India pivots eastwards to Southeast Asia

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A conference was held last week in New Delhi on the cultural links between India and Southeast Asia with the aim of establishing research links between India and Southeast Asia.

India, Asean reconnect through ancient cultural linkages, 23 July 2015

“Political security and economic cooperation must go hand in hand with the socio-cultural connection and people-to-people linkages,” he said.

Citing examples, he said that excavations have found evidence of Indian links in the first century AD in Myanmar in the city of Beikthano, also known as City of Vishnu. Coins, statues of Hindu deities, and statues of the Buddha have been found.

In central Thailand, evidence of Indian influence is found through Dvaravati form of representing the Buddha, in the 2nd century AD, which is derived from Indian Amaravati and Gupta styles, which were integrated with local art.

In Cham, in southern Vietnam, there is evidence of extensive influence of Indian culture, through many ancient Shiva temples.

Evidence has been found of extensive trade with the Southeast Asian countries from the Gupta dynasty in the 4th-6th century AD. Tamralipti, an ancient Indian city in the Bay of Bengal, was a busy centre of maritime trade, with ships travelling to the Malay peninsula, the Nicobar islands and to the Strait of Malacca.

Trade with the Asean is an important aspect of India’s links with the region, and India is its fourth largest trading partner, he said.

Full story here.

Singapore archaeology needs a permanent home

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Singapore archaeologists Lim Chen Sian and John Miksic. Source: Straits Times 20150727

I think the headline of the article is misleading – after all, archaeologists always need funds and resources, but the key point of the story is that archaeology in Singapore needs to be supported as a government funded agency or a university department, and not through volunteer labour and short term contract jobs as is the case today. This is not only to research the substantial backlog of material that has been unearthed thus far, but also assist in future heritage impact assessments and archaeological surveys.

As an Singaporean archaeologist (who is not working in Singapore) I can understand the pressures faced by my colleagues. Most archaeological work has been done by volunteers, who have done a great job in helping with excavations and sorting of material. However, other essential work such as the analysis of finds, organisation of collections and dissemination of research require more specialised expertise and resources, and such capacity is not available. This call for a professionalised archaeological unit is not new, but is as yet unresolved.

Singapore archaeologists Lim Chen Sian and John Miksic. Source: Straits Times 20150727

Singapore archaeologists Lim Chen Sian and John Miksic. Source: Straits Times 20150727

Archaeologists in need of funds and resources
The Straits Times, 27 July 2015

Singapore’s two archaeologists, dogged for years by lack of interest in the field and scant resources, are hoping the Government will pump “several million dollars” into the discipline, to pay for more staff and activities over the next 50 years.

Mr Lim Chen Sian, who led a recent Empress Place dig which yielded artefacts such as centuries-old Chinese imperial grade ceramics, is also creating a registry of archaeological sites so people can be alerted to their historical value before the wrecking balls descend.

The authorities are also keen for archaeology to play a bigger role in piecing together Singapore’s past.

Full story here.

China’s archaeology ship seeks buried sovereignty

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China’s archaeology research vessel, the Kaogu-01, comes with all the bells and whistles, but its deployment in the South China Sea is a source of concern to the maritime nations of Southeast Asia as it is being used to enforce China’s territorial claims far beyond its shores.

Update: A reader pointed out that the link was missing. They are up now!

Archaeology and the South China Sea
The Diplomat, 20 July 2015

In 2013, China enforced those claims on an unsuspecting French archaeologist and his team investigating the wreck of a Chinese junk off the Philippine coast. According to one report, a Chinese twin-prop plane flew overhead. Then a Chinese marine-surveillance vessel approached the Philippines-registered ship, issuing instructions in English to turn around and head back. While it is difficult to say where exactly this incident actually happened, it does go to show that China is both willing and able to use force to enforce its sovereignty claims over shipwrecks and other relics in disputed waters.

China has also turned to the use of passive technology to protect its cultural relics. According to Yu Xingguang, Director of the State Oceanic Administrations Number 3 Research Facility, China has finished developing the technology for monitoring buoys, which employ acoustics technology to survey underwater wrecks and monitor their condition, while also simultaneously using China’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify and monitor ships entering and exiting the area of wrecks in real time.

Enforcing its sovereignty claims off the Philippines is one obvious way that China is using maritime archaeology to assert and protect its sovereignty. Another method apparently used is much more subtle. It involves the use of China’s new ship, Kaogu-01, in disputed areas to assert its control over them, as well as the gradual buildup of work stations and bases in the area, such as the one planned for Yongxing Island.

Full story here.

The ceramics museum just north of Bangkok

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The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum. Source: Bangkok Post, 20150716

The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum in Bangkok University (which is not technically in Bangkok but north of it) is a great place to look at a spectacular ceramics collection.

The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum. Source: Bangkok Post, 20150716

The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum. Source: Bangkok Post, 20150716

History of Asian ceramics
Bangkok Post, 16 July 2015

Our van entered the Rangsit campus of Bangkok University and stopped in front of a sign for the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum. After walking down a slight slope, the museum is revealed to resemble a partially underground kiln. Founded in 2000 and opened to the public in 2005, the museum is home to over 16,000 ancient ceramics donated by university founder Surat Osathanugrah. About 2,000 of these items are on view at the current exhibition.

After strolling past the model of a northern-style cross-draft kiln and showing our Muse Pass, we entered the museum that has just reopened after the post-flood renovations. The permanent exhibition highlights the development of Southeast Asian ceramics, especially those from major kiln sites in Thailand, as well as the history of Thai and other Southeast Asian trade ceramics based on evidence found at shipwreck sites in this region.

The display of different ceramics on the sand caught our eyes. The first space reflects that pottery found at archaeological sites dating from 1380-1430 had been from all across Southeast Asia, including Thailand (Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai and San Kamphaeng kiln sites), Vietnam and China. At the time, the Chinese traded ceramics of celadon and brown-glazed wares, but there was no blue and white wares at all.

The second space shows trade ceramics from Thailand, Vietnam, China and Myanmar, which date back to 1488-1505 and were commonly found on shipwrecks. The third space displays artefacts from a period of competition between Thai and Chinese ceramics from 1520-1560. Thai kilns in Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai produced large numbers of underglaze black ware, a competitor to the Chinese blue and white ware.

Full story here.

ISEAA award for early career Southeast Asian Archaeologists

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Nominations are being sought for an Early Career Research Award, open to recent PhD recipients in the field of Southeast Asian Archaeology. Deadline is 1 December 2015.


The Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology is pleased to announce the establishment of the first international award in the discipline of Southeast Asian archaeology.

The ISEAA Early Career Award will be open to nominees who have defended their dissertations and received Ph.D. degrees within the five year period from August 31, 2010 to September 1, 2015. An award committee of distinguished scholars will select the awardee based on a single peer-reviewed article or chapter, published within five years of the lead author’s receipt of doctorate, that exemplifies excellent application of current archaeological theory to Southeast Asian data.

Selection/Evaluation Criteria: Submitted material will be evaluated and ranked by committee members on factors including originality and quality of research and strengths of application of current archaeological theory to Southeast Asian data. Both mainland (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar [Burma], and Malay peninsula) and island (island Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, and Singapore) are included.

Who Is Eligible to Submit Nominations: Nominations may be made by any professional archaeologist who holds a PhD. Self-nominations of eligible candidates are strongly encouraged.

Nomination/Submission Materials Required: Nomination letters should be submitted by email to the committee chair and include a PDF of the article or chapter, a two-page letter that includes the lead author’s current address and a scholarly description of why the publication is an exemplary application of current archaeological theory to Southeast Asian data. Only one publication per nominee will be accepted.

Full details of the award here.

PhD Scholarship in Geoarchaeology + Short course opportunity

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A PhD scholarship position is available at the University of Wollongong, Australia, focusing on geoarchaeology related to a project investigating the colonisation of Asia and Australasia by modern humans during the late Pleistocene. The deadline for applications is 31 July 2015.

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD position within the Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), University of Wollongong (UOW). The successful candidate will join a multi-disciplinary project that is seeking to generate new data related to the Late Pleistocene colonisation of Asia and Australasia by modern humans (Homo sapiens) and other archaic hominins present in the region at this time. This forms part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellowship project led by Prof. Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts, ‘Out of Asia: unique insights into human evolution and interactions using frontier technologies in archaeological science’. To address important questions concerning the origins of our species we are developing a number of innovative archaeological science techniques, focussed on combining archaeo-chemical, geochronological and geoarchaeological research strands.

The geoarchaeological component of this project is focussing on spatially-resolved data acquisition at the micro-scale, linking on-site indicators of environmental change to the wider dynamics of the Quaternary landscape and climate systems. We are interested in how hominins interacted with the environments in which they lived, and the directionality of these interrelationships. Archaeological sediments are laid down and post-depositionally modified through the complex interplay between a broad range of geomorphic and anthropogenic processes. These processes leave behind diagnostic signatures that can be sought and identified at the micro-scale, allowing for additional dimensions of data to supplement more traditional field and laboratory techniques. The position will involve overseas fieldwork at archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, and an intensive, laboratory-based analytical research program.

Download more information here (pdf file)

Also, the Centre for Archaeological Research at the University of Wollongong is organising a short course from 16-20th November on Micromorphology.

A 1-week intensive, hands-on short course focussing on the application of micromorphology to the interpretation of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental sequences.

Course information can be downloaded here (pdf file)

Philippine Gold to go on display in New York

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By Jobers Bersales (Inquirer Philippines) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

A trove of Philippine gold from Butuan province, usually on display at the Ayala Museum in the Philippines, will be exhibited at the Asia Society in New York from this September to January next year. Having seen them before I must say the gold pieces are quite exquisite, but it is a pity there is very little contextual information to them.

By Jobers Bersales (Inquirer Philippines) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jobers Bersales (Inquirer Philippines) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient PH gold exhibit heads to New York
ABS-CBN News, 15 July 2015

About 120 gold artifacts mostly from the golden age of Butuan, a city in the Southern Philippines, will be on display at the Asia Society Museum in New York beginning September 11.

Ancient Filipinos in Kingdom of Butuan had a sophisticated culture with a fine taste for handcrafted gold items during the 10th and 11th centuries.

“The Filipinos, before they were called Filipino, were making beautiful, artistic, exquisite jewelry from gold. So it’s like King Tut of Egypt being discovered and coming to the Metropolitan Museum. Everybody went to see it. This is our King Tut,” said Community leader and philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis.

Organizers of “Philippine Gold: Treasures of Forgotten Kingdoms” were recently at the Philippine Consulate in New York to promote the exhibit.

“We are aiming for spectacular, not just a special this fall,” Tom Nagorski, executive vice president of Asia Society said.

Full story here.

Thailand returns artefacts to Cambodia

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Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers discussing repatriated artefacts. Source: Bangkok Post 20150712

Thailand last week returned Cambodia 16 artefacts that were seized from smugglers.

Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers discussing repatriated artefacts. Source: Bangkok Post 20150712

Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers discussing repatriated artefacts. Source: Bangkok Post 20150712

Thailand returns 16 smuggled artefacts to Cambodia
Bangkok Post, 12 July 2015

Cambodian FM returns with 16 stolen artifacts, 13 July 2015

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong returned to Cambodia on Sunday after paying a three-day visit to Thailand, where he received 16 smuggled ancient treasures back from Thailand.

The artifacts were among 43 masterpieces that the Thai authorities confiscated from smugglers in 1999, and Thailand repatriated 7 of them to Cambodia in 2009 after the country had evidence to prove that they were looted from Cambodia.

“Thailand returned 16 artifacts to Cambodia (on Saturday) and they will truck them for us to Siem Reap province,” Hor Namhong told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport upon his arrival.

He did not elaborate on details of the returned artifacts and did not know an exact date when the items will reach Cambodia’s Siem Reap province.

According to Hor Namhong, Thailand also agreed to let Cambodian experts to inspect the remaining 20 masterpieces whether they are also Cambodia’s smuggled artifacts.

Full story here and here.

Categories: Cambodia Thailand


Current research in Angkorian society

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Excavations at Angkor Wat. Source: Alison in Cambodia 20150712

Fresh from fieldwork at Angkor Wat, Alison Carter posts about her recent work and about other developments in the Angkor region.

Excavations at Angkor Wat. Source: Alison in Cambodia 20150712

Excavations at Angkor Wat. Source: Alison in Cambodia 20150712

What do we know about Angkorian society?
Alison in Cambodia, 12 July 2015

Things have been busy these past few months with lots of developments and exciting new changes to come.  Since June I’ve been directing an excavation project looking at a house mound within the Angkor Wat enclosure.  This project is part of the Greater Angkor Project research program, a collaboration between the APSARA Authority and the University of Sydney. I’ll follow-up with a longer post on this work later, but in the meantime you can read a short article on this work in The Phnom Penh Post here.

Full story here.