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Preserving ancient Angkor bridges

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30 August 2007 (The World Bank) – This story draws attention on an ancient highway between Siem Reap and a neighbouring province, and steps taken to preserve the ancient laterite bridges. Not that the bridges have been deteriorating – which should say something about the quality of the structures, but bypass routes and bridges should ensure that they will last for even longer.

World Bank, 30 Aug 2007

Cambodia: The Kampong Kdei Bypass on National Road No. 6

Following a route along an ancient Angkor highway dating from the 12th – 13th Century, National Road No. 6 (NR6) connects Siem Reap and Kompong Thom provinces.

Recent rehabilitation activities drew special attention to the need for Cambodia to protect these unique cultural assets from increasing vehicle and heavy traffic.

With a view to preserve the authenticity and historical value of the ancient bridges, the APSARA Authority for the Protection ad Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap permitted the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to build 10 bypasses with new bridges around minor ancient bridges and a 1.3 km Kampong Kdei bypass and new bridge to divert traffic off the ancient bridges and onto the new bypasses, in conformity with UNESCO’s ad hoc expert group recommendations of December 2004.

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Vietnamese village continues ancient ceramics tradition

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27 May 2007 (Viet Nam News) – This might be of interest to enthnoarchaeologists studying Vietnamese ceramics: a feature on the village of Phu Lang, one of the last few pottery villages which have been producing ceramics since the 15th century.

20070527 Viet Nam News

Phu Lang stays true to its traditional way of life

There isn’t much room for pottery in the fast-paced modern world but for the residents of Phu Lang ceramic village, their products are proving not only popular but highly lucrative.

Phu Lang is a must-see for tourists in the region, not least because of its natural surroundings. The village sits at the foot of the majestic Son Mountain on the banks of the Cau River, only 18km northeast of Bac Ninh Town along Highway 18.

Phu Lang is the last survivor of an old pottery village triangle. Although Bat Trang still produces ceramics, the village has been sucked into the suburbs of Ha Noi as a commune of Gia Lam. The third village, Tho Ha, in Bac Giang Province, has also bent under the pressures of development and industrialisation.

But it wasn’t simply through choice that Phu Lang was able to stay true to tradition as location again played a role in providing residents with easy access to the fundamental raw materials of their trade; water, firewood and clay. Of course, Phu Langpottery is defined by the brown colour and specific texture of the raw clay found in the region. But the villagers have a few extra techniques up their sleeves to differentiate their produce from others in the area.

Pots are baked in kilns at initial temperatures of 600 degrees centigrade rising gradually to around 1,200oC. Once the clay has cooled, potters add their trademark coat of thick eelskin enamel that gives the brown clay an original yellow tint.

Constant production over the centuries has meant that some of the products the village produce are literally museam pieces. Foremost in this case are the vilage’s traditional incense burners used and favoured in the Le (1428-1788) and Mac (1527-1677) dynasties. Examples of these are on display at the Vietnamese Museum of History. It is significant that such a symbol of ancient tradition and culture should survive the aggressive competitiveness of the modern world. And when talking to the locals it seems the secret to success lies not only in artistic talent but also astute business skills.

Read the rest about Phu Lang pottery village and Vietnamese ceramic traditions.

For books about Vietnamese ceramics and ceramic traditions, you might like to read:
Earthenware in Southeast Asia: Proceedings of the Singapore Symposium on Premodern Southeast Asian Earthenwares by J. Miksic
The Ceramics of Southeast Asia : Their Dating and Identification by R. M. Brown
Vietnamese Ceramics: A Separate Tradition by J. Stevensen, J. Guy and L. A. Cort

Not all gloomy at the Thai-Cambodian border

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Around the same time there was a new standoff at Preah Vihear, a reminder that it’s not all tense and gloomy between Thailand and Cambodia. Researchers working on the Living Angkor Road project are helping young Thais and Cambodians celebrate their shared history and culture by revealing their findings on a local level. The Living Angkor Road Project is a cross-country project to chart the ancient highway between Angkor in Cambodia and Phimai in Thailand. Archaeology is a pretty powerful political tool to fuel nationalistic senses, but it can also an equally powerful tool to promote friendship by highlighting similarities and exchanges between cultures as well.



Project on Thai-Cambodian border bridges cultural ties through learning about a shared history

Bangkok Post, 24 March 2009
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Building inter-regional networks of archaeological knowledge in Southeast Asia

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This looks like a step in the right direction: the Centre for Khmer Studies ave started work on creating a network for archaeologists in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to work together, and more importantly generate inter-regional research projects operating under the same methodology. As a region, I think the archaeological traditions in each country are still very much limited by modern national borders – one of the most evident is the way in which each country’s archaeological timeline differs from each other.

Much more has to go by way of building bridges and relationships between countries. One of the difficulties I’ve seen is the way some countries can be quite parochial about the direction of archaeology takes – partly because of political and nationalistic overtones that may arise, but also sometimes from a perceived “territorial” claim over a particular field of study. Other barriers include recent past histories (like how we’ve seen between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihear), or even something as simple as the language barrier.

It’ll be interesting to see, over the next few years, how this project by the Centre for Khmer Studies sheds light on the archaeology of the inland routes from the Tonle Sap to the South China Sea. More interesting is the see how a model for inter-regional collaboration might be achieved through this project.

Tracking Asia’s ‘ancient highways’
Phnom Penh Post, 22 January 2008
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Construction around historical Spanish bridges halted

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Philippine Inquirer, 17 April 2017

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has stopped the controversial road construction project around Puente de Gibanga and Puente de Princesa in Tayabas, Quezon, pending submission of its plans to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) on how best to conserve the Spanish-era bridges.

Both bridges, with nine other Spanish colonial bridges in the city, were collectively declared National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum (NM) in 2011.

Source: DPWH, National Museum reach deal on ancient Tayabas bridges | Inquirer lifestyle

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Burial identified as a noblewoman

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One of the mummies excavated a couple of months ago in Southern Vietnam has been identified as a noblewoman on the basis of her grave goods. Although, the image doesn’t look like the remains were mummified!

Remains of a Noblewoman from Dong Nai Province, Saigon Giai Phong 20111105

200-year-old mummy found in Dong Nai of noble descent
Saigon Giai Phong, 05 November 2011
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Voyage of the Balangay reaches Borneo

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The Voyage of the Balangay, a reconstruction of a Filipino watercraft that sailed the Philippine waters last year is now in its second leg of its journey – a trip through the waters of Southeast Asia. The Balangay recently called at Kota Kinabalu and is on its way to Kuching before continuing on to Singapore and Vietnam.

Retracing the sailing bravado of Filipino ancestors
Daily Express, 22 August 2010
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