Nam Giao Altar – the largest of its kind

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Excavated in 2004-2005, the Nam Giao altar at the foot of the Don Son mountain in Vietnam may well be the largest undamaged platform of its kind. The platform was built in 1402, during the reign of the Ho Dynasty.

New Nam Giao altar discoveries in Thanh Hoa
Vietnam Net Bridge, 27 November 2007

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Getting into the mind of the Indonesian hobbit

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Earlier this year, a study by Dean Falk hoped to put to rest the homo floresiensis controversy by comparing casts of the homo floresiensis brain with that of other microcephalic humans. The results of the study showed that there were marked differences between the LB1 brain and the brain of the microcephalic human, inferring in turn that the hobbit was really something else.

While the verdict on the Hobbit is still up in the air, we take a segue and look at the method used for this study and at Ralph Holloway, the scientist who pioneered the method of making endocasts.
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Decoding Hindu-Buddhist rivalry at Angkor


25 November 2007 (The Nation) – Anyone who’s visited Angkor will know that the architecture of the famous jungle buildings are remains of ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples. Angkor Wat, for example, was a temple to the god Vishnu, who presides over the sun and the western quadrant of the compass, while the Bayon of Angkor Thom is adorned with the face of Avalokeshwara, the compassionate aspect of Buddha. The latter temple was built by Jayavarman VII, whose reign is considered one of the greatest of Angkor. But was there something more to the transition of the state religion from Hinduism to Buddhism? Angkor scholar Vittorio Roveda thinks so.

Beng Melea, CC photo by Hartford Schmidt
Beng Melea, creative commons photo by Hartford Schmidt.
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The royal urns of Nguyen Vietnam

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25 November 2007 (Thanh Nien News) – Anyone visiting the imperial city of Hue shouldn’t miss a trip to the The Mieu temple, where these nine royal urns are displayed. The urns, one cast for each of the Nguyen kings (1802-1945), represent the pinnacle of bronze casting technology – and we know that the region of Vietnam has been home to a bronze casting tradition that dates thousands of years!

Thanh Nien News, 25 Nov 2007

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Chu Dau ceramic tradition finds a new lease of life

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25 November 2007 (Vietnam Net Bridge) – A feature on the Chu Dau pottery tradition, centred on the Chu Dau village and recently revived for the international market. Chu Dau’s pottery was once popular during the 14th-17th centuries.

Northern pottery village wakes up to 500-year-old craft

Lying snugly beside a graceful river in northern Viet Nam’s Hai Duong province, the Chu Dau Pottery Village, dating back to the 15th century is churning out tens of millions of artistic handmade items a year, many of which have found their way to over 50 countries worldwide.Verging on the bank of the Thai Binh River, it used to be the biggest pottery center of Vietnam from the 14th to 17th centuries and its potters were the most talented in making azure glazed pottery. Its products were ordered in huge quantities by Japanese and French businessmen at that time, according to history books.

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Museum theft: implicated business man pledges cooperation

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25 November 2007 (Jakarta Post) – A further development to the museum theft story, the businessman who owns the house where some of the stolen statues were found in pledges his cooperation.

Hashim wants to cooperate, says lawyer
Blontank Poer

Hashim Djojohadikusumo’s lawyer said Saturday that the businessman had pledged his cooperation to the ongoing police investigation into the theft of artifacts from the Radya Pustaka Museum in Surakarta, Central Java.

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The mystery of the Vietnamese mummies

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24 November 2007 (Vietnam Net Bridge) – The Vietnam Archaeology Institute take on the conservation of two 300-year-old preserved bodies of monks. The two mummies are regarded as sacred objects and how they came to be mummified (embalmed, really) is a mystery.

Vietnam Net Bridge, 24 Nov 2007

The mummies return
Duc Hanh heads to Dau pagoda where where two mysterious mummies have lived in silence for 300 years Past a lake and a number of paddy fields, the Dau pagoda sits in isolation near the outskirts of Gia Phuc village in Ha Tay province.

Although originally built in the 11th century under the Ly Dynasty, the pagoda bears the hallmarks of Le-Nguyen dynasty in the 17th century as a number of renovations occurred at that time. Dau pagoda is officially named Thanh Dao Tu or Phap Vu Tu and is dedicated to the Goddess of Rain.

But I’m here to meet two monks, who are shrouded in mystery. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking these monks were just statues. But in actual fact these are a pair of monks, Vu Khac Minh and monk Vu Khac Truong, who lived in the pagoda more than 300 years ago, were embalmed and preserved after their death.

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Museum theft ring busted in Indonesia

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22 November 2007 (Jakarta Post, BBC) – A museum theft ring was uncovered in Surakarta, in Java, Indonesia, involving several staff members of a museum who have been selling the museum’s collections and replacing them with copies. The stolen artefacts are Hindu-Buddhist statues from Indonesia’s classical period, dating back to the 13th century.

Police break up internal theft racket at museum
by Suherdjoko

Several staff including a curator from Surakarta’s Radya Pustaka Museum have admitted to an internal theft racquet involving up to 13 century-old statues, after police acted on a former-staff member’s report.

Central Java Police said Wednesday they had recovered from a businessman’s home in Jakarta five of historical statues stolen from the museum.

Each statue had been replaced at the museum with fakes.

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Hue Royal Citadel Antique Museum set for restoration works

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22 November 2007 (Vietnam Net Bridge) – The Hue Temple museum, used to house the antiquities from imperial-era Vietnam, will undergo a restoration during the next two years.

Vietnam Net Bridge, 22 Nov 2007

Hue Temple museum gets a makeover

Long An Temple, considered to be one of the finest wooden structures of the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945), will undergo restoration over the next two years.

The Hue Temple is being used as a museum for royal antiquities.

An investment of 13.5 billion VND (840,000 USD), from State coffers will be earmarked for preservation work in early 2008, said Phan Thanh Hai of the Hue Centre for Monument Conservation, which will over-see the project.

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Wednesday Rojak #12

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Wednesday Rojak is back today, after a short break last week. Today, we have a little bit of Cambodia, and a little bit of Singapore:

  • Sample some Cambodian cuisine in Fragrance and Spice, Khmer Style.
  • Fancy being a museum volunteer and getting up close with Greek antiquities dating as far back as 5th century BC? The National Museum of Singapore is seeking volunteers for an upcoming exhibition called Greek Masterpieces from the Louvre. Find out more.
  • Alvin shares some images from the Mekong river in Fisherfolk of the Mekong.
  • He also shares some papers on ancient Angkor medicine here and here, courtesy of Professor Rethy Chhem.
  • Singapore Stuff has a feature on archaeology in Singapore and posts a range of links to sites on the subjec – SEAArch has been featured, too!

In this series of weekly rojaks (published on Wednesdays) I’ll feature other sites in the blogosphere that are of related to archaeology in Southeast Asia. Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me!