Teams Explore Roots of Angkor Civilization

Discovery Kids is featuring the Origins of Angkor project in Thailand in an episode airing Dec 3 and 10.

29 November 2006 (Earthwatch Institute. released by Newswise) – Discovery Kids is featuring the Origins of Angkor project in Thailand in an episode airing Dec 3 and 10.

Teams Explore Roots of Angkor Civilization

Five seasons of excavations at Ban Non Wat, in Northeast Thailand, have unearthed 470 human burials covering a time span of more than 2,000 years. Earthwatch-supported research at this great moated site, led by anthropologist Dr. Charles Higham of University of Otago (New Zealand), gives clues to the roots of the famous Angkor civilization. A Year On Earth, a new film about students making a difference through participation in scientific research, features some of these discoveries.

“The earliest graves, dating to about 2000 BC, contain the remains of the first rice farmers to settle Thailand from their ancestral homelands in the Yangtze Valley of China,” said Higham, principal investigator of Earthwatch’s Origins of Angkor project. “They were buried with ceramic vessels that were decorated with amazing designs, representing the earliest art in this part of the world.” Some of the lidded pots discovered by Earthwatch teams were large enough to contain the remains of adults, while many newly born infants were buried in smaller versions.

Historians typically attribute the rise of the magnificent Angkor civilization, which also built Ankgor Wat, to external, mostly Indian, influences. Earthwatch volunteers working in Thailand have made discoveries that support Higham’s view that the Angkor civilization sprang, at least in part, from indigenous roots. For example, in about 1200 BC, the descendents of the early farmers mentioned above entered the Bronze Age in grand style.

“Until the investigations at Ban Non Wat, Bronze Age cemeteries contained relatively poor burials, the dead being accompanied by a handful of pots and perhaps some shell beads or bangles,” said Higham. “But at Ban Non Wat, excavators found groups of princely graves in which the aristocrats were accompanied by up to 50 pottery vessels, some of which were large and beautifully decorated with red painted designs.”


Related Books:
The Excavation of Ban Lum Khao (The Origins of Civilization of Angkor, Vol. 1) by C. Higham
The Civilization of Angkor by C. Higham
– Northeast Thailand before Angkor: evidence from an archaeological excavation at the Prasat Hin Phimai by S. Talbot and C. Janthed

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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