Archaeology has a community benefit

In many Southeast Asian cases, archaeologists are called in to investigate a site after locals discover items in the ground; in many cases, archaeologists are the last to know because sites are looted first for gold and precious objects. In a recent conference in Vietnam, Southeast Asian archaeologists talk about the benefits of community involvement in archaeology, as a way to protect the site from looters, as well as a way for locals to generate income after archaeological studies are completed. For an idea about the extent of looting in this part of the world, try this link to recent looting stories hosted on this site, or Damien Huffer’s blog. A good example of a community-based archaeology project in Southeast Asian can be found in the Highland Archaeology Project based in Pang Mapha province in Thailand, which is run by Dr. Rasmi Shoocongdej of Silpakorn University. You can see a list of related stories here.

Archaeology has community benefit
Viet Nam News, 25 December 2010

Local people, authorities and archaeologists will both spiritually and materially benefit from a “community archaeology” model, according to participants at a recent conference in the central province of Thanh Hoa.

Thai specialist Boonyarit Chaisuwan gave an example of the Phu Khao Thong archaeological site, located 71km north of Bangkok, where local thieves used to excavate antiques to sell.

“When we reached the site, we were amazed because there were 2,000-year-old antiques scattered all over the site,” Chaisuwan said, “The thieves just took the gold and left the rest there.”

“We decided to educate local people about their heritage,” he said pointing at a photo featuring local students listening attentively to a lecturer. Beside the students were souvenirs made by locals to sell to tourists.


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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