Thailand looking into looted Ban Chiang artifacts

Thailand is following up on the looted artefacts from Ban Chiang, found in the collections of four Californian museums.

Ban Chiang artifacts seized in US to be checked
Bangkok Post, 02 February 2008
Link no longer available

Thailand seeks more information on smuggled Ban Chiang artifact
The Nation, 02 February 2008

The way the artefacts were smuggled was by passing them off as replicas:

According to US officials, smugglers have been importing objects from Ban Chiang since the 1970s when Thai authorities started digging up artifacts from the site.

The smuggled antiquities had ”Made in Thailand” labels attached and were sometimes painted over to make them look like replicas to deceive US customs.

Perhaps one of the saddest thing about looted artefacts is the loss of contextual data. A Ban Chiang pot can fetch a few thousand dollars, I suppose, but for the archaeologist the location in which it was found, how deep underground, and its spatial relation to other artefacts (especially if it was associated with a burial) will yield much more priceless – and now irretrievable – information about its past.

Books about Ban Chiang:
Ban Chiang, a Prehistoric Village Site in Northeast Thailand: The Human Skeletal Remains (Thai Archaeology Monograph Series, 1) by M. Pietrusewsky and M. T. Douglas
The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia (Cambridge World Archaeology) by C. Higham
Southeast Asia: A Past Regained (Lost Civilizations)
Ban Chiang: Art and prehistory of Northeast Thailand by A. J. Labbei
Ban Chiang: Discovery of a Lost Bronze Age by the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania by J. C. White
Cognition and design production in Ban Chiang painted pottery by P. Van Esterik
Ban Chiang prehistoric cultures by Y. Chin

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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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