Building inter-regional networks of archaeological knowledge in Southeast Asia

This looks like a step in the right direction: the Centre for Khmer Studies ave started work on creating a network for archaeologists in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to work together, and more importantly generate inter-regional research projects operating under the same methodology. As a region, I think the archaeological traditions in each country are still very much limited by modern national borders – one of the most evident is the way in which each country’s archaeological timeline differs from each other.

Much more has to go by way of building bridges and relationships between countries. One of the difficulties I’ve seen is the way some countries can be quite parochial about the direction of archaeology takes – partly because of political and nationalistic overtones that may arise, but also sometimes from a perceived “territorial” claim over a particular field of study. Other barriers include recent past histories (like how we’ve seen between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihear), or even something as simple as the language barrier.

It’ll be interesting to see, over the next few years, how this project by the Centre for Khmer Studies sheds light on the archaeology of the inland routes from the Tonle Sap to the South China Sea. More interesting is the see how a model for inter-regional collaboration might be achieved through this project.

Tracking Asia’s ‘ancient highways’
Phnom Penh Post, 22 January 2008

THE Centre for Khmer Studies has embarked on a venture to unite archaeologists from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to train a new generation of researchers and shed light on their common regional history.

The first workshop session, titled “Ancient Highways: From the Tonle Sap to the South China Sea. Paving the Way for Regional Archaeological Collaboration in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam”, took place in Siem Reap from January 13-14.

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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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