Myanmar begins inventorying Bagan temples – and starting to find new ones already

An inventory of the pagodas in Bagan is underway as part of its bid to be listed as a world heritage site. Several new pagodas have already been discovered!

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Bagan Inventory Reveals New Pagodas
The Frontier, 19 January 2016

Bagan counts pagodas
TTR Weekly, 20 January 2016

Several new pagoda sites have been unearthed in Bagan during an archaeological inventory of the town’s ancient temples for a World Heritage List application, media reports said Tuesday.

The pagoda inventory is due to be concluded by February, as part of Myanmar’s bid to have Bagan listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, possibly by 2017, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

So far more than 800 pagodas have been accounted for in just two of Bagan’s 11 administrative zones, Archaeology and National Museum Department deputy director general U Thein Lwin told the state-run daily.

Full story here and here.

Harihara statue reunited after French museum returns head

The Musee Guimet returns the head of a Harihara, a amalgam of the gods Siva and Vishnu, which was reunited at a ceremony at the National Museum in Phnom Penh last week. Dr Alison Carter discusses more about the significance of the Harihara in a blog post here.

Statue’s Head, Body Reunited After Generations
The Cambodia Daily, 22 January 2016

Statue head reunited with body
Phnom Penh Post, 22 January 2016

Hindu god statue’s head returns to Cambodia
BBC News, 21 January 2016

France returns head of Hindu statue taken from Cambodia 130 years ago
AP, via CTV news, 21 January 2016

French museum returns looted head of Hindu god statue to Cambodia
AFP, via Straits Times, 19 January 2016

The head and body of a seventh-century Khmer statue were at last reunited on Thursday in Phnom Penh after an international agreement was brokered that allowed the head to be brought home to Cambodia from Paris, where it had spent the last 126 years.

After over a decade of negotiations that involved France’s Ministry of Culture and Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, the head was formally set on the body during a ceremony at the National Museum, where the complete statue will now reside.

Full story here.

Queen mother’s rickshaw now on display in Hue

A Nguyen Dynasty-era rickshaw that was taken out to France, and recently repatriated when it was sold at an auction, is finally back in Vietnam and now on display in Hue.

 Queen Mother Tu Minh's rickshaw. Source: Viet Nam News 20150423
Queen Mother Tu Minh’s rickshaw. Source: Viet Nam News 20150423

Antique rickshaw back from France
Viet Nam News, 23 April 2015

The conservation centre in Hue yesterday opened a new section inside the former Imperial Citadel to display the ambience of the queen mothers under the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945).
The area was used as a waiting lounge for guests who paid visits to the queen mothers in Dien Tho Palace, part of a harem designated for queen mothers.

The items on display include a wooden rickshaw that the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre bought at an auction in France for US$100,000.

The rickshaw was used by Queen Mother Tu Minh, who was given it as a gift by her son, King Thanh Thai, (1879-1954) for the queen to move around inside the vast palace.

Full story here.

A visit to the Phanom Surin Shipwreck site, Samut Sakorn Province

Over the weekend some friends and I went to Samu Sakorn Province, about an hour south of Bangkok, to visit the Phanom Surin Shipwreck site where an exciting archaeological excavation is going on – the unearthing of a 9th century Arab-style sewn ship.

Phanom Surin Shipwreck site in Thailand's Samut Sakorn Province.
Phanom Surin Shipwreck site in Thailand’s Samut Sakorn Province.

Some of you will know that the Belitung Shipwreck holds the title as the oldest shipwreck found in Southeast Asia – and this, the Phanom Surin wreck, is of the same age. It was discovered in 2013, by the landowner. This area is used for shrimp farming, and the owner had discovered at large, 17-metre kelson while digging on his land. Very fortunately, the owner contacted the authorities, which finally has led to the Thai Fine Arts Department conducting the slow process of unearthing and conserving the remains. The owners remain supporting to this day (the wreck is actually named after the owner), donating the land to to the authorities and now there is a long term plan to carefully investigate the wreck and its remains, as well as to set up a museum on site.

The 17m kelson, the wooden beam running at the bottom of the ship reinforcing the keel, is kept submerged in water to preserve it.The 17m kelson, the wooden beam running at the bottom of the ship reinforcing the keel, is kept submerged in water to preserve it.
The 17m kelson, the wooden beam running at the bottom of the ship reinforcing the keel, is kept submerged in water to preserve it.

The landscape has obviously changed a fair bit, as we are now already 8km inland, but a thousand years ago the shores were up to this point, which explains the presence of the shipwreck. During the first season of excavation last year, the kelson was retrieved and the wreck was partially excavated, revealing several interesting pieces such as torpedo jars (amphoras). Preliminary evaluations suggest origins of the ceramics from India and the Middle East, as well as China.

The site of the main shipwreck remains.
The site of the main shipwreck remains.
A view of the hull, just peeking out of the water. The block in the foreground is what is thought to be the bow. and you can see the curvature of the hull on the left.
A view of the hull, just peeking out of the water. The block in the foreground is what is thought to be the bow. and you can see the curvature of the hull on the left.

Like the Belitung Shipwreck, the Phanom Surin wreck appears to have been stitched together as well, which suggests that it was an Arab-style ship. For a look at how a reconstructed Arab ship looks like, check out my earlier post on the Jewel of Muscat, which was based on the Belitung ship.

Detail of the stitching on the hull structure.
Detail of the stitching on the hull structure.

The current investigation is focused on the other end of the ship. Since the bow has been found, the team is trying to determine the location of the stern. As you can see, the work conditions are quite challenging – you have to be waist deep in mud all the time. Here archaeologists are examining what is thought to be the roof structure of the helm or cabin.

Archaeologists investigating a wooden structure, discovered during their search for the ship's stern.
Archaeologists investigating a wooden structure, discovered during their search for the ship’s stern.

On the shed the houses the kelson, a small shrine has been set up to the local spirits, a common sight in Southeast Asia, especially in archaeological sites. I think someone really did win the lottery, which is why the owners did not mind donating the land for archaeological research. Reminds me that I need to get a ticket today, heh heh.

The find turned out to be good luck, and has become a spirit shrine where people would come to pray for luck, especially with the lottery!
The find turned out to be good luck, and has become a spirit shrine where people would come to pray for luck, especially with the lottery!

Going out to see this site also gave me a chance to play with a new toy: the Parrot Bebop, a quadcopter with an attached camera that I hope to use for later archaeological investigations. If you remember, I experimented with remote controlled helicopters ages ago for aerial photography with no success (I developed the pole camera instead), but now the technology has finally caught up with my requirements. Watch this space for more aerial videos of archaeological sites!

This is a huge discovery, and the possibility of a wreck as old, or even older than the Belitung Wreck (with less controversial provenance) is very exciting. Expect to hear more about this site in the future. In the meantime, you can read about the wreck in the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum newsletter, in this piece that was written last year.

Seminar: Revisiting the Bujang Valley

Readers may be interested in this seminar on the Bujang Valley at the National University of Singapore.

Bujang Valley Museum

Revisiting the Bujang Valley: An Entrepôt Complex at the Heart of the Maritime Silk Route
Dr Stephen Murphy
Date: 29 October 2014
Time: 3 pm
Venue: National University of Singapre. Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Block AS1, #03-04, 11 Arts Link, Singapore 117570
Continue reading “Seminar: Revisiting the Bujang Valley”

New ISEAA Social Media Initiative – Current Research alerts on Twitter

Ever wonder who is in the field in Southeast Asia? What MA, PhD, or laboratory projects are in the works? Or, what new publications have been released?

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ISEAA is starting a Twitter feed on just these topics. The feed is organized by Cyler Conrad (cylerc@unm.edu), a graduate student at the University of New Mexico. Please let him know what you are up to! The feed (here https://twitter.com/iseaarchaeology) will be cross-posted on the ISEAA Facebook page, so you do not have to follow or use Twitter to see the tweets. We will use the hashtag ‪#‎ISEAAtweets and initially will aim to have a tweet every 2 weeks or so.

See our first tweet here (https://www.facebook.com/ISEAArchaeology)!

If you are interested in participating, please send a submission (with or without a photograph), and approximately 140 characters of text to Cyler.

RIP Prof. Bill Solheim II

From Dr Jack Medrana on the IPPA Facebook page:

After 90 colorful years of his life, National Geographic’s “Mr. Southeast Asia” has finally come to rest. The UP-ASP and the whole Southeast Asian community of archaeologists will surely miss you, Prof. Wilhelm “Bill” Solheim II.

Prof. Solheim’s remains lie at Colossians Chapel, St. Peter – Quezon Ave., Quezon City, Philippines starting today, July 26, 2014 at 13:00.

… and we’re back! Kind of.

Apologies for the down time – I’ve been spending the last week and a half trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. The site is back up and I will resume updating the news very soon! And there’s a lot of news to catch up on.

Due to some corrupt backup files, I have misplaced all the news from the last year going back to about June 2013. I will eventually relocate them and re-link to it!

 

More statues returned to Cambodia from the US

Auction house Christie’s and the Norton Simon Museum have both agreed to return statues in their possession, ‘Pandava’ and ‘Bhima’ or a temple wrestler both originally thought to be from Prasat Chen, part of the Koh Ker complex.

Statue of Bhima. Source: New York Times 20140506
Statue of Bhima. Source: New York Times 20140506

More statues to be repatriated
Phnom Penh Post, 08 May 2014

Two More Looted Statues Set to Be Returned
Cambodia Daily, 08 May 2014

California museum to return statue to Cambodia
AP, via Salon.com, 08 May 2014

Ancient Angkor artefacts to be returned
AAP, via Yahoo News, 08 May 2014

Christie’s to Return Cambodian Statue
New York Times, 05 May 2014
Continue reading “More statues returned to Cambodia from the US”