Ancient well found in Central Vietnam

The remains of a well, thought to belong to the 12th century Cham period, was discovered in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province.

Ancient well discovered in Quảng Nam Province
Viet Nam News, 06 May 2016

An ancient well has been discovered in Quảng Nam Province due to the joint efforts carried by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism and local administrators and villagers of Hương An Commune to protect an ancient Chăm well that has been excavated in the region.

The ancient well, which is presumed to be built in the 12th century, has square structure, each side of which is nearly 1m long. It is made of ancient Chăm bricks, similar to materials used in other Chăm temples within Quảng Nam Province.

According to Tôn Thất Hướng, head of the department, archeologists have confirmed through their studies and surveys that a Chăm community used to inhabit in the area surrounding the ancient well for many centuries.

Full story here.

Road in front of Angkor Wat closed to traffic

The area in front of the entrance to Angkor Wat is now off limits to vehicular traffic in a bid to ease congestion.

Hun Sen Bans Traffic on Angkor Wat Road
Cambodia Daily, 4 May 2016

No cars allowed near Angkor Wat
AP, via Today, 3 May 2016

Cars, vans, and other vehicular traffic will be barred from traveling along the stretch of road directly facing Angkor Wat, the country’s most iconic tourist attraction, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Facebook yesterday.

“From now on, only pedestrians and cyclists will be allowed to enter the road in front of Angkor Wat temple. No any other vehicles will be allowed to pass through the street, but firetrucks and ambulances will be allowed to enter during an emergency,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote.

Full story here and here.

Massive prehistoric grave site discovered in Taiwan

Archaeologists in Taiwan report the discovery of a 5000-year-old grave site, with a particular set of bones described as a mother-and-child burial, which has been what most media have been leading with. The finds are significant, although the characterisation of the mother-and-infant bones may be exaggerated.

A man cleans a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City. Source: Reuters 20160426
A man cleans a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City, Taiwan, April 26, 2016 in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/via Reuters

4800-Year-Old Remains of Mother and Child Found in Taiwan
New Historian, 28 April 2016

Fossilized Mother Held Baby For 4,800 Years Before Archeologists Found Them
Huffington Post, 26 April 2016

Taiwan finds 4,800-year-old fossil of mother cradling baby
Reuters, 26 April 2016

A team of archaeological researchers in Taiwan have uncovered a massive array of ancient remains dating to at least 4,800 years old – including a mother cradling an infant child, possibly her own, in her arms.

Found in central Taiwan in the Taichung region, these remains, which were discovered in excavated graves, are the oldest ever discovered within the area. The most startling discovery by far was the skeleton of the woman, as she seemed to be gazing down lovingly at the child wrapped in her arms, according to the country’s National Museum of Natural Science’s anthropology curator, Chu Whei-lee. The scientist, in a recent interview with Reuters, said the entire team was “shocked” by the tableau.

Excavations at the Taiwanese dig site began in May of 2014, running for approximately a year. For the last several months the 48 sets of remains, five of which were found to have been young children, were subjected to rigorous study. This included carbon dating, which enabled the team to narrow down the age of the fossilized remains to just a few centuries shy of 5,000 years old.

Full story here.

Thai Military builds Preah Vihear replica; quickly demolished soon after

A local Thai military commander builds a small replica of Preah Vihear near the original temple in the Thai side of the border in the hopes of boosting domestic tourism. But just as the attraction is set to open, the replica is shut down for fear of conflict with Cambodia. It’s been five years since hostilities ceased between the two countries over the World Heritage Site, and this episode shows how sensitive the issue remains in the region.

Replica Preah Vihear in Si Sa Ket Province. Source: Bangkok Post 20160425
Replica Preah Vihear in Si Sa Ket Province. Source: Bangkok Post 20160425

Military builds Preah Vihear temple replica
Bangkok Post, 25 April 2016

Khao Phra Viharn’s replica at Pha More E-daeng will open to public in May
Thai PBS, 27 April 2016

Phrea Vihear temple replica opening put on hold
Thai PBS, 09 May 2016

Commander moved, temple replica to be demolished
Thai PBS, 10 May 2016

Construction of the temple replica built at the cost of five million baht finished just a few weeks ago and open to public for visits briefly before it was ordered shut down by the Army chief.

The temple replica was said to promote tourism to Mor E-Daeng cliff after the original Preah Vihear temple is not yet open to visitors by Cambodia.

The cliff is about 700 metres from the Hindhu temple in Cambodia.

Matichon said Gen Teerachai also ordered the demolition of the temple replica as it might affect the current good relations of the two countries.

He also said the Foreign Ministry had earlier voiced disagreement to the construction of the temple replica.

Full story here.

Unlocking the secrets of the Preah Khan of Kampong Svay

The Preah Khan of Kampong Svay – not to be confused with the temple of the same name in the Angkor Archaeological Park – is a great complex located in Preah Vihear province, with much archaeological potential as the hub for iron production in the Angkorian period.

Preah Khan of Kampong Svay. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160424
Preah Khan of Kampong Svay. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160424

Ancient Secrets
Cambodia Daily, 24 April 2016

But why this once affluent site was left to fade into jungle overgrowth centuries ago still remains a mystery. Prak Sonnara, director of heritage at the Ministry of Culture, calls it “one of the most enigmatic provincial centers of the Khmer Empire.”

It was also gigantic, noted Canadian archaeologist Mitch Hendrickson. “An interesting temple because it has multiple phases and it just tends to grow outward and outward and outward to the fourth enclosure walls which are earth and not stone,” he said.

“You look at the area that that encloses: It’s roughly 22 square kilometers. Just to put that in perspective, Angkor Thom is 12 square kilometers,” he said, referring to the walled city in the Angkor Archaeological Park.

The complex of Preah Khan—the largest single-temple compound erected during the Angkorian empire—was built over several centuries, from the late 10th century through the late 12th century, Mr. Hendrickson said. “So [kings] Suryavarman I, Suryavarman II and Jayavarman VII all have a footprint here. And kings in between seemed to have had some sort of modifications here and there.”

Full story here.

The legacy of the Ban Chiang discovery

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Ban Chiang culture in Thailand’s Udon Thani province. This article from the Isaan Record features and interview with Dr Joyce White and her involvement with the site.

Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420
Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

The legacy of Ban Chiang: Archaeologist Joyce White talks about Thailand’s most famous archaeological site
The Isaan Record, 20 April 2016

Fifty years ago in August, in the village of Ban Chiang near Udon Thani, a visiting American student named Stephen Young tripped over an exposed tree root and fell atop the rim of a clay pot partly buried in the village path. His tumble set into motion two joint Thai-American archaeological expeditions to Ban Chiang in the 1970s that exposed the extent of prehistoric burial sites beneath the village, sites filled with thousands of pieces of pottery and metalwork buried as grave goods by Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples at different times between 4200 and 1800 years ago. The Ban Chiang finds revealed unexpected technological and artistic development among the peoples of the region and challenged prevailing ideas about the prehistory of Southeast Asia.

American archaeologist Dr. Joyce White is the Director of the Ban Chiang project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, USA, where she has studied the finds from Ban Chiang since 1976. She is an expert witness for the US Department of Justice in an ongoing antiquities trafficking case that in 2014 resulted in the return of many smuggled Ban Chiang items to Thailand.

Full story here.

Minister slams government for lack of Bujang Valley protection

A state minister in Malaysia has criticised the federal government of Malaysia for not protecting the Bujang Valley in Kedah as a heritage site.

Bujang Valley Museum

Ramasamy furious Bujang Valley not yet a heritage site
FMT News, 22 April 2016

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy has slammed the federal government for not preserving the historical Bujang Valley in Kedah by gazetting it as a heritage site.

The DAP leader was responding to a recent report in The Sun that a group of local university students were found playing “station games” atop a candi (ancient tomb or temple built during the Hindu and Buddhist periods) at the Archaeological Museum there.

“Despite the monuments there dating back more than 2000 years, the site has not received the kind of attention that is due from the Malaysian government.

“While the Bujang Valley has not been gazetted as a heritage site despite many requests, the ancient monuments and sites face the danger of being abused or even demolished by unscrupulous land developers,” he said in a statement today, citing the demolition of a reconstructed candi by a developer to make way for a housing project in the valley, several years ago.

Full story here.

The solar alignments of Angkorian temples

A recently-published archaeoastronomy paper discusses the direct connection between the orientation of Angkorian temples with rising and setting of the sun during the equinoxes, but more importantly that the slight deviation along the east-west orientation of most of the temples were in face deliberate.

Angkor Wat. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160425
Angkor Wat. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160425

Tech used to prove Angkor’s link to sun
Phnom Penh Post, 25 April 2016

An Italian professor has set about the task of verifying with angles and axes what has long been theorised about Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat – that the temples took their cues from the sky.

Giulio Magli, professor of archaeoastronomy at Politecnico di Milano, used modern technology to test age-old thought in a bid to prove the clear orientation of buildings to the west was “connected with the temple’s symbolism and the management of power by the Khmer kings”.

“I only believe in what I can measure,” Magli told the Post, explaining his motivation to map precisely the orientation of the temples.

Full story here; access the paper here.

200-year-old gravestones found in Kuala Lumpur

200-year-old gravestones were discovered near a historic mosque in Kuala Lumpur, during construction work that is part of a riverside beautification project.

Gravestones found in Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur. Source: The Star: 20160413
Gravestones found in Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur. Source: The Star: 20160413

Rock-solid proof of 200-year-old graves
The Star, 13 April 2016

Gravestones find ‘will not affect construction’
The Star, 04 May 2016

Contractors digging up the vicinity of the century-old Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur for the River of Life (RoL) project stumbled upon several gravestones believed to be from the early 18th century.

So far more than 45 gravestones, mostly granite and a few marble as well as sandstone ones dating back almost 200 years were found buried near the construction site from December 2015 to March this year.

It is learnt that the RoL project conservator had alerted workers who are currently constructing a water fountain at the site to be on the lookout for more artefacts to emerge.

The site where the project is taking shape was a Muslim cemetery two centuries ago.

Full story here and here.

Repatriation of artefacts spark interest in Cambodians

A story on how the recent spate of artefact repatriations to Cambodia has sparked a renewed interest in the country’s past.

Repatriated head at the National Museum of Phnom Penh. 20160413
Repatriated head at the National Museum of Phnom Penh. 20160413

Returned Artifacts Stir New Interest in Cambodian Antiquity
VOA Cambodia, 13 April 2016

On a recent Friday afternoon Choup Leakhena, 18, was wondering around Phnom Penh’s National Museum, taking selfies with some of the institution’s impressive—and growing—collection of ancient Khmer sculpture.

A freshman at Pannasastra University who hails from Takmao city in Kandal province, Leakhena told VOA Khmer that the beauty of the works gave her a sense of national pride.

“I love and appreciate these masterpieces, such as the apsara”—a celestial nymph from Hindu mythology—“the statues of [12th century Khmer monarch] Jayavarman VII, Vishnu and Buddha,” she said. “I am able to see into life in the past.”

Artifacts looted from Cambodia’s ancient temples during decades of conflict have started to flow back into the country, giving young Cambodians like Leakhena an opportunity to embrace the country’s cultural heritage and history.

“I came here because I want to learn about it,” she said. “Finally, I can see [the sculptures] and I can admire our Khmer ancestors, who created such precious pieces for us. It’s really unique. Other countries don’t have such amazing artworks.”

In a remarkably successful campaign in recent years, the Cambodian government has identified looted artifacts abroad and initiated legal efforts to reclaim them. And the tide appears to have turned, with many of the treasures spirited away and sold on the black market now finding their way back to the nation that made them.

Full story here.