The ceramics museum just north of Bangkok

The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum in Bangkok University (which is not technically in Bangkok but north of it) is a great place to look at a spectacular ceramics collection.

The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum. Source: Bangkok Post, 20150716
The Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum. Source: Bangkok Post, 20150716

History of Asian ceramics
Bangkok Post, 16 July 2015

Our van entered the Rangsit campus of Bangkok University and stopped in front of a sign for the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum. After walking down a slight slope, the museum is revealed to resemble a partially underground kiln. Founded in 2000 and opened to the public in 2005, the museum is home to over 16,000 ancient ceramics donated by university founder Surat Osathanugrah. About 2,000 of these items are on view at the current exhibition.

After strolling past the model of a northern-style cross-draft kiln and showing our Muse Pass, we entered the museum that has just reopened after the post-flood renovations. The permanent exhibition highlights the development of Southeast Asian ceramics, especially those from major kiln sites in Thailand, as well as the history of Thai and other Southeast Asian trade ceramics based on evidence found at shipwreck sites in this region.

The display of different ceramics on the sand caught our eyes. The first space reflects that pottery found at archaeological sites dating from 1380-1430 had been from all across Southeast Asia, including Thailand (Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai and San Kamphaeng kiln sites), Vietnam and China. At the time, the Chinese traded ceramics of celadon and brown-glazed wares, but there was no blue and white wares at all.

The second space shows trade ceramics from Thailand, Vietnam, China and Myanmar, which date back to 1488-1505 and were commonly found on shipwrecks. The third space displays artefacts from a period of competition between Thai and Chinese ceramics from 1520-1560. Thai kilns in Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai produced large numbers of underglaze black ware, a competitor to the Chinese blue and white ware.

Full story here.

Chinese ceramics suggest presence of a ruler in ancient Singapore

Preliminary finds of a specific type Chinese Ming ware used as gifts for overseas leaders suggest that ancient Singapore may have been the seat of a local ruler who was recognised by the Chinese.

Excavation at Empress Place. Source: The Straits Times 20150426
Excavation at Empress Place. Source: The Straits Times 20150426

Archaeological discoveries dig deeper into past
The Straits Times, 26 April 2015

Archaeological discoveries keep confirming that there was a thriving community here long before Stamford Raffles “created” Singapore in the 19th century. The latest evidence suggests that Temasek, or ancient Singapore, could have had an established government with a head ruler or chieftain way back in the late 14th century.

In unearthing this evidence during a dig at Empress Place, archaeologists have shed light on gaps in knowledge of the past. Singapore’s history was supposed to have begun with the providential role of colonials who made it a functional landing post. The evidence suggests otherwise. In digging it up, the archaeological team has provided additional proof of Singapore’s international provenance as well. It has discovered Chinese imperial-grade ceramics produced between 1375 and 1425. These had been bestowed by the Ming Dynasty emperor Hongwu on overseas leaders. Although Raffles undoubtedly gave Singapore a new lease of life as a commercial city, one that lasts to this day, he was not the originator of Singapore. To say that it had flourished before him does not detract from his importance but places it in historical perspective.

Full story here.

Archaeologists search for links between Philippines and the Northern Marianas

Some of my former colleagues are featured for their ongoing work in the Philippines investigating ancient links between the island and the northern Marianas.

Magapit Excavation in the Cagayan Valley, Philippines. Source: Marianas Variety 20150403
Magapit Excavation in the Cagayan Valley, Philippines. Source: Marianas Variety 20150403

Archaeologists return to Philippine site
Marianas Variety, 03 April 2015

THERE is growing evidence in support of a cultural tradition that binds the Philippines and the Northern Marianas.

Dr. Mike T. Carson and Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung are back in the Northern Philippines to explore further a site rich in shards of pottery suggestive of the earliest pottery-making tradition in the region.

Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung are in Magapit, Cagayan close to the border of Ilocos Norte, in the northern Philippines from March to April 2015.

Variety learned that the site which Dr. Carson referred to as the “Hilltop Site of Magapit,” is famous in world archaeology as a large mound of shell debris, in some places more than 5 meters high, containing abundant broken pottery that is highly distinctive and representative of the earliest pottery-making in the region.

Several research teams from Japan, the U.S., and the Philippines have worked there since the 1970s.

Dr. Carson told Variety yesterday, “Especially exciting right now is growing evidence that the highly distinctive decorated pottery of the Cagayan Valley was part of a special cultural tradition, found not only in the Cagayan Valley but also in other places.”

He said other sites in the northern through central Philippines have yielded pottery with similar decorations, although those sites have not yet been dated securely.

Full story here.

Vietnamese Ceramics Symposium at Johnson Museum of Art

Readers near Cornell University may be interested in this symposium at the Johnson Museum of Art. Deadline for signing up is today.

Vietnamese Ceramics: Objects at the Crossroads
Date: 10 April 2015
Venue: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

The Johnson Museum’s strong collection of Vietnamese ceramics is currently supplemented by the long-term loan of the exceptional Menke Collection. Over the last two decades, significant research has attested to the vitality of Vietnamese ceramics as both objects of aesthetic appreciation and important elements of historical material culture and trade relations in Asia. In dialogue with recent developments in scholarship on Vietnamese art, culture, and history, this symposium will bring together established and emerging international specialists to present cross-disciplinary and cross-regional insights and inquiries.

Registration is free but seating is limited; please contact Elizabeth Saggese at or 607 254-4642 to reserve a space by April 3. General inquiries can be directed to Pamela N. Corey at

More details here.

Indonesian archaeologists discover ancient settlement in West Papua

Archaeologists in West Papua have discovered archaeological remains on a settlement site situated on a strategic location overlooking the Cendrawasih coast. Finds include numerous colonial period artefacts – European and Chinese ceramics. [Many thanks to Hari Suroto, who is also quoted in the article, for the heads up].

Archaeologists working at the Mosandurei  site in West Papua. Source: Tempo 20150329
Archaeologists working at the Mosandurei site in West Papua. Source: Tempo 20150329

Archaeologists Discover Ancient Settlement in Papua
Tempo, 29 March 2015

Archaeologists in Napan District, Nabire Regency, Papua Province, have discovered a Mosandurei site which is an ancient settlement.

“The ancient village Mosandurei was discovered during the process of an archaeological research, said researcher staff of Jayapura Archaeological Station, Hari Suroto, in Jayapura, Papua, on Saturday, March 28, as quoted by Antara News.

According to Suroto, stone tools beads, Chinese ceramic from Ming and Ching Dynasty (XVI-XVII, XVII-XVIII centuries), European ceramic wares, bottles, and earthenware.

“Manufacturer stamps are found on the European ceramics, namely Fregout & Co Saastrusht Dragon Made in Holland and Petrus Regout & Co Maastricht made in Holland,” Suroto added.

Full story here.

The last potters of Vietnam

A feature on the traditional potters of Vietnam, a dying craft, and their long lineage.

Jars of My Thien pottery village in Quang Ngai Province. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150323
Jars of My Thien pottery village in Quang Ngai Province. Source: Viet Nam Net 20150323

Walking down Vietnam’s pottery lane, before time erases its fame
Viet Nam Net, 23 March 2015

The last artisan of the ancient Quang Duc pottery line died early last year at 90, and the only artisan still making My Duc pottery is already in his 50s.

It is time to take a journey back in time to learn about the heyday of the pottery lines that earned national and regional fame for central Vietnam before they die out for good.

Many pottery villages prospered in south central Vietnam thousands of years ago, but the most famous ones were My Thien in Quang Ngai Province, Quang Duc in Phu Yen and Go Sanh in Binh Dinh.

Pottery relics from the villages are evidence of strong cultural interaction and trade between countries in the region centuries ago.

Full story here.

Nanhai No. 1 yields over 900 porcelain pieces

More images of the finds from the Nanhai No. 1 wreck have been recovered in the ongoing investigation of the wreck.

Finds from Nanhai No. 1. Source: ECNS 20150215
Finds from Nanhai No. 1. Source: ECNS 20150215

900 porcelain pieces found from shipwreck Nanhai No. 1
ECNS, 15 February 2015

Photo taken on Feb 3, 2015 shows a kettle uncovered from the wrecked ship Nanhai No. 1 at the Maritime Silk Road Museum in Hailing island of Yangjiang, South China’s Guangdong province. The 30-meter-long merchant vessel, built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), sank off the coast of Guangdong province about 800 years ago. More than 900 pieces of porcelain, about 120 gold items and thousands of silver coins have been uncovered since the excavation began, according to Sun Jian, technical director of the Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection Center of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. The discovered objects primarily are porcelain from Jingdezhen kiln in Jiangxi province, Dehua kiln in Fujian province and Longquan kiln in Zhejiang province.

More images here.

A look at the finds from Nanhai No. 1

Some images from the Nanhai No. 1 wreck recovered from the South China Sea.

Finds from Nanhai No. 1. Source: CRI English 20150131
Finds from Nanhai No. 1. Source: CRI English 20150131

Over 60,000 Song Porcelains Discovered in S.China Sea
CRI, 31 January 2015

Photo taken on Jan. 28, 2015 shows artifacts discovered on the Nanhai (South China Sea) No. 1 ship at the “Crystal Palace” at the Marine Silk Road Museum in Yangjiang, south China’s Guangdong Province. After seven years of excavation, more than 60,000 porcelain artifacts from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) have been discovered on the ship, which had lain undersea for more than 800 years and was put into protection in the Marine Silk Road Museum after its salvage in 2007. [Photo: Xinhua/Liu Dawei]

More images here.

Cham kiln site discovered in Vietnam

Traces of a 13th century Cham kilm workshop have been found in Vietnam’s Binh Dinh province.

13th-century valuable objects unearthed in central site
Viet Nam News, 23 January 2015

Scientists have unearthed traces of Cham ceramic workshops dating back to the 13th century in the central province of Binh Dinh’s Nhon Loc Commune.

They found fairly intact ceramic ovens and nearly 1,000 ceramic objects including bowls, plates, jars and tiles over a 100sq.m area. Traces of ruined ceramic ovens were found at another 50sq.m site.

Full story here.

Experimental kiln built at the EFEO

It’s experimental archaeology at work: the re-creation of an Angkorian style kiln by archaeologists at the Ecole Française d’Extreme Orient in Siem Reap.

Kiln firing at the EFEO earlier this month
Kiln firing at the EFEO earlier this month

Recreating the kilns of Angkor
Phnom Penh Post, 13 December 2014
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