via Tea Circle: Oxford DPhil Candidate Phacharaphorn Phanomvan discusses the emergence of small scale looting of antiquities in Myanmar and Thailand, particularly on how small antiquities like beads are thought to be desirable in the Thai market.
A heavy burden is placed upon governments of emerging economies to police looters and track down lost artefacts. These efforts would be better diverted towards addressing the demand side of the market, like sellers and collectors. At the same time, archaeologists should strive to develop an engagement approach with local communities and use heritage sites, even smaller ones, to develop alternative income and incentives. An increasing amount of grant funding for excavations now contains preferences for projects that can help develop local communities such as the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) funding for initiatives in Latin America and Cambodia. The Myanmar Archaeological Association (MMA) has started working with communities in Bagan and Pyu sites to encourage public awareness and develop local cultural management organisations for planning and resisting looting among villagers. These local efforts will need more funding and capacity building to expand towards sites outside Burman historical attention.
Most archaeologists agree that urban development, agricultural practice, and looting have extensively destroyed Thailand’s archaeological heritage. I write this in the hope that some efforts could be diverted towards containing ‘trinket’ collection trends among the growing middle class that have led to a very widespread and destructive small-scale looting practice. However, in the long term, it is necessary to develop a further understanding of the effectiveness of law enforcement on small-scale looting. To minimise looting, communities need to be offered better alternative careers that can potentially involve heritage development.
Cost of Trinkets: A Growing Archaeological Looting Network Between Thailand and Myanmar | Tea Circle
Villagers embarked on a treasure hunt for gold when a bead was found in a rice field in Cambodia’s Takeo province. Authorities had to step in to protect the area, which had archaeological significance due to its proximity to Angkor Borei.
Frenzy over the discovery of a gold bead in Takeo. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160606
Chance find prompts small-scale gold rush in Takeo
Phnom Penh Post, 06 June 2016
Residents in Takeo province’s Angkor village have flocked to look for gold in a rice field behind the village after a villager tending cows found a gold bead, though authorities have cautioned against the gold rush, saying the area has archaeological significance.
Nob Dol, chief of Prek Phtorl commune, said a mass of villagers rushed to search for gold after the villager found the bead near a dike on his way home on Thursday.
“As I’ve heard, about seven people were lucky to find small beads of gold; some small, some big,” he said. “Some said they found up to [150 grams] of gold. There was also news that some found gold worth $1,000 to $2,000, but I did not see that.”
Officials from the provincial department of culture and fine arts went to the site and asked people to stop digging the field, Dol said. The owner of the rice field also sought help from authorities to halt the digging.
Full story here.
Ban Chiang artefacts returned by the Bowers Museum in US earlier this year are now being inspected by the archaeologists of the the Fine Arts Department.
Source: Bangkok Post 20141026
Ancient artefacts back where they belong
Bangkok Post, 26 October 2014
Archaeologists find beads, ceramic sherds and an iron horse from a site in Quang Nam province dating to the 2,000-year-old Sa Huynh culture.
Source: Thanh Nien News 20140502
2,500 years burial relics accidentally unearth in central Vietnam
Thanh Nien News, 02 May 2014
The widespread looting of beads is becoming a problem in Thailand’s Chumphon province, where archaeological beads can fetch a high price and the monitoring of such activities can be hard to track.
Looted beads from Chumphon province, Bangkok Post 20121208
Bead rush reveals dark deals
Bangkok Post, 08 December 2012
The Thaland National Museum in Phuket, Thailand responds to allegations that beads excavated in 2005 are missing – they were taken off the display stands for research.
Archaeologist confirms 2,000-year-old relics safe in Phuket
Phuket Gazette, 28 July 2011
Sumatra: Isle of Gold has been exhibiting at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore since the end of July, but I hadn’t had the chance to take a visit because of some reason or another. But finally, I had the chance to catch the exhibition this morning, and lucky thing too – the exhibition is going to close this Sunday!
Sumatra Isle of Gold Exhibition
The Surya Dev bead which was stolen from a museum in Bangkok last weekend is mysteriously returned in the mail. The museum indicates that legal charges will not be dropped if the thief is found.
Ancient bead returned in mail
Bangkok Post, 13 March 2009
The Surya Dev bead, a 2,000-year-old depiction of a sun god has been stolen from an exhibition at the National Discovery Museum Institute in Bangkok.
"not the actual size" =P
Ancient sun god bead stolen
Bangkok Post, 7 March 2009
Beads, names, and tattoos. We give them all a Southeast Asian slant in this week’s rojak!
photo credit: zephyr_jiza