via Petchabun Cable, 25 Feb 2019: The article is in Thai, but pretty alarming. An oil company is holding public consultations to conduct oil drilling 100m (!!) away from the main stupa of Si Thep Historical Park. Any kind of drilling in that area is likely to hit archaeological remains, and more importantly that’s probably going to negatively affect any hopes of listing Si Thep as a World Heritage site. Public consultations are currently being held in the area until 27 Feb.
via South China Morning Post, 19 Feb 2019: I’ve covered a number of stories about Malaysian nationalism and archaeology; this one focuses on the ‘who arrived first?’ question in Malaysia, with archaeology (and the Bujang Valley in particular) being one of the battlegrounds between ethnic Indians and Malays. It’s impossible to determine ethnicity through archaeology but it hasn’t stopped people from trying!
In what was seen as a response to Kulasegaran’s speech, in October the National University of Malaysia’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation organised a forum entitled “Polemics of Indian presence in the Malay Peninsula: Migration or Immigrants?”.
The event drew flak from the Indian community, particularly since all four panellists were ethnic Malays.
Indian students at the university objected to the forum, leading a state politician to suggest that the participation of non-Malay academics would calm the waters. In an attempt at damage control, the university changed the name of the forum to “The population and ethnic movements in the Malay Peninsula from the perspective of archaeology, culture and history”.
via Medium.com, 20 Feb 2019: A shipwreck in the gulf of Thailand is identified as the Francis Garnier, part of the Messageries Fluviales de Cochinchine fleet that sailed up and down the Mekong in the turn of the 20th century. The article is in Thai. [Update, 23 Feb: there is an article in English here]
The Apsara Authority has been installing boards informing the public on the prohibition against buying and selling land in Siem Reap province’s Angkor area, following recent Facebook posts of land sales in the world heritage protected site.
Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal on Thursday said it has come across announcements of unsanctioned sale of land in Zone 1 and Zone 2 of Angkor.
“Residents, please do not believe the rumours created by people that some land in the Angkor area can be used for construction,” he said.
via Phnom Penh Post, 06 Feb 2019: Kngok Meas in Stung Treng province contains a number of pre-Angkorian archaeological sites.
The Stung Treng provincial government is preparing supporting documents and evidence to have Kngok Meas mountain listed as a national heritage site.
The provincial department of culture and fine arts and the department of tourism are leading the charge to get the mountainous area – located in Thala Barivat district’s Chhvaing village, and containing remains of pre-Angkor era settlements – recognised nationally.
Nhoch Saroeun, the provincial department of culture and fine arts acting director, said Kngok Meas mountain was a national treasure which must be protected and preserved.
via Bangkok Post, 01 Feb 2019: The original headline of the story was terrible (‘Sanitising history’) but the news is in fact a welcome one – a new policy by the Fine Arts Department bans styrofoam food containers from Thai historical parks.
Historical parks and learning centres under the Fine Arts Department nationwide will be free of styrofoam food containers soon under a new environmentally friendly policy.
Anandha Chuchoti, director-general of the Fine Arts Department, has revealed that the department has issued an announcement on reducing and banning the use of food containers made of styrofoam at all historical parks and learning centres under the supervision of the department.
Under the new policy, cooperation has been sought from all the agencies under the department and food vendors operating at any such parks and centres to curb and stop using styrofoam food containers.
New focus on old archaeology: Re-assessing controversies in Southeast Asia
Instances of scientific fraud or criminal activities involving archaeology are being re-assessed fairly regularly, supported by new primary sources and publications, often casting doubt on the original judgement. This panel focuses on contentious cases of 19th and 20th century archaeology from Southeast Asia, in light of new data from archives or recent publications. Presentations in this panel offer a critical re-evaluation of historical events, including the conduct of organisations and individuals involved in each case. Late in the 19th century, the French amateur archaeologist Ludovic Jammes claimed to have collected a significant haul of bronze objects from Samrong Sen in Cambodia. Jammes was discredited by French and American scholars but in recent years his claims have been largely validated by artefacts excavated by Cambodian archaeologists. One of the most enduring cases concerns the attempted theft in December 1923 of Khmer statues from Banteay Srei in Cambodia. André Malraux admitted masterminding the looting but recent publications and data from colonial archives call into question the conduct of organisations and individuals involved in his prosecution. The panel also welcomes the re-evaluation of geological controversies, similar to the accusation of scientific fraud against Jacques Deprat in 1914. Although he was dismissed from the Hanoi-based Geological Survey of Indochina, in 1991 the French Geological Society publicly rehabilitated Deprat in the presence of his surviving daughter. Comparative studies are also welcome for archaeological or geological controversies between Southeast Asia and other regions.
via PBS.org, 09 Feb 2019: Based on a recently-published paper in Journal of Archaeological Science, an analysis of ceramics from the Java Sea wreck reveals that the prized Qingbai ceramics were produced in four kilns across China, some high-quality, while others mass-produced ‘counterfeits’ to meet rising demands.
In a study published today in the Journal of Archaeological Science, a team of scientists pinpoints the origins of several of the Chinese ceramics on board. The chemical composition of the ship’s glazed, bluish-white qingbai wares shows they were forged at four different kiln sites across China—and while some were high-quality, luxury items destined for the social elite, others appear to be more akin to counterfeits, likely mass produced to meet rising demand in markets abroad.
“I think these are brilliant results,” says Elisabeth Holmqvist, an archaeologist and material scientist at the University of Helsinki in Finland who was not involved in the study. “This is when geochemical data really becomes valuable for archaeological questions: It provides the evidence, and then we can go back to the socioeconomic context. That’s the greatest value in this kind of research.”
This paper evaluates the use of portable x-ray fluorescence (pXRF) on glazes and pastes for sourcing Chinese porcelains from the 12th-13th century Java Sea Shipwreck (JSW) collection at the Field Museum. Three types of qingbai (bluish-white) wares from the JSW collection were chosen for pXRF analysis. Samples from four kiln complexes in China—Jingdezhen, Dehua, Huajiashan, and Minqing, hypothesized to be potential sources of the shipwreck’s qingbai ceramics based on visual inspection—were also analyzed to establish reference groups. Results from kiln samples show that different kiln complexes can be clearly differentiated by pXRF analysis of glazes. Based on pXRF analysis of ceramic samples from the JSW, there appear to be four compositional groups, and each group closely matches one of the four kiln reference groups. These findings support the use of pXRF on glazes, especially when pastes are difficult to access, as a method for identifying the potential sources for overseas cargos found distant from production contexts for Chinese porcelains.