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 Khmer Times, 05 December 2018: Cambodian Prime Minister speaking about recent evictions and demolishing of buildings in the Angkor Archaeological Park.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. via Khmer Times, 20181205
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday defended the government’s stance on the eviction of people illegally living in heritage sites.
The statement was made during the 25th anniversary of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Heritage Site of Angkor in Siem Reap province.
Mr Hun Sen said the government’s stance on heritage site encroachment is often taken advantage of by political parties who accuse it of violating human rights.
“Political parties always use land protestors when there’s an upcoming election,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If we allow people to encroach on land located in heritage sites, our temples will lose quality and will no longer be world heritage sites.”
via Phnom Penh Post, 11 December 2018: The stone inscription dated to 633 contains a reference to Suvarnabhumi or the ‘Land of Gold’
Committee members of the Kiri Sdachkong pagoda have agreed to the government’s request to move the stone tablets bearing inscriptions dated to the year 633 – kept on the pagoda’s grounds – to the National Museum in Phnom Penh, on a condition that “cleansing rituals” are organised prior to the transfer to “avoid any curse”.
Over two decades ago, a group of villagers were excavating a pond when they heard a sound they did not expect – the clink of their shovels on stone.
As they dug further, several slabs covered in carvings emerged. Soon they found themselves excavating the ruins of an ancient temple. The tablets were put under a hut, and for 20 years villagers worshipped them.
Little did they know they were sitting on an archaeological find that may reshape a centuries-old historical, religious and political debate – that of the actual location of the fabled “Land of Gold”, the ancient realm of
via Phnom Penh Post, 05 December 2018: Last week the International Coordinating Committee for Safeguarding Angkor, which meets twice a year, celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) kicked off its two-day plenary sessions in Siem Reap on Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of its formation and its 31st technical session.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who attended the opening session, said preserving cultural heritage should not be mixed with politics.
The high-level commemoration was also attended by Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay, who was visiting Cambodia for the first time, and diplomats from Japan and France. King Norodom Sihamoni was scheduled to close the session.
Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona opened the session saying: “Now, Angkor World Heritage doesn’t face insecurity, temple collapses, or looting of antiquities.
via Khmer Times, 30 Nov 2018: I’m in Siem Reap this week for the ICC, so hopefully I’ll get to visit the exhibition and post some pictures later this week.
Source: Khmer Times 20181130
The Apsara Authority, responsible for the research, protection and conservation of cultural heritage sites around Angkor have organized an exhibition of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) to commemorate its 25 year anniversary.
The ICC-Angkor was established in 1993, one after Angkor was inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and the commemorative expo aims to make the general public more aware of the ICC-Angkor’s existence, activities and achievements.
The exhibition will last 15 days, from Nov. 28 to Dec.12, 2018, in the garden of the Grand Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap; and according to Sum Map, director general of the Apsara Authority, will be visited by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Dec. 4, and by King Sihamoni on Dec. 5.
via Asean Post, 29 November 2018: Walking through Angkor today, I did notice more than a few tourists being guided by apps rather than books or human guides.
Source: ASEAN Post, 20181129
Developed by local company Angkor Audio, the device enables foreign tourists the luxury of wandering the ancient site at their own leisure without being harried and rushed along by local guides. This has raised concerns among tour guides about their livelihood.
The devices may be rented by tourists or travel agents for US$2.99 for the first month of use. There are 30,000 sets of these devices currently undergoing tests. Ironically, Angkor Audio also rents out group tour systems, a portable broadcast system that lets tour guides communicate with their guests over wireless headsets. Like the group tour systems, the Angkor App is an extension of its conference equipment rental business.
Angkor Audio operation manager, Ny Nou Ros said the app actually complements the industry. Tourist groups and some individuals prefer human tour guides, while “a few thousand more” prefer to be on their own. “We are offering them an option,” he said.
Electronic audio guides are not new to the tourism industry or even Cambodia. They existed for many years without affecting local tour guides as most of them are employed by travel agencies for group tours, Ros said.
via Khmer Times, 29 November 2018: Cambodia’s Lkhon Khol is listed in Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Thailand also intends to list its version of the dance.
Lkhon Khol. Source: Khmer Times, 20181129
Unesco yesterday added Cambodia’s Lkhon Khol on its list of “intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding” during an annual meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the island nation of Mauritius.
Prime Minister Hun Sen then praised the move on Facebook.
“The decision by the committee is a big national pride,” Mr Hun Sen said. “It happened because of efforts by the government, local artists, civil society and encouragement from the public, which brought us successful results.”
The Apsara Authority has formed a committee tasked with relocating vendors and parking spaces around Preah Pithu temple in order to restore public order in the area.
The Apsara Authority on Friday held a meeting over the matter and formed the committee while discussing a solution to a growing number of vendors and visitors at the temple in Angkor Thom, northeast of the Bayon temple in front of Tep Pranam.
Sok Sangvar, deputy director-general of the Apsara Authority, yesterday said that a growing number of vendors and visitors, who park archaically, have led to public disorder around the temple.
Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona has been awarded a 2018 Paestum Archaeology Award at the 21st edition of the Mediterranean Exchange of Archaeological Tourism held at the ancient city of Paestum, Italy.
The award goes to those who contribute, through their commitment and intercultural dialogue, to the valorisation of cultural heritage and the promotion of archaeological tourism.
via PLOS One, 5 Nov 2018: A cool new Open Access paper by Klassen et al. using machine learning to create a predictive chronology of Angkorian temples based on the architectural features and artifacts found at a site.
Archaeologists often need to date and group artifact types to discern typologies, chronologies, and classifications. For over a century, statisticians have been using classification and clustering techniques to infer patterns in data that can be defined by algorithms. In the case of archaeology, linear regression algorithms are often used to chronologically date features and sites, and pattern recognition is used to develop typologies and classifications. However, archaeological data is often expensive to collect, and analyses are often limited by poor sample sizes and datasets. Here we show that recent advances in computation allow archaeologists to use machine learning based on much of the same statistical theory to address more complex problems using increased computing power and larger and incomplete datasets. This paper approaches the problem of predicting the chronology of archaeological sites through a case study of medieval temples in Angkor, Cambodia. For this study, we have a large dataset of temples with known architectural elements and artifacts; however, less than ten percent of the sample of temples have known dates, and much of the attribute data is incomplete. Our results suggest that the algorithms can predict dates for temples from 821–1150 CE with a 49-66-year average absolute error. We find that this method surpasses traditional supervised and unsupervised statistical approaches for under-specified portions of the dataset and is a promising new method for anthropological inquiry.