An archaeology for the people, by the people

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Vietnam’s Institute of Archaeology is set to explore a relatively new concept in archaeological practice: community-based archaeology, which is a grassroots-centred movement to get local people interested and preserving their own past. This interview with the vice-director of the Institute of Archaeology explains further.

Residents to help dig up the past [Link no longer active]
Viet Nam News, 15 September 2008
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Thai community archaeology project boosted thanks to grant

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Pang Ma Pha district, in the Mae Hong Son province of Thailand is benefiting from a grant by the US government to support an archaeological research project focusing on the local caves. The project is run by Dr. Rasmi Shoocongdej from Silpakorn University.

I heard Dr. Shoocongdej presenting her Mae Hong Son work at a conference last year. Unlike most archaeological projects, this one really involved the community in managing the site, to the extent of teaching school kids about the prehistory of the region, as well as training guides within the community to help boost local tourism work. It’s a fine example of community archaeology.


photo credit: Michael Scalet

Preserving the Past
Bangkok Post, 04 March 2008
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Cambodian company donates to protect ancient temples, pagodas

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8 October 2006 (People’s Daily News) – A Cambodian company displays corporate philantrophy by donating money to help preserve the Bakong temple.

Cambodian company donates to protect ancient temples, pagodas

A Khmer company on Friday donated to the Cambodian government 90,000 U.S. dollars for conserving and protecting the ancient Bakong Temple in Siem Reap province, local newspaper said on Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An attended the signing ceremony of the memorandum of understanding between company owner Kuch Sinit and Bun Narit, President of the APSARA Authority, which is in charge of the management of the temples.

“Our old temples were destroyed and broken into pieces, especially the old Bakong Temple. It had elegant sculptures on all its walls. We wanted our next generation to see all these sculptures in precision. Therefore, we funded the conservation,” said Sinit.

Related Books:
Angkor Cities and Temples by C. Jaques
The Treasures of Angkor: Cultural Travel Guide (Rizzoli Art Guide) by M. Albanese

Digging up the past – Developing the Community

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1 June 2006 (Citylife Chiang Mai) – A feature on community-involvement archaeology project in northwest Thailand.

Digging up the past – Developing the Community
How archaeology makes a difference in Northwest Thailand

The Highland Archaeology Project in Pangmapha (HAPP) is a microcosm of the new directions of contemporary Thai archaeology. One important detail is that the project is run by a woman, Rasmi Shocoongdej, currently Assistant Professor at Silpakorn University.

The main results so far are the recording of nearly 100 sites from the Stone Age and Metal Age scattered across the district, as well as the excavation of two major rockshelter sites with evidence of over 20,000 years of habitation and several human burials.

The aim of the HAPP camp was to cultivate in the children, and hopefully their families, a sense of the value of the remains of the past and the importance of preserving them. By giving them a narrative of their unique local past – a past that they encounter the evidence of everyday – rather than a homogenising national past, they can feel a more positive sense of belonging and connection to [t]heir heritage.