Banteay Chhmar and sustainable community-based tourism

A feature on sustainable community-based tourism through the example of Banteay Chhmar.

Banteay Chhmar
Banteay Chhmar

Banteay Chhmar: How Cambodia’s ancient cities are boosting tourism and community development
IBT Times, 24 June 2016

In 2008, Global Heritage Fund began exploratory conservation work at the site and, in partnership with the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the APSARA National Authority established a wide-ranging conservation, master plan and community development project at the site.

Part of this has involved the development of the Community-Based Tourism (CBT) to help local people living and working around Banteay Chhmar both acquire a deep understanding of the site and benefit from it economically and socially. Mobilising local people around the protection of endangered monuments is fundamental to GHF’s work and is critical for creating projects, which dually serve social and heritage preservation needs.

There will always be arguments over the impact that tourism has on historic sites and local people with the footfall in places like Angkor resulting in calls for tourist caps, but the CBT approach is entirely focused on sustainability. While private businesses benefiting from tourist hotspots retain their profits, the CBT income from visitors is for the benefit of the villagers and, to date, has seen funds reinvested in initiatives such as waste collection, a children’s library and the opening of a local restaurant.

Full story here.

The mystery of Suryavarman I’s temple solved

Dating of metal fixings in the architecture at the Baphuon temple in Angkor Thom have led researchers to conclude that it was built as the mountain temple of King Suryavarman I who reigned in the 11th century.

Baphuon. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160620
Baphuon. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160620

Metal Findings Give New Perspective on Angkorian History
Cambodia Daily, 20 June 2016

One thing that set Suryavarman I apart from other great kings—to the puzzlement of historians and archaeologists—was that he did not seem to have erected his own mountain temple: Jayavarman V built Ta Keo in the 10th century, Suryavarman II Angkor Wat in the early 12th century and Jayavarman VII the Bayon in the late 12th century.

But that mystery seems to have been solved thanks to cutting-edge research into the iron used to build the Baphuon temple, the second largest structure in Angkor Archaelogical Park after Angkor Wat.

This three-tiered pyramid was the monument that Suryavarman I built, according to carbon-dating of the metal used to hold the temple together.

“It’s very strange that a king with that amount of influence and power didn’t build himself anything in Angkor,” said archaeologist Mitch Hendrickson of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who headed the research team along with archaeometallurgist Stephanie Leroy of the Archaeomaterials and Alteration Prediction Laboratory in France.

Full story here.

Hotel developments in Bagan on hold

The Myanmar Department of Archaeology reports that a number of hotel developments around and near the Bagan temples are on hold while the site is being prepare for Unesco World Heritage nomination. This is welcome news especially since zoning requirements in the temple areas have not been enforced until recently.

Bagan hotels on hold
TTR Weekly 17 June 2016

Over 40 hotel projects in the Bagan Ancient Cultural Region have been delayed since 2013, while their construction permits are reviewed.

Global New Light of Myanmar quoted Department of Archaeology director, U Zaw Zaw Htun, saying the department was reviewing the situation.

“The answer will only be realised once we’ve completed our negotiations with UNESCO for the recognition of Bagan as a World Heritage site… this impacts on the hotels’ future. For now, we’re still discussing possibilities.”

Full story here.

Cows encroach into Bali archaeological site

The Gilimanuk archaeological site in Western Bali was encroached upon by cattle when they were led into the site to graze.

Trespassing cows graze over West Bali archaeological site
Coconuts Bali, 17 June 2016

Cows have been literally going out of bounds lately in West Bali as they graze over a five hectare archaeological site in Gilimanuk, Jembrana.

But we can’t blame it all on the cows. The Jembrana Head of Culture, Education, Youth, Sports, Culture, and Tourism says the owners intentionally allow their cattle to enter the site through areas where the surrounding fence is broken, despite a customary law prohibiting them from doing so. Sneaky, sneaky.

“We’ve often coordinated with the village in order to prohibit its citizens from grazing their cattle here, but there are still cattle trespassing into the site,” Anak Agung Ngurah Mahadikara told Merdeka on Wednesday.

Full story here.

Angkor Lidar roundup, June 2016

A roundup of the media stories from the results of the second LiDAR campaign over Angkor, which received a large amount of news last month.

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Meet Lidar: the amazing laser technology that’s helping archaeologists discover lost cities
The Conversation, 14 June 2016

Lasers uncover hidden ancient Angkor Wat cities in Cambodia
BBC News, 14 June 2016

Laser technology reveals huge medieval cities hidden in the Cambodian jungle
Science Alert, 14 June 2016

Ancient city discovered near Angkor Wat
AOL, 14 June 2016

Ancient Cities Were Swallowed by the Cambodian Rainforest
The Science Explorer, 14 June 2016

New Discoveries Radically Change What We Know About Ancient Cambodia
VOA Khmer, 15 June 2016

Earthen Mounds Discovered in Ancient Cambodian Cities
New Historian, 15 June 2016

Laser technology heralds new age of archaeology
iNews, 20 June 2016

Another Hobbit paper argues against Down Syndrome theory

While the excitement was brewing over the discovery of 700,000-year-old hobbit bones in Flores, another paper published at the same time evaluates the theory that H. floresiensis presented with signs of Down Syndrome. The paper noted significant differences between the hominid bones and those with Down Sydrome and concluded that the bones were unique.

A Critical Evaluation of the Down Syndrome Diagnosis for LB1, Type Specimen of Homo floresiensis
PLoS One, 08 June 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155731

Homo floresiensis Remains Unique, Valid Species
Sci-News, 13 June 2016

The Liang Bua hominins from Flores, Indonesia, have been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate since their initial description and classification in 2004. These remains have been assigned to a new species, Homo floresiensis, with the partial skeleton LB1 as the type specimen. The Liang Bua hominins are notable for their short stature, small endocranial volume, and many features that appear phylogenetically primitive relative to modern humans, despite their late Pleistocene age. Recently, some workers suggested that the remains represent members of a small-bodied island population of modern Austro-Melanesian humans, with LB1 exhibiting clinical signs of Down syndrome. Many classic Down syndrome signs are soft tissue features that could not be assessed in skeletal remains. Moreover, a definitive diagnosis of Down syndrome can only be made by genetic analysis as the phenotypes associated with Down syndrome are variable. Most features that contribute to the Down syndrome phenotype are not restricted to Down syndrome but are seen in other chromosomal disorders and in the general population. Nevertheless, we re-evaluated the presence of those phenotypic features used to support this classification by comparing LB1 to samples of modern humans diagnosed with Down syndrome and euploid modern humans using comparative morphometric analyses. We present new data regarding neurocranial, brain, and symphyseal shape in Down syndrome, additional estimates of stature for LB1, and analyses of inter- and intralimb proportions. The presence of cranial sinuses is addressed using CT images of LB1. We found minimal congruence between the LB1 phenotype and clinical descriptions of Down syndrome. We present important differences between the phenotypes of LB1 and individuals with Down syndrome, and quantitative data that characterize LB1 as an outlier compared with Down syndrome and non-Down syndrome groups. Homo floresiensis remains a phenotypically unique, valid species with its roots in Plio-Pleistocene Homo taxa.

Full story here.

Possible Hobbit ancestors found in Flores, dating 700,000 years

A new paper out in Nature last month detail the find of tiny hominid bones in Flores, home of H. floresiensis. The fossils from Mata Menge date to 700,000 years old, and suggest that the hobbit had been older and had a longer history on the island than previously thought.

Mata Menge site. Source: Nature via ABC News 20160609
Mata Menge site. Source: Nature via ABC News 20160609

Homo floresiensis-like fossils from the early Middle Pleistocene of Flores
Nature, 09 June 2006
doi:10.1038/nature17999

‘Hobbit’ relatives found after ten-year hunt
Nature, 08 June 2016

Homo floresiensis has been uncovered at the 700,000 year old site of Mata Menge, Flores, Indonesia
Human Evolution @ UCK, 08 June 2016

Flores fossil discovery provides clues to ‘hobbit’ ancestors
The Guardian, 08 June 2016

Flores fossil discovery gives new clue to ‘hobbit’ relatives
AFP, via Economic Times, 09 June 2016

Hobbit discovery: Hopes 700,000-year-old find could shed new light on evolution
ABC News, 09 June 2016

New fossils shed light on the origin of ‘hobbits’
Griffith University, via Popular Archaeology, 09 June 2016

Australian-led team unlocked new questions about human evolution and the history of the`Hobbit’
News.com.au, 10 June 2016

The evolutionary origin of Homo floresiensis, a diminutive hominin species previously known only by skeletal remains from Liang Bua in western Flores, Indonesia, has been intensively debated. It is a matter of controversy whether this primitive form, dated to the Late Pleistocene, evolved from early Asian Homo erectus and represents a unique and striking case of evolutionary reversal in hominin body and brain size within an insular environment1–4. The alternative hypothesis is that H. floresiensis derived from an older, smaller-brained member of our genus, such as Homo habilis, or perhaps even late Australopithecus, signalling a hitherto undocumented dispersal of hominins from Africa into eastern Asia by two million years ago (2 Ma)5,6. Here we describe hominin fossils excavated in 2014 from an early Middle Pleistocene site (Mata Menge) in the So’a Basin of central Flores. These specimens comprise a mandible fragment and six isolated teeth belonging to at least three small-jawed and small-toothed individuals. Dating to ~0.7 Ma, these fossils now constitute the oldest hominin remains from Flores7. The Mata Menge mandible and teeth are similar in dimensions and morphological characteristics to those of H. floresiensis from Liang Bua. The exception is the mandibular first molar, which retains a more primitive condition. Notably, the Mata Menge mandible and molar are even smaller in size than those of the two existing H. floresiensis individuals from Liang Bua. The Mata Menge fossils are derived compared with Australopithecus and H. habilis, and so tend to support the view that H. floresiensis is a dwarfed descendent of early Asian H. erectus. Our findings suggest that hominins on Flores had acquired extremely small body size and other morphological traits specific to H. floresiensis at an unexpectedly early time.

Article link here.