I met Dr Rasmi Shoocongdej at a conference last year when she presented her work on community-driven heritage management and archaeology at her project in Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand; the Bangkok Post carried a feature on the archaeologist from Silpakorn University last week.
Digging up the past
Bangkok Post, 04 September 2008
Rasmi’s work at Pang Ma Pha goes beyond new discoveries. She is especially proud that her work has fostered a sense of local ownership and pride, leading to a local collaborative effort to preserve archaeological sites and local cultures.
Indeed they should feel proud. The rockshelter of Ban Rai dates back between 12,00 and 600 years. Better known among locals as Tham Phiman (Spirit Cave), it is believed to have been inhabited in ancient times by a prehistoric form of man known as phiman. The area was also used as a burial ground. A number of teak coffins and human remains dating from the early Holocene period (8000 BC) have been unearthed. Rock paintings were found along the eastern edge of the site.
Suayi Sae Han, headman of Ban Rai village, praised Assoc Prof Rasmi for her success in encouraging local villagers to protect their cultural heritage.
“She has opened our eyes. We now realise the value of natural and cultural heritage,” the local leader said.
With her support, a community museum has been set up in the village. Every month, about 15 villagers voluntarily take turns to clean the track leading to the Ban Rai archaeological site and repair any damages.