Thailand prepares more sites for the world heritage list


Thailand announces ongoing fact-finding programmes to propose five new sites into Unesco’s World Heritage Site list by next year. Among the sites are the ancient cities of Chiang Saen and Suvannakhomkham, which shares Laotian territory; the Lanna kingdom in the north, as well as the Srivijaya-Nakhon Si Tammarat cultural route.

Slanted Roof
photo credit: The Wandering Angel

Ministry to seek heritage status for ancient cities
The Nation, 4 June 2009
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The ancestors of soft drinks part of Cebu archaeological finds on display

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An exhibition showcasing the artefacts unearthed from Cebu in the Philippines showcase a range of items as early as the 13th century and as recent as the early 20th century. Among the finds are gold necklaces, ceramic wares from Thailand, and bottles for aerated ginger ale (although it’s unclear if the bottles were unearthed with the ginger ale, or if it just said so in the label). All this points to a rich record of regional interactions that Cebu played in Southeast Asia.

Cebu’s archaeological finds on display

Cebu Daily News, 03 June 2009
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Sarawak Museum plans on preserving culture of native tribes

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The Sarawak Museum reveals current projects to survey and study cultural aspects of the native tribes, such as the practice of erecting burial poles, and a joint study with Cambridge to study cultural sites in the Cultured Rainforest Project (note: the article misquotes it as the Cultural Rainforest Project).

photo credit: lok_lok05

Sarawak to preserve burial poles
The Star, 03 June 2009
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Unesco snubs Thailand's Preah Vihear Protest

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Cambodian officials at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Seville, Spain announced that the meeting refused to consider Thailand’s protest on the listing of Preah Vihear and has continued with its scheduled agenda. There hasn’t been any report of this in the Thai media (not surprising, if this were true), and border tensions are high once again.

photo credit: Metro Centric

Thai claim on temple dismissed
Phnom Penh Post, 25 June 2009

Cambodian PM warns Thailand in border temple row
AFP, via Channel NewsAsia, 26 June 2009

Thailand, Cambodia spar again over disputed border
AP, via Yahoo, 26 June 2009

Preah Vihear: little love lost among the ruins
Bangkok Post, 26 June 2009

Sabre rattling at Preah Vihear
Bangkok Post, 25 June 2009

Opposition and civil society appeal to the govt not to negotiate with Thailand on Preah Vihear issue
Radio Free Asia, via KI-Media, 24 June 2009
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Rock Art: Just another sign of mental impairment?

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There’s an amusing story on BBC from Australia about wallabies being the explanation for crop circles. In the opium farms of Tasmania, wallabies who jump through the fences and eat the poppy end up getting “as high as a kite and going around in circles”, resulting in the familiar crop circles that we love to attribute to beings from outer space. Amusing as it sounds, crop circles, like rock art, can be classified as a type of landscape art, and the narcotic antics of these marsupials show us one possibility behind the rock art left by ancient peoples.

photo credit: Wm Jas
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Are Malaysians buying up Indonesia's cultural heritage?

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A rather disturbing report of Malaysian scholars allegedly buying up ancient manuscripts from private owners in the Indonesian Riau Islands (south of Singapore) in a bid “to find proof of their Malay identity”. The idea of Malay identity and ethnicity is a touchy issue in Malaysia, due to affirmative action policies that accord privileges to the Malays over the other ethnicities that share the country. However, this article should be seen in the light of relations between Indonesia and Malaysia, which are not at an all-time high at the moment. A few years ago, Indonesia accused Malaysia of using a traditional Indonesian song to promote Malaysian tourism. The most recent chilling of relations involves Indonesia freeze of domestic helpers working in Malaysia because of recent cases of abuse that has come to light. The reason I’m featuring this story is because, hey, it’s about ancient manuscripts (although most aren’t more than 200 years old so it can’t be that ancient) and it highlights a recurring theme in Indonesia that the government doesn’t have the will or the resources to take care of its own heritage, but are looking to blame Malaysia for buying up what little they have.

M`sians take ancient Malay manuscripts from Riau islands
Antara, 03 June 2009
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Historic maritime expedition on ancient boat setting sail on Saturday

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Final preparations are underway for a team from the Philippines to retrace the ancient maritime routes using a modern reconstruction of an ancient boat, called the Balangay. The 15-metre boat was rebuilt by craftsmen using traditional methods (such as the choice of wood and the use of wooden dowels rather than metal nails) will be manned by a crew of nine. Setting sail from Manila, they will follow a shore-hugging route to Tawi-Tawi, on the southern end of the Philippines. If all goes well (and it is going to be a long journey lasting until at least the end of 2010), the expedition might extend west, as far as Madagascar. Good luck to the crew!

Balangays have been known to be in use as early as 1,600 years ago – I think that’s probably one of the earliest evidence for seafaring that we have material evidence for – but the technology to travel across the seas is probably much older. I won’t be surprised if ancient peoples in this region had access to that technology a couple of millennia before then. Finding such evidence will be much trickier, since wood doesn’t preserve well in this climate.

Filipinos to sail around the world aboard ancient boat
GMA News, 20 June 2009
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Wednesday Rojak #59

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This week, we step into an ancient boat (at least, a reconstruction of one), mull over small brains and tools, and figure out a contested temple’s role in politics. This and more in today’s edition of rojak!
stone tool finds
photo credit: andy_carter

    • Anton Diaz takes us inside the Balangay boat, which is due to set sail this weekend in a historic journey to retrace the ancient maritime routes through the Philippines. (Read more about it tomorrow!)
    • Why should we be surprised that the small-brained hobbits used tools? Eric Drexler shows us examples of tool use in animals with much smaller brains in Homo floresiensis, Crows, and the Baldwin Effect


In this series of occasional rojaks (published on Wednesdays) I feature other sites in the blogosphere that are related to archaeology in Southeast Asia. Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me!