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Drone flights over the Plain of Jars

In September I was in Laos and I had the opportunity to visit the Plain of Jars, or at least, a few of the jar sites that dot central Laos around Xieng Khouang province. There are over 2,000 jars spread out in over 100 sites. Not all of them are accessible, because of the presence of UXOs, and several have been destroyed due to war and development.

Aerial view of the Plain of Jars Site 1

Aerial view of the Plain of Jars Site 1

The megalithic jars are somewhat unique in Southeast Asia – less known, but distinctively peculiar and in need of further study. They are associated with burials, and the jars themselves display a large variability in forms and sizes and distribution. Despite the rainy weather, I was fortunate to be able to take the UAV out for a spin over various sites:

EurASEAA16: Poznań, Poland, 2017

Dear Fellows,

we are proud to announce that the next meeting of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists will be hosted by the Institute of Prehistory, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. The 16th meeting of EurASEAA is scheduled for summer 2017. Bringing the conference to Poland will be a great opportunity for EurASEAA community to explore new territories and Poznań’s unique atmosphere of creativity and enterprise will foster fruitful academic presentations and discussions.

The Institute of Prehistory of the Adam Mickiewicz University, founded in 1919, is one of the leading Polish archaeological research institutions. The Institute focuses on landscape archaeology, methodology and theoretical archaeology and has made a great contribution in developing and promoting non-invasive methods in archaeological research. Additionally, researchers from Poznań are active “in the field” in dozens of countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. The conference venue is Collegium Historicum Novum, which opened in September 2015 as the new home of the Faculty of History.

Poznań is western Poland’s biggest city, halfway between Berlin and Warsaw. Poznań played a major role in Polish history as a seat of the early state’s rulers. In 968 AD the first Catholic Diocese on Polish soil was established in Poznań. Nowadays, thanks to well known diligence of Poznań’s people, the city is an important economic node of Central Europe and is home to branches of numerous international corporations, such as Volkswagen, GlaxoSmithKline or Bridgestone. The city offers a wide range of accommodation and is easy to access: Poznań can be reached in 2 h 30 min by train from Berlin, as well as Poznań Ławica airport serves daily flights to numerous destinations in Europe (base for budget airlines: RyanAir and WizzAir, direct connections to hub-airports of Frankfurt, Munich and Copenhagen).

More information will be announced in early 2016. We are looking forward to hosting you in Poznań.

on behalf of the Organizing Committee
magister Kasper Hanus
meeting secretary

Kuthodaw Pagoda inscriptions to be restored

Stone inscriptions in Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay will be the subject of a restoration project jointly run bu the Myanmar Ministry of Culture and the University of Sydney.

Mandalay. Source: TTR Weekly 20151123

Mandalay. Source: TTR Weekly 20151123

Mandalay restores stone plaques
TTR Weekly, 23 November 2015

Myanmar Ministry of Culture’s Archaeology and National Museum is collaborating with Sydney University’s Buddhist Studies Programme in Australia to restore stone inscriptions at Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay.

Global New Light of Myanmar reported the collaboration started since the beginning of the year.
According to Archaeology and National Museum’s Mandalay branch, technicians and experts are undertaking preservation works of stone plaques and pagodas, taking photo records, translating stone inscriptions from Pali-Myanmar to English and publishing academic articles about the stones and inscriptions.

Translation and publishing are being carried out by Sydney University.

Full story here.

Tomb findings released

Archaeologists announced the results of the excavation of a 19th century tomb in Binh Dinh province.

Excavation of tomb in Binh Dinh province. Source: Viet Nam News 20151123

Excavation of tomb in Binh Dinh province. Source: Viet Nam News 20151123

Excavation of ancient tomb made public in Binh Dinh
Viet Nam News, 23 November 2015

The initial analysis of an ancient tomb excavated in An Nhon District in the central coastal province of Binh Dinh has been made known.

According to archaeologists, the tomb contained a mummified man aged from 67 to 70 years old. He was believed to be Vietnamese based on the characteristics of his nasal cavity and orbit.

Dr Nguyen Lan Cuong, head of the excavating team, told Viet Nam News, that the Viet Nam Institute of Archaeology decided to excavate and research this tomb as it was located in a residential area which had been reconstructed.

Full story here.

Teeth study of H. floresiensis unlike any other, suggests new species

A new study on the tooth morphology of Homo floresiensis suggests that they may be not be a group deformed modern humans, and may also support the theory that the hobbits were derived from Homo erectus undergoing island dwarfism.

Teeth of Homo floresiensis. Source: PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141614

Teeth of Homo floresiensis. Source: PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141614

Hobbits Were a Separate Species, Ancient Chompers Show
Live Science, 18 November 2015

Fossils Reveal That Ancient Hobbits Were A Separate Species
IFL Science, 19 November 2015

“Hobbit” Teeth Analyzed
Archaeology, 20 November 015

Unique Dental Morphology of Homo floresiensis and Its Evolutionary Implications
Kaifu et al, PLOS One
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141614

Homo floresiensis is an extinct, diminutive hominin species discovered in the Late Pleistocene deposits of Liang Bua cave, Flores, eastern Indonesia. The nature and evolutionary origins of H. floresiensis’ unique physical characters have been intensively debated. Based on extensive comparisons using linear metric analyses, crown contour analyses, and other trait-by-trait morphological comparisons, we report here that the dental remains from multiple individuals indicate that H. floresiensis had primitive canine-premolar and advanced molar morphologies, a combination of dental traits unknown in any other hominin species. The primitive aspects are comparable to H. erectus from the Early Pleistocene, whereas some of the molar morphologies are more progressive even compared to those of modern humans. This evidence contradicts the earlier claim of an entirely modern human-like dental morphology of H. floresiensis, while at the same time does not support the hypothesis that H. floresiensis originated from a much older H. habilis or Australopithecus-like small-brained hominin species currently unknown in the Asian fossil record. These results are however consistent with the alternative hypothesis that H. floresiensis derived from an earlier Asian Homo erectus population and experienced substantial body and brain size dwarfism in an isolated insular setting. The dentition of H. floresiensis is not a simple, scaled-down version of earlier hominins.

The full paper can be downloaded on PLOS One.

Angkor ticketing changes: Fares unchanged, money trails to be transparent

Cambodian government officials have said that the de-privatisation of the ticket sales to Angkor will not affect the price of tickets, and the money will more directly benefit the local economy.

Angkor Wat, TTR Weekly 20151116

Angkor Wat, TTR Weekly 20151116

Ticket sales will benefit Angkor
TTR Weekly, 16 November 2015

Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Economy and Finance says returning Angkor Wat ticket collection to the government will benefit the local economy.

Khmer Times quoted economy and finance minister, Aun Porn Moniroth, saying the ministry would work with the Ministry of Tourism to establish a public administration institution to manage revenue generated by ticket sales at Angkor temples.

“We will create a public institution under the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Economy and Finance to manage income from Angkor Wat…we are now working on the procedures and a law to create this institution.”

He added: The income will go to the government to cover expense needed to maintain Angkor Wat and the rest will be used for national projects. We will ensure that revenue management is transparent.”

Full story here.

Code of conduct for Angkor tourists introduced

Besides the new opening times at Angkor, a new code of conduct for tourists has just been published, in time for the tourist season. The code, which is summarised as a poster for visitors explain the appropriate behaviours in the temples – such as not taking selfies with monks and also not stripping naked in public.

Angkor tourist code of conduct. Source: Daily Mail 20151114

Angkor tourist code of conduct. Source: Daily Mail 20151113

Angkor Wat to open earlier as it imposes code of conduct for tourists
The Telegraph, 11 November 2015

‘Exposing sex organs is a crime punishable by law’: Angkor Wat introduces new code of tourist conduct that bans stripping naked, smoking and taking selfies with monks
Daily Mail, 13 November 2015

Angkor Wat in Cambodia is to open earlier so that more people can see it – but visitors will have to abide by a new code of conduct put in place around the site.

From January 1, the main Khmer temple of Angkor, Angkor Wat, alongside smaller Phnom Bakheng, will be opening two hours earlier, from 5.30am, in order to cater for those wanting to see sunrise from the temples.

In the meantime, a code of conduct has been published on posters outside temples in an attempt to curb the inappropriate behaviour of some of the thousands who already visit each year.
Cambodian monks, tour guides, local authorities and Unesco representatives spent two years discussing the types of behaviour that they would like to see eradicated from the important Khmer site.

Full stories here and here.

The archaeological potential of East Kalimantan

Nat Geo has a feature on the French team working on the limstone karsts of the Sangkulirang Peninsula in Indonesian Borneo. Their finds from the last seven years are very promising, but development, mining and burning threatens all of that.

Karsts in Borneo. Source: National Geographic 20151111

Karsts in Borneo. Source: National Geographic 20151111

A Race to Save Ancient Human Secrets in Borneo
National Geographic, 11 November 2015

If you wanted to create a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, you might well look to the limestone landscape, or karst, on the Sangkulirang Peninsula in eastern Borneo. There, in the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan, you could cite the abundance of human and natural riches to justify your proposal.

For seven years, archaeologist Francois-Xavier Ricaut, from the University of Toulouse, and his French-Indonesian team, MAFBO (Mission Archéologique Franco-Indonésienne à Bornéo), have been excavating three sites in the Sangkulirang-Mangkalihat karst, which spans 3.7 million acres (1.5 million hectares).

In the karst, thick tropical forest shrouds weathered limestone spires, making it hard to get around, let alone do science. As a result, Ricaut says, “hardly any archaeological work has been done in this karst—we’re just beginning.”

After dogged sleuthing, Ricaut and his colleagues have found bones and charcoal that date back 35,000 years, the earliest such evidence of human occupation yet found in Kalimantan.

Full story here.

RIP Bill Longacre

Saddened to report the passing of William “Bill” Longacre, who passed away yesterday in the US. Tito Bill, as he was affectionately known, played an influential role in the archaeology of the Philippines in his ethnoarchaeological study of the Kalinga and their ceramics. More importantly, he is remembered as a kind and supportive mentor who helped develop the careers of many Philippine archaeologists today. RIP.

The late Prof. William Longacre and former student, Stephen Acabado. Source: Stephen Acabado.

The late Prof. William Longacre and former student, Stephen Acabado. Source: Stephen Acabado.

Tomb hunters discover pieces of early Singapore’s past

A pair of Singaporean brothers whose hobby is hunting down grave stones have discovered stone markers belonging to a 19th century resident of Singapore.

Tomb hunting pair Charles and Raymond Goh. Source: Straits Times 20151111

Tomb hunting pair Charles and Raymond Goh. Source: Straits Times 20151111

Unearthing history of early S’pore occupants
Straits Times, 11 November 2015

Deep in the heart of MacRitchie Reservoir Park once stood a lakehouse built in the 1890s and owned by Briton George Mildmay Dare, a former secretary of the Singapore Cricket Club. (See correction note below)

Both Mr Dare and prominent local merchant Seah Eu Chin were among the first to own land at what was then known as the Impounding Reservoir, or Thomson Reservoir. The colonial government later acquired the privately owned land to widen the reservoir.

What remains today are two stone markers inscribed with the words “Dare” in English and “Seah Chin Hin” in Chinese for Mr Seah’s plantation, as well as the stone and brick foundations of Mr Dare’s former home. This account of the area’s early occupants and how land use there evolved was pieced together in July by tomb-hunting brothers Charles and Raymond Goh, after they began studying the markers and land ownership records.

Full story here.