How China uses shipwrecks to weave a history of seaborne trade that backs up its construction of a new maritime Silk Road

via South China Morning Post, 29 November 2017: The Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage is currently underway in Hong Kong, with many participants from Southeast Asia. This report from the SCMP focuses on China’s emerging role as a leader in maritime archaeology and its potential implications for its power.

This week, more than 100 of the region’s leading marine archaeologists from 23 nations convened at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum for the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage. At the opening reception on Monday night, the meteoric rise of China as a force in maritime archaeology was one of the popular topics of discussion.

Source: How China uses shipwrecks to weave a history of seaborne trade that backs up its construction of a new maritime Silk Road

Cambodia tourism to get Chinese help

vis Khmer Times, 17 July 2017: China has unveiled a plan to promote tourism in Siem Reap, in response to the increased number of tourists to Angkor. Chinese tourists have increased dramatically in recent years, due to warm relations betweem Cambodia and China.

China revealed plan to help Cambodia by establishing a comprehensive tourism plan for Siem Reap province.

Source: Cambodia tourism to get Chinese help – Khmer Times

See also:

Thatbyinnyu temple to start restoration in 2018

Myanmar Times, 01 June 2017

The preliminary restoration of the damaged Thatbyinnyu temple in Bagan is expected to begin in 2018 with an initial fund of US$1 million from the Chinese government.

The Chinese government granted the fund to implement preliminary emergency restoration of damaged pagodas in Bagan from the earthquake last year.

Thatbyinnyu is one of the worst hit in the first priority group which includes 36 pagodas.

Source: Thatbyinnyu temple to start restoration in 2018

Red Deer Cave bones in Southwest China raises new questions about human origins

A recent study published in PLOS One analyses the bones from the Red Deer Cave of Yunnan province and suggests that they may belong to a branch of a archaic form of human, or represent multiple colonisation events in the Pleistocene before the arrival of anatomically modern humans.

Red Deer Cave. Source: Popular Archaeology 20151217
Red Deer Cave. Source: Archaeology 20151217

Human Remains from the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition of Southwest China Suggest a Complex Evolutionary History for East Asians
PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031918

The Mystery of Red Deer Cave
Popular Archaeology, 17 December 2015

‘Red Deer Cave people’ bone points to mysterious species of pre-modern human
Science Daily, 17 December 2015

14,000-Year-Old Bone Found in Red Deer Cave Points to Archaic Human Species
Sci News, 18 December 2015

Background
Later Pleistocene human evolution in East Asia remains poorly understood owing to a scarcity of well described, reliably classified and accurately dated fossils. Southwest China has been identified from genetic research as a hotspot of human diversity, containing ancient mtDNA and Y-DNA lineages, and has yielded a number of human remains thought to derive from Pleistocene deposits. We have prepared, reconstructed, described and dated a new partial skull from a consolidated sediment block collected in 1979 from the site of Longlin Cave (Guangxi Province). We also undertook new excavations at Maludong (Yunnan Province) to clarify the stratigraphy and dating of a large sample of mostly undescribed human remains from the site.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We undertook a detailed comparison of cranial, including a virtual endocast for the Maludong calotte, mandibular and dental remains from these two localities. Both samples probably derive from the same population, exhibiting an unusual mixture of modern human traits, characters probably plesiomorphic for later Homo, and some unusual features. We dated charcoal with AMS radiocarbon dating and speleothem with the Uranium-series technique and the results show both samples to be from the Pleistocene-Holocene transition: ∼14.3-11.5 ka.

Conclusions/Significance
Our analysis suggests two plausible explanations for the morphology sampled at Longlin Cave and Maludong. First, it may represent a late-surviving archaic population, perhaps paralleling the situation seen in North Africa as indicated by remains from Dar-es-Soltane and Temara, and maybe also in southern China at Zhirendong. Alternatively, East Asia may have been colonised during multiple waves during the Pleistocene, with the Longlin-Maludong morphology possibly reflecting deep population substructure in Africa prior to modern humans dispersing into Eurasia.

Download the paper here.

Chinese remote sensing data to provide data for Angkor

China is lending its satellite imaging resources to Cambodia to help understand real-time environmental patterns affecting the Angkor region, through a special remote sensing centre in Angkor.

China’s remote-sensing satellites helps Angkor Wat restoration
Business Standard, 10 August 2015

China’s remote-sensing satellites are providing environmental data for protection of the ruins of Cambodia’s heritage Angkor Wat, a magnificent 12th century Hindu temple which holds exceptional universal value.

Located in northwest Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, Angkor Wat Temple, inscribed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1992, is the country’s most popular tourist destination.

Chinese satellites are using remote-sensing to collect and process images of the site in real time, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Full story here.

China’s archaeology ship seeks buried sovereignty

China’s archaeology research vessel, the Kaogu-01, comes with all the bells and whistles, but its deployment in the South China Sea is a source of concern to the maritime nations of Southeast Asia as it is being used to enforce China’s territorial claims far beyond its shores.

Update: A reader pointed out that the link was missing. They are up now!

Archaeology and the South China Sea
The Diplomat, 20 July 2015

In 2013, China enforced those claims on an unsuspecting French archaeologist and his team investigating the wreck of a Chinese junk off the Philippine coast. According to one report, a Chinese twin-prop plane flew overhead. Then a Chinese marine-surveillance vessel approached the Philippines-registered ship, issuing instructions in English to turn around and head back. While it is difficult to say where exactly this incident actually happened, it does go to show that China is both willing and able to use force to enforce its sovereignty claims over shipwrecks and other relics in disputed waters.

China has also turned to the use of passive technology to protect its cultural relics. According to Yu Xingguang, Director of the State Oceanic Administrations Number 3 Research Facility, China has finished developing the technology for monitoring buoys, which employ acoustics technology to survey underwater wrecks and monitor their condition, while also simultaneously using China’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) to identify and monitor ships entering and exiting the area of wrecks in real time.

Enforcing its sovereignty claims off the Philippines is one obvious way that China is using maritime archaeology to assert and protect its sovereignty. Another method apparently used is much more subtle. It involves the use of China’s new ship, Kaogu-01, in disputed areas to assert its control over them, as well as the gradual buildup of work stations and bases in the area, such as the one planned for Yongxing Island.

Full story here.

Chinese histories refute China’s claim to the seas

Recent Chinese expansionism into the South China Sea has been worrying many Southeast Asian countries, and archaeology and history have been used to refute such claims.

China’s South China Sea claims are not supported by its own historical records
South China Morning Post, 30 May 2015

Yes, this was a long time ago, but Chinese claims today are best refuted by China’s own written records, be they of Buddhist monks or in dynastic annals reporting trade missions and accounts of travellers to the southern lands. Chinese documents are the single most important source for the early history of maritime Southeast Asia and conform to evidence in more fragmentary Tamil, Javanese, Malay and Arab records.

Even though Chinese merchants and settlers in the region’s ports came to play a major role in commerce, they always shared these roles, whether with the Arabs, the Muslim sultanates and later the Europeans. China only twice briefly attempted to use force to impose its will on the maritime region, during the Mongol period when an invasion of Java failed, and briefly during the Zheng He voyages of the early Ming.

Communist party governments everywhere, not just in China, are notorious for rewriting history. But if Beijing wants to know why it feels surrounded by enemies, it should ask itself the reason: riding roughshod over the interests and identities of its neighbours, raising issues of “unequal treaty” borders and engaging in colonialism in Xinjiang and Tibet, by fostering Han settlement to undermine the ethnic identity of those once-independent nations.

Full story here.

Archaeology and China’s claims to the seas

Underwater archaeologist Michael Flecker talks about the archaeology of the Spratley islands and how archaeology may help defuse arguments by China over the South China Sea.

Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506
Philippine ship run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal. Source: Today 20150506

Archaeology could wreck China’s sea claims
Today, 06 May 2015

No country has demonstrated that they have historical rights to the Spratlys, simply because it is, and always has been, Dangerous Ground, a place to avoid at all costs. China’s claim to a large chunk of the South China Sea on historical grounds does not seem to be indisputable.

But perhaps this is just as evident to China as it is to me. Perhaps, it is only a game that will have served its purpose once the islands have been created and the military facilities have been built and manned. Perhaps then China will happily participate in bilateral or even multilateral discussions, with the history card taken off the table.

Full story here.

Study highlight’s Myanmar’s role in early human dispersal into East Asia

A recent study in Scientific Reports pinpoints Myanmar as a region for the dispersal of human populations into East Asia, probably through river valleys. The comparison of DNA between populations of both regions further suggest the presence of an inland route (rather than just coastal) that modern humans took in populating East Asia.

Ancient inland human dispersals from Myanmar into interior East Asia since the Late Pleistocene
Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep09473

Motherland Myanmar: New research suggests Burma was birthplace of early Chinese people
South China Morning Post, 02 April 2015

Given the existence of plenty of river valleys connecting Southeast and East Asia, it is possible that some inland route(s) might have been adopted by the initial settlers to migrate into the interior of East Asia. Here we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) HVS variants of 845 newly collected individuals from 14 Myanmar populations and 5,907 published individuals from 115 populations from Myanmar and its surroundings. Enrichment of basal lineages with the highest genetic diversity in Myanmar suggests that Myanmar was likely one of the differentiation centers of the early modern humans. Intriguingly, some haplogroups were shared merely between Myanmar and southwestern China, hinting certain genetic connection between both regions. Further analyses revealed that such connection was in fact attributed to both recent gene flow and certain ancient dispersals from Myanmar to southwestern China during 25–10 kya, suggesting that, besides the coastal route, the early modern humans also adopted an inland dispersal route to populate the interior of East Asia..

Full article here, and news story here.