, led by my friend Alison Carter. While working within the grounds of the famed temple, the excavation is looking to uncover the daily lives of the common people who would have lived in the complex.

Angkor Wat excavation. Source : Phnom Penh Post 20150627

Angkor Wat excavation. Source : Phnom Penh Post 20150627

Archaeologists digging in search of common people
Phnom Penh Post, 27 June 2015

In Angkor Wat research, the focus has long been on temples and high society. A new project there is taking a different approach, laying the foundation for a new understanding of the iconic empire

A team excavating a dirt mound at Angkor Wat is hoping to shed light on one of the enduring blank spots in archeologists’ understanding of the Angkorian empire: the lives of its common people.

It’s a fresh direction in the field of Angkorian archaeology, according to the leader of the dig, Alison Carter, 35, an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney.

“We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the temples and inscriptions and the elite members of the society, but there’s still so much that can be learned about the regular people who were contributing to the Angkorian empire. I hope that this project can spark some interest in those regular people,” she said this week.

The project, titled “Excavating Angkor: Household Archeology at Angkor Wat” which began in early June and will continue through July, is funded primarily by the US-based National Geographic Society, as well as the Dumbarton Oaks institute. It is a part of the larger Greater Angkor Project, an umbrella research initiative managed by the University of Sydney and the APSARA Authority.

Full story here.

Vietnamese navy receive series of old sea maps

The Vietnamese navy is handed a collection of old maps that note its sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea for hundreds of years.

Ancient sea map of Vietnam. Source: Viet Nam News 20150626

Ancient sea map of Vietnam. Source: Viet Nam News 20150626

Navy receives maps of Hoang Sa, Truong Sa
Viet Nam News, 26 April 2015

The Ministry of Information and Communication has delivered a documentation collection, ‘Map Exhibition of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) of Viet Nam – Historical and Legal Evidence,’ to the navy force.

The collection, which was handed over to the Command of Navy Zone 3, includes 132 maps and documents, of which 60 maps of Viet Nam, China, and some western countries published from the 16th century confirm Viet Nam’s sovereignty on the two archipelagos.

It also comprises 20 records of the royal Nguyen dynasty (1802-45); six written in Han (Chinese script) and 14 documents from the French colonial period, stating that Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) belong to Viet Nam.

Full story here.

Myanmar Ministry of Culture moves against Bagan balloons

Hot air balloons over the Bagan temples have been a common sight in the last decade, but the Ministry of Culture is trying to stop these flights as they pose a threat to the temples due to their close proximity to the temples.

Balloons over Bagan. Source: TTR Weekly 20150626

Balloons over Bagan. Source: TTR Weekly 20150626

Balloons pose a risk to pagodas
TTR Weekly, 26 June 2015

Myanmar’s Ministry of Culture has asked the President’s Office to halt hot-air balloon flights over the city’s fabled pagodas in case they cause damage.

The balloons fly low over the pagodas to give visitors a bird’s eye view, but there are concerns that if there is a mishap or a forced landing the balloons could cause damage to the ancient structures.

No balloon-pagoda collisions have occurred, at least during the past 10 years, local hoteliers and tour operators report, but the ministry is adamant that they are a potential risk.

Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library deputy general director, U Thein Lwin, told the Myanmar Times that the bud-like ornament on top of the pagoda’s spire could be damaged by a balloon flying low, as customers sometimes request to take photographs.

Full story here.

Artefacts found near the Ho Citadel

Villagers living near the Ho Citadel World Heritage Site in Thanh Hoa Province of Viet Nam recently reported discovering artefacts in the vicinity.

Artefacts found near the Ho Citadel. Source: Viet Nam News 20150625

Artefacts found near the Ho Citadel. Source: Viet Nam News 20150625

Artefacts found in Thanh Hoa
Viet Nam News, 25 June 2015

People living near the UNESCO-recognised World Heritage site Ho Dynasty Citadel in Thanh Hoa Province unearthed ancient artefacts by chance.

Hundreds of objects made from ceramics, porcelain, metal, stone and bone dating back to the 10th century were found in a field a kilometre southeast of the citadel.

The residents found mostly ceramic bowls and plates, some from the ancient Dong Son (1,000BC-AD100) era. They also found many red stone (agate) pieces.

Full story here.

Thailand prepares to defend two World Heritage Sites in danger

Thailand is preparing to defend the World Heritage status of two sites, the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex and Ayutthaya Historical Park. Concerns over the management of these two sites have been raised in previous Unesco meetings and they are expected to be discussed in the Unesco meeting in Paris next week.

Ayutthaya. Source: The Nation 20150623

Ayutthaya. Source: The Nation 20150623

Thailand continues fight to keep two sites’ status
The Nation, 23 June 2015

Thailand is preparing hard to defend the status of two World Heritage sites in the face of ongoing concerns about conservation and management efforts.

These two sites are the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex and the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has threatened to downgrade the first site’s status as a World Heritage site.

At the last session of Unesco’s World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar in 2014, the forest complex was identified as facing threats, which could be a reason to downgrade its World Heritage status.

Unesco also has concerns about the repairing of historic sites in Ayutthaya Historical Park after the big flood.

Even though the upcoming World Heritage Committee meeting will not have the forest complex’ status review on the agenda, the Thai delegation believes it needs to show that it will be able to maintain the complex as a World Heritage site.

Full story here.

Tran Dynasty finds from the Trang An scenic landscape complex

Archaeologists have discovered artefacts possibly dating to the 13-15th century Tran Dynasty in the Trang An Scenic Complex in Vietnam’s Ninh Binh province.

Artefacts from the Vu Lam royal step-over place. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150616

Artefacts from the Vu Lam royal step-over place. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150616

Valuable relics discovered in Ninh Binh
Viet Nam Net, 16 June 2015

Archeologists from the Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology have discovered numerous valuable relics in the Vu Lam royal step-over place, located within the Trang An scenic landscape complex.
The discovery includes clay for pottery, trees submerged in black mud, earth road and stones for road embankment or for building river wharfs.

In addition, the experts have also collected more than 5,000 broken pieces of surfaces and 940 pieces of various relics such as enamel pottery, crockery or rice that has turned into coal. They said the site might have been the place for making enamel pottery during the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400).

Full story here.

Gabarni, the new rock art site discovered in Myanmar

Last week I was in Myanmar at the invitation of the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of Culture to take a look at the new rock art site that was discovered last month (see here).

Gabardi Rock Art Site, Shan State, Myanmar

Gabardi Rock Art Site, Shan State, Myanmar

The Gabarni Rock Art Site, named after a nearby village, is also known as Myakhanauk. Most cases of rock art begin with their ‘discovery’ by local villagers, in this case Mr Win Bo, who found the site of behalf of amateur archaeologist Mr Soe Naing. This discovery was announced last month, but it seems like local villagers have known about the site for some years now.

U Win Bo, the local villager who along with U Soe Naing brought our attention to the site

U Win Bo, the local villager who along with U Soe Naing brought our attention to the site

The site is in western Shan State, relatively near the Padalin Caves which is pretty famous within Myanmar for its prehistoric rock art. They are however about 11km apart – a day’s travel distance. The Gabarni site is made up of a cluster of sandstone outcrops near the Pae Dwe Mountain.

Drone view over the Gabarni rock art site.

Drone view over the Gabarni rock art site.

The largest sandstone shelter is a really good habitation area, comfortably accommodating 20 people and the entire complex might house around 50 people. Habitation may have occurred up to recent times, as this largest shelter contains graffiti, some with dates from the 1970s and 1990s. There is some rock art in the ceiling of the shelter, but because of campfires a lot of soot has obscured the paintings.

View from inside the largest shelter. There is rock art on the ceiling, but mostly obscured by soot.

View from inside the largest shelter. There is rock art on the ceiling, but mostly obscured by soot.

The most prominent rock art is on another shelter that has a large flat wall from which to paint on. Here there is a painting of an elephant, which is barely visible now except for the top outline. You can see from the human scale that the elephant was pretty much life-sized.

Elephant panel of rock art. The squatting human for a sense of scale and you can just barely see the outline of the top of the elephant.

Elephant panel of rock art. The squatting human for a sense of scale and you can just barely see the outline of the top of the elephant.

The Department of Archaeology intends to properly document and investigate the site later this year, so I’ll refrain from saying much more about the rock art other than they seem to be very old, and they don’t appear to be similar to the Padalin Cave paintings despite the proximity. If you are going to the EurASEAA conference in Paris, I will be making a more detailed presentation of the site on behalf of the Ministry, so catch it if you’re there!

The visiting team group photo from last week, with U Win Bo and U Soe Naing in the middle.

The visiting team group photo from last week, with U Win Bo and U Soe Naing in the middle.

Vietnamese scholar donates imperial records

Similar to the previous story, a Vietnamese scholar donated his collection of royal chronicles in the hope they will shed light to Vietnamese claims over the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Ho Tan Phan, Vietnamese scholar who donated his collection of Vietnamese records. Source: Viet Nam News 20150615

Ho Tan Phan, Vietnamese scholar who donated his collection of Vietnamese records. Source: Viet Nam News 20150615

Scholar gives rare East Sea records to State
Viet Nam News, 15 June 2015

Researcher Ho Tan Phan has presented copies of rare Vietnamese royal chronicles to the National Boundary Committee under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Phan believes the books could serve as evidence of Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Truong Sa (Spratly) and Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelagoes.

The Hue-based researcher said Dai Nam Thuc Luc (Great South Real Record) was a trusted collection of documents that justified Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the two archipelagoes.

Full story here.

18th century Philippine map shows disputed territories in country’s domain

As China continues to claim parts of the South China Sea for itself, affected countries like Philippines and Vietnam are more and more appealing to evidence from ancient maps to show histories of territoriality. This latest example from the Philippines is from the 18th century.

The 1734 Murillo Velarde map. Source: The Inquirer 20150615

The 1734 Murillo Velarde map. Source: The Inquirer 20150615

‘Mother of Philippine maps’ settles sea dispute with China
Inquirer, 15 June 2015

“Panacot” or “Scarborough Shoal” does not appear in any of the ancient Chinese maps.

The 1734, 1744 and 1760 Murillo Velarde maps clearly show Panacot, the island disputed by China, even before it became known as “Scarborough Shoal.”

In fact, as Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio wrote in his monograph “Historical Facts, Historical Lies and Historical Rights in the West Philippine Sea” and has repeatedly stressed in his lectures on the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, Panacot has been “consistently depicted in ancient Philippine maps from 1636 to 1940.”

Only after Sept. 12, 1784, when an East India Co. tea-clipper was wrecked on one of its rocks did the shoal become “Scarborough Shoal.” For Carpio Panacot or Scarborough Shoal “does not appear in any of the ancient Chinese maps.”

Full story here.