via the Myanmar Times, 20 Mar 2019: Tensions in Mrauk U as people stay indoors and tourists have cleared out.
Archaeologists want the Mrauk-U cultural heritage zone to be declared off limits to combatants after an artillery shell damaged one of its ancient pagodas during a recent clash between government forces and the Arakan Army.
The Myanmar Archaeology Association urged combatants to avoid the area as it is being prepared for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In last Friday’s clash, an artillery shell hit the historic Mye Hte Pagoda and the security gate of a cultural conservation zone near Tukkathein Pagoda.
Myanmar is a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which urges conflicting parties against targeting cultural heritage areas, using them as forts, or fighting in those areas.
via various news sources, 18-19 March 2019: Reports of armed conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar armed forces in Rakhine. Local villagers have been displaced to flee the conflict zones, while some temples of the Mrauk-U archaeological site have been damaged from weapons fire. Myanmar is currently preparing to nominate Mrauk U as a world heritage site.
Not only residents of Mrauk-U, but also archaeologists are concerned about the effects of the ongoing hostilities in their ancient township.
Battles between Myanmar and Arakan forces damaged some of the township archeological heritage buildings and have become an obstacle to efforts to include the monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage list, residents and archaeologists said.
Hundreds of ancient but well-preserved temples and pagodas that dot the area’s hills are remnants of a powerful empire that existed there from the 15th century to the late 18th century.
“The damage inside the archaeological heritage areas caused by the ongoing fighting could be irreparable,” said Khin Than, chairwoman of the group Mrauk-U Heritage Trust.
“I am concerned that these irreplaceable archaeological treasures won’t be able to survive if there is heavy artillery firing and bombing by airstrikes,” she said. “Locals who live inside the archaeological zone also want peace and stability. Nobody wants war.”
The A-Naut-Myae-Htae pagoda was hit by fallen mortar shells during a night of shooting and shelling in Mrauk-U on March 15, said Than Htike, director of Mrauk-U’s Archaeological Department.
A security tent near the Shite-Thaung pagoda, an iconic monument among Rakhine’s archeological sites, was hit by heavy artillery, while bullets fell in the vicinity, which is designated as an archaeological zone, he said.
via ANU: Readers in Canberra may be interested in the Mulvaney Lecture on 27 March by Prof. Peter Bellwood.
A Mulvaney Lecture is a chance for broad thinking as well as attention to detail. In this lecture Prof Peter Bellwood will focus on two overlapping major topics. The first concerns the early farming dispersal hypothesis in general, as described in his First Farmers (2005). The second concerns the more specific topic of Austronesian dispersal, as defined most recently by Prof Bellwood and other colleagues in First Islanders (2017). He will describe how he first became interested in these two topics, and how understanding of them has evolved in recent decades with developments in archaeological science, linguistic phylogeny, and the analysis of ancient skeletons and ancient DNA.
via Center for Khmer Studies. Application deadline is 22 March 2019.
CKS is looking for a qualified national candidate for the post of Research Librarian. This position will be based in Siem Reap at CKS headquarters in Wat Damnak. The Research Librarian will report to the Head librarian and Head of Program.
The mission of the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS) is to support research and teaching in the social sciences, arts and humanities as they relate to Cambodia. Since our founding in 1998, CKS has aimed to foster understanding of Cambodia and the Mekong region.
CKS brings the experience and strength of more than fifteen years operating in Cambodia along with established partnerships with local and international organizations. Operating from both Siem Reap (headquarters) and Phnom Penh, CKS offers a dynamic working environment with plenty of room for initiative, innovative thinking, professional empowerment, and rapid decision-making.
via Bangkok Post, 07 and 09 Mar 2019: While I’m bringing to attention the recent plans to drill for oil next to one of the ruins in Si Thep, it’s a good idea to take a step back and appreciate the significance of Si Thep in the first place. The temple ruins are only the most recent archaeological vestige; the area has been occupied for at least the last 2000 years, developing into a moated settlement with distinct Dvaravati and Khmer periods. This transformation over time which can be detected by archaeology is part of what makes Si Thep an exceptional heritage site.
The Dvaravati monument and the park, which hopes to one day be included in Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites, have recently been a hot topic in the media. But not because of the Unesco bid. (The nomination is still in the planning process.) Si Thep was in the news because an oil drilling operation is set to be carried out close to Khao Khlang Nok stupa. How close? Reportedly, around 100m.
Civic groups in the province as well as the Fine Arts Department, which oversees the historical park, protested the project, as it is a potential threat to the 1,300-year-old religious monument. While it is still unclear how the conflict will be resolved, perhaps we should take this opportunity to get to know a few things about Khao Khlang Nok and Si Thep.
The historical park can be explored on foot or, even better, by bicycle. According to archaeological studies, the area now designated as the historical park has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Excavations have turned up human skeletons buried with pottery and other objects dating back 2,000 years. Over the centuries, the settlement developed. During the Dvaravati period, which was heavily influenced by Indian cultures, it became a moated town, and continued to prosper throughout the period of Khmer dominance.
via ThaiPublica.com, 08 Mar 2019: An article in Thai by my friend Phachaporn Phanomvan na Ayutthaya about the economics of drilling and the potential for the heritage industry in Si Thep. She proposes a minimum 5km buffer zone around Si Thep to protect the ancient ruins from the impact of oil drilling. At the end of the article is the Environmental Impact Assessment from the oil company proposing to drill next to Khao Klang Nok. It’s entirely in Thai, but there isn’t much in the assessment that addresses heritage protection.
via MGR Online, 08 Mar 2019: The Thai cabinet at a meeting on Friday has approved the nomination of Si Thep as a Unesco World Heritage site, effectively starting the process. This would mean that Si Thep would eventually be added into the Unesco World Heritage tentative list. Inclusion into the tentative list typically happens at least a year before the country formally makes the nomination submission. Original article is in Thai.
via Aju Business Daily, 06 Mar 2019: Yoni discovered in Vat Phu by a team from South Korea.
South Korean archaeologists have discovered a gold and bronze religious relic called “Yoni” during an excavation at a ruined Khmer Hindu temple complex in southern Laos that would become an important element in studying the history of ancient Khmer exchanges.
The relic in the form of pedestal was 63mm in height and 110mm in width, the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) said Wednesday in a statement. Its material was bronze with the outer surface gold-plated. There are five small holes with a diameter of 3.5 mm on the top with a water spout running along the side, the state body said.
It is presumed to be a religious relic related to Sadha Linga, and Laotian archaeologists confirmed that it was the first discovery of such a relic in the Southeast Asian country, according to the administration.
Remnants of the foundations of a 10th century pagoda in Xuan Dai Mountain, Vinh Loc district, the central province of Thanh Hoa, have just been excavated.
The results have been announced recently by scientists from Ho Citadel Heritage Preservation Centre and the Vietnam Archaeology Institute.
At an excavation site on the mountainside behind Vinh Ninh Primary School, archaeologists discovered four layers of foundations constructed from large stones. Most of the stones remain in their original places, arranged in a line running east to west. Some of them fell out of line.