‘Old temple’ found in Battambang

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Old temple or just a natural rock formation? Source: Phnom Penh Post 20190205
Old temple or just a natural rock formation? Source: Phnom Penh Post 20190205

via Phnom Penh Post, 05 Feb 2019: Villagers in Battambang say they have discovered a temple, but it may also well be a natural rock formation.

Villages herding their cows and buffalos deep in the forest stumbled upon an old temple in the Tumnop Tabin area in Sampov Loun district’s Chrey Seima commune in Battambang province.

However, Sampov Loun district governor Ngeav Bunyeang said on Monday that officials could not confirm if the temple was an ancient structure.

He said the Spean Yol villagers who live close to the forest found a pile of stones in a structure resembling that of ancient temples and named it Prasat Neang Kong Hing.

Upon inspection, the authorities said the stones were ancient and had degraded. However, they could not confirm if it was part of an ancient temple.

Source: ‘Old temple’ found in Battambang, National, Phnom Penh Post

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[Paper] Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia

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Distribution of craniometric samples from Matsumura et al. 2019, Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia
Distribution of craniometric samples from Matsumura et al. 2019, Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia

via Nature Scientific Reports, 05 Feb 2019: Analysis of skulls from archaeological sites in Southeast and East Asia support a two-layer model of anatomically modern populations entering into Asia.

Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia
Nature Scientific Reports, Matsumura et al., https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-35426-z

This cranio-morphometric study emphasizes a “two-layer model” for eastern Eurasian anatomically modern human (AMH) populations, based on large datasets of 89 population samples including findings directly from ancient archaeological contexts. Results suggest that an initial “first layer” of AMH had related closely to ancestral Andaman, Australian, Papuan, and Jomon groups who likely entered this region via the Southeast Asian landmass, prior to 65–50 kya. A later “second layer” shared strong cranial affinities with Siberians, implying a Northeast Asian source, evidenced by 9 kya in central China and then followed by expansions of descendant groups into Southeast Asia after 4 kya. These two populations shared limited initial exchange, and the second layer grew at a faster rate and in greater numbers, linked with contexts of farming that may have supported increased population densities. Clear dichotomization between the two layers implies a temporally deep divergence of distinct migration routes for AMH through both southern and northern Eurasia.

Source: Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia | Scientific Reports

[Paper] Shifting subsistence patterns from the Terminal Pleistocene to Late Holocene: A regional Southeast Asian analysis

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Stock photo of a pig skeleton from Shutterstock/miha de
Stock photo of a pig skeleton from Shutterstock/miha de

via Quartenary International, 07 Jan 2019: Taking a statistical approach to analysing faunal remains at archaeological sites across Southeast Asia to distinguish between hunter-gather and early agricultural subsistence economies.

Shifting subsistence patterns from the Terminal Pleistocene to Late Holocene: A regional Southeast Asian analysis
Jones et al., Quartenary International, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2019.01.006

The emergence of agriculture in Mainland Southeast Asia appears to have resulted in a subsistence shift from hunting terrestrial and arboreal game to a combined hunting/animal management subsistence regime focused on the maintenance of pigs and dogs. These conclusions are currently based on nominal differences in vertebrate taxonomic composition observed at different archaeological sites. In this paper, we take a statistical approach to test whether hunter-gather and early agricultural subsistence economies really can be confidently distinguished based on the relative taxonomic composition of the recovered animal bone assemblages. A regional database of terrestrial and arboreal vertebrate faunas was created for 32 archaeological sites across Southeast Asia from the Terminal Pleistocene to the Late Holocene, and principal component analysis was performed. The resultant data indicates that terrestrial vertebrate taxonomic composition is a relatively strong indicator of the general subsistence base for the various archaeological sites studied and can be used to determine whether the inhabitants subsisted purely from hunting, or from a mixture hunting and animal management.

Source: Shifting subsistence patterns from the Terminal Pleistocene to Late Holocene: A regional Southeast Asian analysis – ScienceDirect

Plain of Jars could receive World Heritage status in July

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via Vientiane Times, 04 Feb 2019: Laos expects that the Plain of Jars will be listed in the the World Heritage list later this year.

Good news is expected for Laos’ Plain of Jars (Thong Hai Hin) in July when UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meets to make a decision on the site’s status, a government official said last week.

Director General of the Heritage Department at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Thongbay Phothisan, said that after a lot of hard work to process the necessary paperwork, he hopes the Plain of Jars will soon be listed by UNESCO as Laos’ third World Heritage Site.

Source: Vientiane Times

[Talk] The Mysterious Malay Jong and Other Temasek Shipping

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Reconstruction of a Javanese Jong

For readers in Singapore, a talk by Dr Michael Flecker in ISEAS on Friday.

Date: Friday, 15 February 2019
Time : 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Venue : ISEAS Seminar Room 2

About the Lecture

Apart from the European square riggers, the eclectic mix of vessels anchored off Kallang Basin during Raffles’ era would not have differed much from the shipping of five centuries earlier. Chinese junks and Southeast Asian traders would have swung alongside a smattering of Arab and Indian dhows in Temasek roads. During the 14th century the Southeast Asians were transitioning from the thousand-year-old lashed-lug tradition to the fabled jong that would fascinate the Portuguese upon their arrival. Sino-Siamese hybrid ships arrived with Siamese ceramics when various Ming emperors banned Chinese exports. While the numbers were slashed, smuggling ensured that junks from northern and southern China kept on sailing. Drawing on archaeological and historical evidence, we investigate the wide range of ships that plied Singapore waters from the 14th to the 17th century.


About the Speaker

Dr Michael Flecker, Managing Director of Maritime Explorations, has overseen some of the most important shipwreck excavations in Asia over the past 30 years. They include the 9th century Belitung (Tang), 13th century Java Sea, 15th century Bakau, c.1608 Binh Thuan, and c.1690 Vung Tau Wrecks. He earned his PhD from the National University of Singapore, based on the excavation of the 10th century Intan Wreck, and specialises in ancient Asian ship construction and maritime trade. He has twice been a Visiting Fellow at NSC.

Raffles in Southeast Asia: A multilayered exploration of the man, colonialism and re-looking our past

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Last week while I was back in Singapore I took the opportunity to visit the Raffles in Southeast Asia exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum. The exhibition coincided with Singapore’s bicentennial celebrations, a “celebration” that has been met with mixed reception because it commemorates the arrival of Raffles to Singapore, and hence the colonial period of Singapore.

The arrival of Raffles has traditionally been the start of beginning of the history of Singapore. This view has softened somewhat, due in no small part to Prof. John Miksic’s work on the archaeology of Singapore. With the discoveries at Fort Canning, school history books now acknowledge the Temasek period. Still, the idea of Raffles as founder of modern Singapore carries an air of preeminence and prestige, and some of the country’s top schools and institutions bear the name of Raffles.

The bicentennary, Raffles, the discourse of (de)colonisation and rejection of the ‘Big Man’ myth of Raffles all come together in this one exhibition. On one level, Singaporeans only learned about the Raffles who came to Singapore in 1819 but never knew the Raffles who was Governor of Java and his role in the rediscovery of Borobudur. Raffles never actually went to the now-Unesco world heritage site, but he commissioned the survey and is now credited for its discovery. This unearned claim to fame would be a recurrent theme in his career.

Plan of Borobudur, donated by to the British Museum by the great-grand-niece of Raffles but probably prepared by Hermann Cornelius, the Dutch engineer sent by Raffles to uncover the stupa.

The exhibition, through the lens of Raffles’ seminal History of Java and the items collected by Raffles and his contemporaries show a bias towards ancient Hindu relics but pay little attention to Muslim culture.

A collection of rare three-dimensional puppets which were owned by Raffles but not mentioned in The History of Java.
Painting of Candi Sukuh in East Java by T. C. Watson, during the time Raffles was Governor of Java. The Europeans at the time did not believe that the native Javanese were capable of building structures like these, and thought they might be related to the Egyptian civilization which is reflected in the painting.

Some of Raffles’ personal flaws also come through, now with 200 years of hindsight and other historical sources to draw upon. This story of the tapir publication is quite telling about Raffles’s conflict with his second, William Farquhar. Farquhar arguably should be credited as the actual founder of the Singapore settlement (having done the actual legwork) but even the named after him was erased in the 1990s, a victim of Singapore’s urban redevelopment. William Farquhar’s legacy was more recently redeemed in Nadia Wright’s book, William Farquhar and Singapore: Stepping out from Raffles’ Shadow

Juvenile Malayan tapir from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore
I love this caption basically says Raffles was a dick.

Raffles in Southeast Asia was enjoyable in many layers. For many Singaporeans, it was an eye-opener to the influence of Raffles on the rest of the region and not just the country he ‘founded’. The exhibition can also be seen as a critique to the legacy of colonialism, and how its perspective was selective in many ways.

Raffles in Southeast Asia is on display at the Asian Civilisations Museum until 28 April 2019. Admission fees apply.

[Talk] The Origin of Prehistoric Cattle in Thailand

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Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this fun talk at the Siam Society later this month by Dr. Wunrada Surat. The talk is part of the Pint of Science event and is free with registration. [Disclosure I am part of the organising team of Pint of Science Thailand]

Date: 26 Feb 2019
Venue: Siam Society, Asok
Time: 7 pm (doors open at 6.30 pm)

The origin of prehistoric cattle in Thailand: evidence from ancient DNA

Dr. Wunrada Surat (Department of Genetics, Faculty of Science, Kasetsart University)

Cattle have been domesticated in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, for thousands of years, but, the history of cattle domestication in the region remains unclear. To gain some insight into cattle domestication in Thailand we extracted and sequenced DNA from 26 cattle remains, excavated from four archaeological sites located in northeastern and central Thailand, and dated to between 3,550 and 1,700 years before present (YBP) which all belonged to B. taurus. This is the first genetic evidence of when B. taurus was domesticated in Thailand.

More details here.

Draft law on heritage sites needs to be stronger, civic groups say

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Source: Myanmar Times 20190204
Source: Myanmar Times 20190204

via Myanmar Times, 04 Feb 2019: Under the draft Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Law, management of heritage sites would be decentralised to the region and states instead of by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture. I wonder how this might affect the management of the World Heritage sites.

Mandalay residents, civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental groups said the draft amendments of the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Law needs to be made stronger by including a mechanism for public participation.

The committee for the amendment of the law, which was enacted in 1998, is headed by U Myat Thu, minister for Planning and Finance of the Mandalay Region government.

Last week, the draft was discussed by members of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) Bill Committee, the Myanmar Archaeology Association and Bagan-Nyaung-U CSOs. The draft is now ready for debate in the Pyithu Hluttaw.

Source: Draft law on heritage sites needs to be stronger, civic groups say | The Myanmar Times

Visitor numbers for museums, heritage centres hit record high in Singapore

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National Museum of Singapore by saiko3p/Shutterstock
National Museum of Singapore by saiko3p/Shutterstock
Stock photo of the National Museum of Singapore by saiko3p/Shutterstock

via Straits Times, 31 January 2019: 5.4 million visitors to national museums and heritage institutions in Singapore in 2018!

Museums and heritage institutions in Singapore are gaining popularity, with visitor numbers hitting a record high in 2017, according to data from the 2018 Singapore Cultural Statistics released yesterday.

Visitor numbers to national museums and heritage institutions reached 5.4 million in 2017, up from 5.1 million the year before.

This was in tandem with the record-high attendance of 11.3 million at free arts and cultural events, a figure released earlier, on Jan 22, by the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Source: Visitor numbers for museums, heritage centres hit record high, Arts News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Towering success: scientists work on My Son relics

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Restoration of My Son Sanctuary. Source: Vietnam Net, 20190202
Restoration of My Son Sanctuary. Source: Vietnam Net, 20190202

via Vietnam Net, 02 Feb 2019: An update of the restoration work on the My Son Towers by the Italian conservation team.

The current restoration process is regarded as a transition in the application of research on the construction materials as well as archaeological methods in restoring the Cham towers in My Son, members of the team said at a workshop held recently in the central province of Quang Nam.

The workshop focused on highlighting the effectiveness of the technical process used on tower E7 and tower group G. This is regarded as evidence of the efficient co-operation between the UN culture agency UNESCO, Vietnam and Italy.

Phan Ho, director of the My Son relic management board, confirmed the effectiveness of technical solutions that have been used to restore Cham towers in Vietnam, particularly those in My Son, saying that thanks to the restoration process, the relics were stable and had avoided further deterioration, and the towers should withstand the impacts of both humans and the elements.

Source: Towering success: scientists work on My Son relics – News VietNamNet