Hi readers, last post for the year as I will take a short holiday before coming back updating archaeology news next year. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it), happy holidays and a great 2019 ahead!
I continue to maintain and run this site on my own dime, and since starting this site 12 years ago (it’s older than Twitter!) I’ve had a few server failures and database corruptions which has interrupted the website several times. This year there has been a lot less of these incidents due to some renovations in the back end but I’ve had to spend a little more for maintenance and premium plugins that help make the site run better. Support through the link above will help offset the maintenance costs of this website. Of course, you can actually buy me a coffee in real life, that would be great too!
Many of you have offered support and encouragement over the years, and I’m always grateful to hear from you. See you in 2019!
via Bangkok Post, 15 December 2018: A friend from Unesco Bangkok pens this opinion piece about the inscription of the masked Khon dances from Cambodia and Thailand into the Intagible Cultural Heritage list.
That said, what is most interesting in the value of masked dance about Ramayana is not how beautiful they are as art forms, or how they are made prize possessions of countries in the nomination process. Instead, they are most interesting as local traditions that are still viable to many different communities across the region, so all of them practise and pass on the skills and passion to the next generation. These masked dance variations have survived until today, thanks to the stewardship of local community
Wardill and his team are more than a year into restoration of the colonial-era Tourist Burma building. The elegant structure was erected in 1905 by an Indian merchant, who called it the Fytche Square Building, and transformed in 1918 by Ba Nyunt, a local businessman, into Yangon’s first locally owned department store, the Burmese Favourite Company. In 1920, Ba Nyunt’s son Tin New set up the Dagon Magazine Company on the premises, which became a prestigious outlet for local writers.
In 1947, the building was converted for use by the government, initially housing civil servants administering a rations scheme, and eventually passed to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, which used the ground floor as a visitor information center called Tourist Burma — the name by which the building is now generally known. Since 2005 it has been empty and rotting following the government’s shift from Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, to Naypyidaw, the new capital of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Applications for the Center for Khmer Studies Junior Resident Fellows Program is now open. For Cambodian, US and French citizens, deadline 28 Feb 2019.
The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) is offering 5 American, 5 Cambodian and 5 French undergraduate students and recent graduates an exciting opportunity to join a 6 week (July 1 st-August 9 th , 2019) Junior Resident Fellows Program in Cambodia. The program provides a unique experience, allowing students to live and study alongside others from different backgrounds and cultures, while learning about the history and society of today’s Cambodia. During their residency, students will be based at the CKS campus in Siem Reap, which is situated in the beautiful grounds of Wat Damnak, one of the town’s major Buddhist pagodas, only minutes away from the famous Angkor, World Heritage Site with its enigmatic temples. Fellows will also spend time in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh.
via The Diplomat, 13 Dec 2018: France recently returned artefacts to Benin. Why not Cambodia?
The debate as to whether international museums and governments should return cultural artifacts acquired during the colonial period is not a new one. However, it has now been re-energized by French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision that France will return 26 cultural artifacts to Benin. The announcement follows the release of a presidential-commissioned report by French art historian Bénédicte Savoy and Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr, calling for thousands of African cultural artifacts taken during the colonial period to be returned to their respective countries, if requested. Although the report is only limited to Africa, as a former French colony, Cambodia should demand the repatriations of its cultural artifacts as well.
The report could have far-reaching repercussions for international museum housing cultural artifacts taken during the colonial period, and for the colonialized countries wanting their cultural heritage back. With around 90 to 95 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage outside the continent in major museums, the report seeks to rebalance the access former colonized countries have to their own cultural heritage. The report recommends the restitution of “any objects taken by force or presumed to be acquired through inequitable conditions” by the army, scientific explorers, or colonial administrators from the late 19th century until 1960.
Like Benin, Cambodia was also a part of the French Colonial Empire, having joined as a French protectorate in 1863 under the reign of King Norodom. Until the 15th century, Cambodia was a strong regional power; however, by the late 18th century it faced extinction as a sovereign state threatened by both Siam (modern Thailand) and Vietnam. Although the protectorate status ensured Cambodia’s territorial integrity remained intact against its neighbors, France largely controlled Cambodia’s internal and external affairs as a result. Cambodia was designated as a colonie d’exploitation (colony of economic exploitation).
via Malay Mail and other sources, 18 December 2018: Archaeologists in Malaysia announce the discovery of a Mesolithic-period skeleton in Kelantan.
Department of National Heritage senior museum assistant Khairil Amri Abd Ghani examining the skeleton found in Gua Chawan, Kelantan. Source: The Star, 20181218
The skeleton from the Mesolithic period or middle stone age, was found by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), archaeologists from National Heritage Department (JWN) and researchers from the History Department, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris during the archaeological excavation at the cave.
The Annual Philippine Studies Conference SOAS focuses its 2019 edition on the southern island of Mindanao. It seeks to gather academics, policymakers, cultural workers, artists and scientists to map the contours of Mindanao’s struggle for peace after centuries of violent strife. This struggle is complex and, as an object of study, extremely dense. Its dimensions are simultaneously global, national, and local —and these layers are often collapsed into each other.
The Conference takes up the challenge of addressing this complexity and density with a new emphasis on cultural analysis. In the course of the last few decades, it has become abundantly clear that the integration of multi-disciplinary approaches requires a cultural perspective.
In taking up mapping as a metaphor for approaching Mindanao, the Conference draws attention to the porous and overlapping ethnolinguistic homelands; conceptual and physical sites of conflict, resolution, and/or cycles of seemingly perpetual repeats.
The island — volatile home to Muslim, settler, and autochtonous societies variously staking out claims for resources, territory, and opportunity— can in fact only be mapped with great nuance and a strong sense of dynamic cultural transformation.
Happening next year from 25-27 June 2019 in Brisbane, Australia.
Participants will include active researchers in palaeoanthropology, biological anthropology, genomics and palaeogenomics, primatology, as well as all disciplines engaged in understanding the environmental and site-specific context of human evolution across Asia and Australasia, including taphonomy, geochronology, palaeoecology, and geoarchaeology. This conference will foster international collaborations between researchers actively engaged in scientific analyses and exploration in Asia and the Pacific, and