Another facet of Calatagan unveiled

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.

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

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.

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

Tourism threatens fragile beauty of former Lao royal capital

While many articles about how tourism is threatening the site of Angkor, a similar scene is happening in Laos.

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

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

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

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

Two Chinese arrested in Vietnam with smuggled artifacts

4 men are arrested near the Vietnam-China border for smuggling artefacts. The article does not specify the exact kinds of artefacts, although the bronze drum would almost certainly be of the Dong son type.

27 March 2007 (Thanh Nien News) – 4 men are arrested near the Vietnam-China border for smuggling artefacts. The article does not specify the exact kinds of artefacts, although the bronze drum would almost certainly be of the Dong son type.

Two Chinese arrested in Vietnam with smuggled artifacts

Four men have been arrested, including two Chinese nationals, on the Chinese border on suspicion of smuggling antiquities, Vietnamese police said Monday.

They were apprehended last Friday in Mong Cai town with several items in their possession, some of which have been identified as ancient Vietnamese artifacts.

The police seized 36 items, including 1 bronze drum, 59 earrings, 10 statues, and a ceramic jar, according to the Cong An Nhan Dan (People’s Police) newspaper.

“The authorities are studying the items to identify their ages,” Nguyen Huu Khia[/tag], deputy head of the provincial police’s investigation department, said Monday.

Cambodia mulls over restricting access to Angkor Wat Temple

26 March 2007 (TravelVideo.TV) – Just what the headline says, a possible institution of a reservation system to visit the Angkor temples. Gee I hope this doesn’t spoil my plans to visit Angkor in June…

Cambodia mulls over restricting access to Angkor Wat Temple

Cambodian officials are reportedly mulling over measures to restrict tourist access to Angkor Wat Temple, in an effort to prevent its further deterioration. The ravages of nature over time and the water table have taken a toll on the UNESCO listed World Heritage site, putting some at risk and further weakening their “structural integrity,” said experts from UNESCO.


Related Books:
Angkor: A Tour of the Monuments by T. Zephir
Angkor: Cambodia’s Wondrous Khmer Temples, Fifth Edition (Odyssey Illustrated Guide) by D. Rooney
The Site of Angkor (Images of Asia) by J. Dumarcay and M. Smithies

Tomb ‘may get swept away’

A 16th century tomb belonging to a Malay general is in risk of being swept away due to flooding of a nearby river.

26 March 2007 (New Straits Times) – A 16th century tomb belonging to a Malay general is in risk of being swept away due to flooding of a nearby river.

New Straits Times, 26 Mar 2007

Tomb ‘may get swept away’

A tomb, believed to be that of a senior general of Johor’s Sultan Mahmud Shah II, which is located on the banks of Sungai Linggi here, is in danger of being swept away by the river if no preservation work is done immediately.

The tomb, which the locals believe is the resting place of Datuk Maharajalela Sheikh Ahmad Hussein, is one of three originally located there.

“The other two tombs have been swept away by the river. If nothing is done to this tomb soon, it will suffer the same fate,” said Kamaruzzaman Abdullah, 65, who has lived in the area for many years.

Kamaruzzaman, who accompanied the New Straits Times to the tomb, said the two tombs belong to relatives of Sheikh Ahmad Hussein.

The three tombs, known to locals as Makam Bukit Tiga, date back to the 16th century.

Three-day seminar examines state of the nation

A mention about an archaeology paper to be presented at a three-day anthropological seminar in Thailand and the state from 28 to 30 March.

26 March 2007 (The Nation) – A mention about an archaeology paper to be presented at a three-day anthropological seminar in Thailand and the state from 28 to 30 March.

Three-day seminar examines state of the nation

With the Thai state facing various problems such as border lands, stateless people and conflict in the predominantly Muslim deep South, about 300 scholars will share their views on the situation at a three-day anthropological seminar titled “State: From daily life’s point of view” this week.

A discourse on the construction of national history will also be among the topics of discussion at the seminar, to be held from Wednesday to Friday at the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre.

Pipad, who has been studying the history and archaeology of Mae Hong Son, found that in the process of constructing a national history, Thailand adopts some non-Thai ethnic groups as part of the nation while neglecting others whose histories do not fit in with the national history.

“As a result, these latter groups are finally constructed as the stateless people,” he wrote.


Related Books:
Caves of Northern Thailand by P. Sidisunthorn