Rumors cause collectors to raid archaeological site

Looting of antiquities in Vietnam.

3 May 2006 (Thanh Nien News) – Looting of antiquities in Vietnam.

Rumors cause collectors to raid archaeological site

Over the past two months, hundreds of people in Nghia Hoa commune, Nghia Dan district made their way to Dong Hieu rubber tree plantation located in Lang Vac (Vac Village) to hunt for antiques.

The wave of collectors began after a rumor that a person found a pair of ancient elephant statues there and sold them in Hanoi for hundreds of millions of dong (one US dollar is worth just under VND16,000).

Since then local residents have flocked to the archaeological site, which the Ministry of Culture and Information recognized as a national heritage in 1999, to dig for antiques in search of fast cash…

Hai also said many residents had found antiques, usually bronze products in shapes of deer, hippopotamuses, and wild-bulls, stone bracelets, pottery, iron swords, axes, and small bronze drums.

Related Books:
The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia (Cambridge World Archaeology) by C. Higham
Bronze Dong Son Drums by Ha Thuc Can
Van Hoa Dong Son / Dong Son Culture – Its Unity and Diversity by Pham Minh Huyen

Cultural and historical treasure trove

Merbok, Kedah preparing for development as a cultural heritage and eco-tourism centre.

3 May 2006 (The Star) – Merbok, Kedah preparing for development as a cultural heritage and eco-tourism centre.

Cultural and historical treasure trove

MERBOK in Kedah with the largest mangrove forest in the country and a river that flows into the Straits of Malacca is a centre of ecological treasure…

Bujang Valley containing ruins of Hindu and Buddhist temples in Merbok lends a historical importance.

It used to be an important trading centre centuries ago.

Related Books
Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XXVIII, Pt. 1
Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic society, Vol. XLIII, Part 1

Must Looted Relics be Ignored?

Not SEA Archaeology, but a broad issue that bears some highlighting. In this part of the world, little has been set up in the protection of artefacts from looting. Most SEA countries don’t even have sufficent legislation to deal with archaeological finds.

2 May 2006 (New York Times) – Not SEA Archaeology, but a broad issue that bears some highlighting. In this part of the world, little has been set up in the protection of artefacts from looting. Most SEA countries don’t even have sufficient legislation to deal with archaeological finds.

Must Looted Relics be Ignored?

Inscribed on Sumerian clay tablets more than 4,000 years ago, the Code of Ur-Nammu may be the earliest known recorded set of laws in the world: dozens of rules written in cuneiform about commerce and taxes, family law and inheritance.

But many scholars won’t go near the one largely intact version of the code, and the top American journal of cuneiform research won’t publish articles about it. The reason? The tablet was bought by a private Norwegian collector on the open market and does not come from a documented, scientific excavation. According to the ethics policies of the leading associations for antiquities scholars, that means it is off limits.As scholars grapple with the reality that a growing number of important works — like the Ur-Nammu tablet and the recently unveiled Gospel of Judas — lack a clear provenance, those ethics policies are the focus of heated debate.

On one side are archaeologists and other experts who say that most objects without a clear record of ownership or site of origin were looted, and that the publication of such material aggrandizes collectors and encourages the illicit trade. On the other side are those who argue that ignoring such works may be even more damaging to scholarship than the destruction caused by looting.

1421 Exposed

1421 is the Gavin Menzies book published in 2002 alleging that the Chinese* discovered America earlier than Columbus – and in fact circled round the globe. Some academics, led by Geoff Wade at the National University of Singapore have been campaigning to set the record straight.

1421 is the Gavin Menzies book published in 2002 alleging that the Chinese* discovered America earlier than Columbus – and in fact circled round the globe. I’ve read it, and it paints an interesting argument but without hard evidence to back it up, it really is just a load of rubbish. The book and its allegations have been getting a lot of airtime in mainstream media and Menzie’s roadshows (including one in Singapore) and some academics, led by Geoff Wade at the National University of Singapore have been campaigning to set the record straight. More importantly, they’ve been lobbying authorities and publishers to get the book out of the History section and place it in Fiction. Check out their website www.1421exposed.com to see their blow-by-blow refutations of the book.

* The Chinese, led by Admiral Zheng He[/tag], who has been documented as having travelled through Southeast Asia, including Dan-Ma-Hsi (Temasek, or Singapore) and Melaka, and as far as Persia.

The Fort Furore

FTK: under-used funds and over-hyped reburial

The Fort Tanjong Katong article by Jeremy Au Yong in 9 April’s Sunday Times gave an update-of-sorts on the status of the site, and it led to a couple of posts about it from the blogosphere, notably here , here and here. There’s a sense of indignance over how the excavation seems to have lost steam after huge publicity a year and a half ago.

FTK: under-used funds and over-hyped reburialThe Fort Tanjong Katong article by Jeremy Au Yong in 9 April’s Sunday Times gave an update-of-sorts on the status of the site, and it led to a couple of posts about it from the blogosphere, notably here , here and here. There’s a sense of indignation over how the excavation seems to have lost steam after huge publicity a year and a half ago. After all, it was one of the few local excavations with a good deal of publicity. More significant was that FTK was the third major archaeological excavation in Singapore, and it was supported through a community campaign. It was interesting to note from the Sunday Times article that out of $200,000 raised for the fort, $150,000 was “ploughed back into bursaries and scholarships for the constituency’s students and the PAP Community Foundation”. In effect, less than half of the money raised for the archaeological excavation of FTK was actually used for archaeological excavation. With that kind of money, surely something more than a temporary (and flimsy) barricade can be erected? And what about publishing the results of the excavation? Another recurrent theme was the need to preserve the fort. The reports make it seem as if there’s an intact fort around. This is not true. Only the bastions remain and the base of the main fortification wall, including what probably was the drawbridge section of the wall. Nope, there isn’t a lot of the fort left save the intact bastions. Much of the interior of the fort has also been replaced by what is now Katong Park and test pits excavated to uncover the turret areas came up dry. As you can see, the playground, fitness centre and the washroom sit squarely over where the guns would have been:

That’s the plan of the fort in 1885, when the guns were upgraded. The fort was built in 1879 and designed by Henry Edward McCallum, who was the Colonial Engineer and also architect of the Singapore History Museum on Stamford Road. The fort’s original intention was to fend off seaborne attacks on Singapore Town from the east. Unfortunately, this was a feeble attempt on the part of the British. The fort was largely seen as way of placating the merchant community – in reality, the guns that were outfitted on the fort were not standard British artillery issue which made acquiring ammunition a problem. On top of that, the land on which the fort was built was too sandy, which made it necessary to recalibrate the cannons after every shot. And, on the last day of 1890, one of the two 8-inch guns burst during training! Needless to say, FTK had a dubious reputation in its day as “The Wash-out Fort”. Eventually it was abandoned and demolished between 1901 – 1910 and then it disappears from historical record. It’s not an intact fort – and even when it was it didn’t do its job very well. So what is the historical significance of the fort? One important significance was FTK was the training ground of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery formed in 1888 with (the same) Major H.E. McCallum as its first commanding officer. The SVA is in fact the first local army unit, and the SAF artillery – which prides itself as the oldest formation of the SAF – recalls this connection through the shared motto, In Oriente Primus. What about its archaeological significance? Unfortunately, there isn’t much of the original fort left, save for the surrounding wall and bastions. The SE bastion was excavated but the SW one was left untouched, hopefully for future archaeologists to discover:

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the fort is nobody knows what it actually looks like! Besides the 1885 plans and some artist impressions at the park, New Paper and now the recent Straits Times there hasn’t been a picture of the actual fort when it was up. The biggest mystery involves the biggest finds: the bastions that have been uncovered don’t actually correspond to the plans!

Note the pointy bastion protrusions at the SW and SE corners. Very unlike the horseshoe-shaped structures that were excavated. So that’s another mystery that can be looked into for future generations of military architects and historical archaeologists. For now however, it’s really a good thing that the exposed pits have been reburied – they’ve survived for a hundred years, and they’ll probably survive another few hundred years if they’re protected from the elements.

Archaeologist Says "Lost City" of Johor Does Not Exist

Authorities deny existence of lost Johor city. Something doesn’t add up. If they conducted the field survey in July last year, why break the news 10 months later? Read the independent researcher’s side of the story.

28 Apr 2006 (Bernama) – Authorities deny existence of lost Johor city. Something doesn’t add up. If they conducted the field survey in July last year, why break the news 10 months later? Read the independent researcher’s side of the story.

Archaeologist Says Johor “Lost City” Does Not Exist

The “lost city” of Gelanggi or Linggiu, claimed to have been hidden in the jungles of Johor for more than a thousand years, does not exist, said an archaeologist in the National Heritage Department.

Khalid Syed Ali, the curator of archaeology in the department’s research and development division, said a team of researchers carried out a study over a month in July last year but found no evidence of the “lost city”.

A tale of two cities – Raimy Che Ross' side

Raimy Che Ross shares his (different) side of the story behind the lost city of Johor.

15 Jun 2005 (malaysiakini.com) – Raimy Che Ross shares his (different) side of the story behind the lost city of Johor.

Discovery insight: Dumber and dumber

Somewhere in the underground vaults of a Jabatan Kerajaan’s Swedenborgian space, lurk two files; one marked “Gelanggi”; the other, “Linggui”.

The folder with “Linggui” scribbled over its cover should, by now, be about half a yard thick and bursting at its spine. Stuffed within are presumably minutes to clandestine meetings, press clippings, confidential memos, dodgy expedition plans, nefarious schemes, plus the frantic drafts of the forthcoming Cabinet Report due in August.

The other binder, bearing “Gelanggi” across its surface, would in comparison be quite a slim file. It would contain nothing more than a few personal letters and printed e-mails written by yours truly, my CV, perhaps copies of the JMBRAS article, and my original draft proposal for a proper follow-up expedition to validate the find.

Reason for the disparity?

Bolehlah-land buffoonery.