Archeology helps introduce Vietnamese culture in Europe

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2 April 2007 (Vietn Nam Net Bridge) – A German archaeological team has been working on the O Chua site in Southern Vietnam, which was a salt-production centre, and also yielded pottery similar to that found in salt-production sites in Europe.

Archeology helps introduce Vietnamese culture in Europe

German Archeologist Andreas Reinecke said introducing Vietnam’s culture in Europe was the purpose of archeology projects he and his Vietnamese colleagues had been conducting for the past decade.

One of these projects is the investigation of O Chua Mound in Vinh Hung District in the southern province of Long An. The site has been excavated by the Archaeological Institute of non-European cultures (the German Archaeological Institute), Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities and Long An Province Museum.

Southern archeological site to be restored

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2 April 2007 (Thanh Nien News) – The Cat Tien archaeological site is set to be restored and proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Southern archeological site to be restored

Vietnamese authorities have decided to invest VND2 billion (US$ 125,000) in restoring an archeological site in the south that boasts brick temples and tombs from the Cham culture.

The Lam Dong province’s Department of Culture and Information has decided the money is to be spent in the second quarter of this year on constructing roofs over 10 excavation areas – believed to be over a thousand years old – on the Cat Tien archaeological site.


Related Books:
Vietnamese Ceramics: A Separate Tradition by J. Stevensen, J. Guy, L. A. Cort

Ancient ovens found to have a magnetic appeal

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2 April 2007 (The Nation) – Magnetometry saves the day! Actually, no. Magnetometers have been used in archaeology for quite a while already. The magnetometers were used to detect two kilns from the Phitsanulok province in Thailand and are possibly related to kilns in Sukhothai province.

Ancient ovens found to have a magnetic appeal

Armed with hi-tech equipment and advanced technology, government archaeologists and surveyors are excavating two historic sites in Phitsanulok believed to contain more than 50 16th-century kilns.

The first site is an 11-rai plot at the Ta Pa Khao temple and school in Muang district. The other is at the school compound next to an 800-metre stretch of the Nan River. Two kilns were unearthed here in 1984, 3.5 metres below the surface.

The Fine Arts and Mineral Resources departments are conducting the joint excavation. It started on Saturday and should be completed on Sunday.

Myanmar captivates with mystical charm

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1 April 2007 (San Jose Mercury News) – Another tourist’s account of Indochina, this time to Burma, through a three-week archaeological tour.

Myanmar captivates with mystical charm

Woozy from jet lag and blinded by a golden reflection of light, I was struck speechless the first time I saw Shwedagon Pagoda.

The shimmering bell-shaped stupa reigning over the 14-acre Shwedagon complex – and indeed over the city itself – is the heart and soul of Yangon. Devotees and visitors come to pray, meet friends, meditate, burn incense, chant or, like me, to just stand dumbstruck.

I still might be standing there if I hadn’t become engrossed in the traditional clockwise stroll around the mosaic-covered columns, spires, prayer pavilions and hundreds of images of Buddha that fill every nook and cranny.

The glistening 32-story stupa is topped by a golden orb studded with 4,350 diamonds and precious stones. Inside, away from the faithful and onlookers, are said to be relics of Buddha. So it’s easy to see why it is the most revered site in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma.

To our little band of Westerners, it was Wonderland.


Related Books:
Bagan by B. Broman
– Recent developments in the archaeology of Myanma Pyay (Burma): an introduction. (Editorial) by M. A. Aung-Thwin and M. T. Stark
Shwedagon: Golden Pagoda of Myanmar by E. Moore and U Win Pe

Another facet of Calatagan unveiled

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1 April 2007 (Manila Bulletin) – Talks about the archaeological finds in Calatagan, in the Batangas region of the Philippines which has a number of archaeological finds indicating trade with China and Vietnam. Calatagan is hoping to attract tourists, with one of its main attractions being the Golden Sunset Resort incorporating a museum featuring the local archaeological finds.

Another facet of Calatagan unveiled

Unknown to most, one of Asia’s major archaeological discoveries lies right in the heart of the once sleepy town of Calatagan, Batangas.

Once a bustling trading port in pre-colonial Philippines, Calatagan was home to early settlers who lived and survived by hunting, fishing, farming, textile weaving, and trade.

But in the 1950s, the whole town went agog when the National Museum conducted its very first systematic excavation. Unearthed were numerous grave sites which yielded artifacts that proved Calatagan was a busy trading port in the 14th century.

Decades of excavations brought about discoveries of artifacts, mostly ceramics of various forms and sizes like jars, plates, saucers, pitchers, jarlets, bowls, and figurines. Some artifacts were locally-made pottery, while others were clearly brought in from China, Thailand, Vietnam, and other countries.

“Archaeologists believe that the excavated objects were proof of maritime trade before the coming of the Spanish colonizers to the Philippines,” explains Wilfredo Ronquillo, chief of the Archaeology Division of the National Museum. “The existence of local and imported ceramics is proof of the extensive and vibrant trade between the early settlers of Calatagan and foreign traders.”

Also among the dug treasures are 15th century Calatagan pottery, such as earthenware plates, basins, pots, and other vessels with different patterns made by incisions and impressions.

There were also the 14th and 15th century ceramics, such as glass bracelets, bowls, and vessels from the Ming Dynasty (China), Celadon and Sawankhalok vessels (Thailand and Indo-China), as well as Annamese vessels (Vietnam).


Related Books:
The Calatagan Excavations: Two 15th Century Burial Sites in Batangas, Philippines by R. B. Fox
Oriental Ceramics Discovered in the Philippines by L. Locsin and C. Locsin

Jungle gem

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1 April 2007 (St Louis Post-Despatch) – A travel feature on the sites of the Angkor Archaeological park, focusing on the Bayon and Ta Prohm. Tourists planning a visit to Angkor might get a tip or two from this firsthand account.

Jungle gem

The traffic at the South Gate was hectic. Pedestrians clogged the narrow bridge as motor scooters veered in and out, coming close but always just missing a startled tourist or two. Cabs, buses and minivans maneuvered through the gawkers, most with awestruck looks on their faces and cameras slung around their necks. But whether on foot or on wheels, everyone moved to the side to let the lumbering elephant caravans through.

It was a typical morning at Angkor Wat, the ancient capital of the Khmer kings in modern-day Cambodia and reportedly the largest religious monument in the world.

From one glance at the South Gate, we knew we were entering someplace very special and important. Leading to the portal, on both sides of the road, was a line of stone figures, each one clasping the body of the Naga, a long serpent, holding it in their grasp for eternity. The gate itself was imposing and ornate, with four faces of the Buddha smiling down on all those who entered. As we passed through the gate, monkeys scampered among the stones.

The South Gate is a majestic sight, one that prompts a sudden gasp and then a whispered “ohmigod” when first seen. Yet even so, it couldn’t quite prepare us for how vast and monumental Angkor Archeological Park is.


Related Books:
Angkor Cities and Temples by C. Jaques
Angkor: A Tour of the Monuments by T. Zephir and L. Invernizzi
The Treasures of Angkor: Cultural Travel Guide (Rizzoli Art Guide) by M. Albanese

Categories: Angkor Cambodia Tourism

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Tourism threatens fragile beauty of former Lao royal capital

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30 March 2007 (AFP, by way of Yahoo! News) – While many articles about how tourism is threatening the site of Angkor, a similar scene is happening in Laos.

Tourism threatens fragile beauty of former Lao royal capital

World heritage status has turned the former Lao capital from a ghost town into a tourism hub, but too much of a good thing could soon prove the kiss of death, say experts and residents.

In recent years a trickle of backpackers has turned into a flood of tourists coming to the sleepy town of glistening Buddhist temples and palm shaded French colonial mansions sitting pretty on a Mekong river peninsula.

Camera-toting visitors now follow saffron-robed monks on their morning alms rounds and foreigners are transforming quiet neighbourhoods into rows of cafes and hotels, say those who worry about the town’s fragile beauty.

“People are surprised at the pace of change,” said Francis Engelmann, a former
UNESCO advisor and current resident of Luang Prabang. “There are more cars, there is more noise. Behind my house three new guesthouses are going up.”

The 700-year-old town, seen as the jewel of ancient Lao heritage, threatens to turn into “a mono-industry where everything depends on tourism,” he warned.

By the standards of many Asian tourist sites, Luang Prabang retains much of the tranquil charm that led the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to list it as a world heritage site in 1995.

Nestled below lush hills between the Mekong and Khan rivers, it was once the capital of the Lan Xang kingdom, the Land of One Million Elephants, and remained the spiritual and religious centre of Laos in the centuries since.


Related Books:
A History of Laos by M. Stuart-Fox
Ancient Luang Prabang by D. Heywood
The Lao Kingdom of Lan-Xang: Rise and Decline by M. Stuart-Fox

Kite aerial photography mixes work, play

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27 March 2007 (Jakarta Post) – Not related to the archaeology of Indonesia, but this feature on the use of kites for photography presents a low-cost option for creating aerial photographs for archaeological applications. I haven’t heard of any major use of aerial photography for archaeology in Southeast Asia – yet.

Kite aerial photography mixes work, play

Flying kites as a hobby often implies child’s play, which is not too far off the mark. But rather than a mere pastime, kites also help in research and public service work — at least for Anshori Djausal, 55. His hobby has contributed much to aerial mapping.

Known as a pioneer of kite aerial photography in Indonesia, Anshori has been engaged in this activity since the 1990s, which has also taken him to several European and Asian countries to follow international kite festivals.

But he relishes his happiest moments as those through which his aerial photo experiments served research and mapping in Indonesia, aside from tourism development.

Aerial photography has typically utilized hot-air balloons, planes, helicopters and satellites. Kite aerial photography has become an alternative today because it is more practical and far less expensive than the use of aircraft or helicopters.

Today, kite aerial photography is an alternative method used in geographical mapping, planning and surveys, and through which data collection can be conducted easily, effectively and efficiently.

A 2-by-15 meter kite can be used for photographing with a pocket camera at a height of 100 meters and over and at wind speeds of 15-30 mph.

Corruption of our history books

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30 March 2007 (Lim Kit Siang’s blog) – Lim Kiat Siang is a leading opposition figure in Malaysian politics. In this post, he features a write-up on how knowledge of Malaysia’s history is only limited to the founding of the Melaka Sultanate in the 1400s – thus ignoring the rich Hindu-Buddhist influences of the time preceding that, as evidenced by clay moulds to form Buddhist stupas and Hindu architecture in Kedah. Note: the term ‘Savarnadvipa’ might possibly refer to the regions of Burma or Sumatra or Java.

Corruption of our history books

In very recent times, the starting date for the study of Malaysian history in the schools has been conveniently fixed around 1400 C.E. It probably coincides with the founding of the Sultanate of Malacca by Parameswara.

Today, Malaysian school children only learn a little bit about the early Proto Malays and then are conveniently taken on a historical quantum leap to the founding of Malacca.

Early Indian works speak of a fantastically wealthy place called Savarnadvipa, which meant “land of gold”. This mystical place was said to lie far away, and legend holds that this was probably the most valid reason why the first Indians ventured across the Bay of Bengal and arrived in Kedah around 100 B.C.

Apart from trade, the early Indians brought a pervasive culture, with Hinduism and Buddhism sweeping through the Indo-Chinese and Malay archipelago lands bringing temples and Indian cultural traditions. The local chiefs began to refer to themselves as “rajahs” and also integrated what they considered the best of Indian governmental traditions with the existing structure.

I learnt Malayan history in the 1950s and taught it in the 1960s and 1970s in secondary schools. All the history textbooks at the time had the early Indian connection specifically mentioned in them. Teachers of that period taught about the early Indianised kingdoms of Langkasuka, Sri Vijaya and Majapahit that existed from as early as 100 C.E.

Anyone can see that Parameswara, the founder of Malacca, has a clearly give-away name that points to the Indian/Hindu influence. No one can deny this, and all our children need to know about this. They have the fundamental right to learn about this aspect of our history too.


Related Books:
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Nationalism, Politics, and the Practice of Archaeology (New Directions in Archaeology) by P. L. Kohl, C. Fawcett (Eds)
The Politics of Archaeology and Identity in a Global Context (Aia Colloquia and Conference Papers) by S. Kane

Museum of Nias Heritage blog

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You might have heard of Nias Island from the 2004 tsunami, where it was hit hard because of its location near North Sumatra. The Museum Pusaka Nias, or the Museum of Nias Heritage has a blog. Although last updated in Feb 07, it still has quite a few articles dating back to 1986 (although concentrated over the last two years). The site is in Bahasa Indonesia, though, and from what I can gather it has updates about its collections as well as the reconstruction of the museum. Nias Island is particularly known for its megaliths.

Museum of Nias Heritage


Related Books:
Forgotten Kingdoms in Sumatra (Oxford Paperback Reference) by F. M. Schnitger