Joyce White was an atheist as a graduate student and intent on being an archaeologist in Europe, something she decided when she was about 15 and saw cemetery excavations at medieval churches in England.
During a slide presentation of a professor’s excavation in Thailand, one image captivated her for reasons she still can’t quite explain. The photo was of a field he crossed en route to the site. Pack animals carrying his equipment rested in the field, which ended in a dark tropical forest.
“It was a vivid experience. I saw myself in that slide,” she says. “There was a compelling aesthetic draw of some sort.” She abandoned plans to work in Europe in favor of Southeast Asia. It was a leap. Her professor discouraged her, citing huge cultural and physical obstacles for a woman archaeologist in Thailand.
For readers in Bangkok, Dr Joyce White will be giving a talk at Thammasat University at the end of the month.
Preserving Heritage through Building Partnerships
Date: 30 January 2015
Venue: Multipurpose Hall 3, 5th Floor, Room 513. Thammasat University, Bangkok
Time: 1 – 4pm
Register via this link: http://goo.gl/forms/pEsvv4tG0j
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has been conducting archaeological research in Southeast Asia for over 45 years, and recently uploaded on their blog a video interview with curator Dr Joyce White about the museum’s Luce Program for Asian Archaeology. (Thanks to Dr. Leedom Lefferts for the heads up)
The New York Times carries an article walking about how the recent antiquities smuggling racket (see here, here and here) damages the archaeological record – and all for a tax evasion scheme. The article quotes extensively from Dr Joyce White of the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Ban Chiang project. Many thanks to Dr. White for flagging the article.
Ban Chiang Ware, creative commons image by drdrewhonolulu
24 October 2007 (Science Daily) – A report on the collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Ban Chiang Project and Laos’ Department of Museums and Archaeology and the results of the last few year’s work of surveying the area around the Mekong River for archaeological potential.
As archaeologists in the last half century have set about reconstructing the prehistory of Southeast Asia, data from one countryâ€”centrally located Laosâ€”was conspicuously missing. Little archaeology has occurred in Laos since before World War II, and beginning in the mid-1970s, Laos shut its doors completely to outside researchers. International scholars had to content themselves with information from excavation and survey work mostly from neighboring Thailand.
That scenario is beginning to shiftâ€”and new data, as well as new collaborative relationshipsâ€”may forever change our perspective on an area that was once considered a â€œbackwater regionâ€ of human civilization.