Seeing how it’s the last days of 2019, now is as good a time as any to look back on the year and review the biggest archaeology stories in Southeast Asia for 2019. This year a new hominid species was named, a temple complex was saved from oil drilling, three new world heritage sites were inscribed and more than few buried statues were discovered. But we should start in the beginning of the year when the Malaysian government declares RM$10 million extra for development of Sungei Batu and the ‘Raffles in Southeast Asia’ exhibition opened at the Asian Civilisations Museum with mixed reviews (here, here and here) about what it means to decolonise.
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A plan of Java’s Borobudur temple, probably drawn by Hermann Cornelius, a Dutch Engineer who was sent to uncover the remains of a rumoured temple by Thomas Stamford Raffles in the early 1800s. Raffles was then the governor of Java, and later on became the founder of Singapore in 1819. This plan is on display at the Asian Civilisations Museum as part of the Raffles in Southeast Asia exhibition happening until 28 April. #singapore #asiancivilisationsmuseum #britishmuseum #rafflesinsoutheastasia #indonesia #java #raffles #borobudur #architecture #southeastasianarchaeology . . Check out my blog post here: https://www.southeastasianarchaeology.com/2019/02/13/raffles-in-southeast-asia-a-multilayered-exploration-of-the-man-colonialism-and-re-looking-our-past/ . . . #archaeology #archeology #indonesiaarchaeology #temple #ruins #eastindiacompany #architecturalplans #hermanncornelius #ancienthistory #indonesiabagus #visitindonesia #tourismindonesia #javatravel #colonialism
Malaysia was in the news again in February, when a pair of cannons were unearthed in Malaysia’s Fort Cornwallis. Over February and March, oil drilling near Si Thep Historical Park sparks an outroar. The ensuing attention led to the oil company ceasing its prospecting involvement, and for Si Thep to be later added into the Unesco Tentative List for eventual nomination as a World Heritage Site. Elsewhere, road constructions in East Java hits archaeological sites while armed conflict broke out in Mrauk U where the situation remains tense to this day.
The biggest archaeological news in April was the exposition of the new species, Homo luzonensis, another diminutive hominid like Homo floresiensis which was discovered the previous decade. In Indonesia, rock art was discovered in Kaimear island – a dense concentration of sites in a relatively small island. Over in the mainland, a Funan grave site was discovered in Cambodia’s Prey Veng Province while Prof Charles Higham placed his archives online as reference material for public use.
The top news for May include the Penang Woman going on display in the Guar Kepah site while archaeologists in the Philippines dig up a neolithic site in Misamis Oriental. In Cambodia, parts of the usually-submerged Ak Yum temple is discovered in Cambodia. Not much news covered in June, on account of me running SPAFACON2019, the third conference on Southeast Asian Archaeology organised by SEAMEO SPAFA. Singapore’s Fort Canning Park saw the opening of nine historical gardens, including one with a link to the archaeology of Singapore.
In July, the annual general meeting of World Heritage Committee in Baku announced three new Southeast Asian sites added into the list: The Plain of Jars in Laos, the Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto in Indonesia and the Bagan temple complex in Myanmar. In the Philippines, the new national museums act is revealed in the Philippines which, among things, opens the museums free for public. Singapore’s archaeology gets a boost through the establishment of the Temasek History Research centre which focuses on Singapore’s premodern past from the 12-19th centuries.
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During my visit to the Plain of Jars in 2015, I was fortunate to have brought my drone. I think it might be the first time a drone video was filmed over the Xieng Khuoang plain. Check out my video at https://youtu.be/EKWVEeA4FXY . Large areas of the Plain of Jars – and Laos – remain dangerous because of the huge amounts of unexploded ordnance dropped by the United States during their war wih Vietnam. Here in Site 1, you can see a large crater (one of many) left behind by the bombs. #laos #southeastasianarchaeology #plainofjars #crater #xiengkhuoang #drone #phonsavan #dronstagram #dronephotography . . . . . #nationaltreasure #ancienthistory #ancientdestinations #ancientcity #tomb #culturalheritage #archeology #archaeology #southeastasia #ancient #heritage #asianwanderlust #exploreasia #culturetrip #worldtraveler #explorer #travelawesome #globetrotter #travelgram #lonelyplanet #travelphotography
October seems to be a good month for finding buried statues: in Cambodia, a statue of a bodhisatva and Visnu were discovered in Ta Nei temple and Battambang respectively; while in Indonesia a pre-Majapahit statue of a Garuda was found during the excavation of a water feature. Additionally, a study published in Antiquity reveals the lidar map of Phnom kulen, the first royal capital of the Khmer Empire.
November saw Hindus gathering in Prambanan to re-sanctify the ancient temple complex after 1163 years of its establishment. Travel guide Fodor places Angkor, Bali and Hanoi into it’s annual no list due to concerns of over-tourism and sustainability. On a related note, elephant rides will no longer be offered in Angkor starting in response to concerns that such practices are cruel to the elephants.
Three major stories emerged at the end of the year from Cambodia and Indonesia. Antiques dealer Douglas Latchford was indicted by the US government for his role in the sale and falsification of documentation relating to Khmer antiquities – he remains at large and reportedly in Bangkok currently; in other Cambodian news, research from EFEO and the Angkor Conservation Centre was able to reconstruct the original sculptural form of Jayavarman VII, revealing his arms in the posture of a Khmer salute. In Indonesia, a new rock art site in Sulawesi was reported to have the earliest depiction of a hunting scene (and possible therianthropes) which dates to 44,000 years old, making the oldest such depiction in the world – currently.
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A paper published in Nature yesterday revealed the oldest rock art hunting scene in the world, found in Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 in South Sulawesi, dating to 43,900 years old. Besides hunting, the scene also depicts what is though to be the oldest therianthropes (half-man half animall) in the world, pictured here. Once again, rock art from Indonesia is overturning our ideas about the origin of figurative art in the world, and the extent and activity of early modern humans in Southeast Asia. #rockart #sulawesi #pangkep #maros #sulawesitselatan #sulsel #indonesia #indonesianarchaeology #southeastasianarchaeology . . Read the roundup here: https://www.southeastasianarchaeology.com/2019/12/12/earliest-rock-art-hunting-scene-is-44000-years-old-and-is-found-in-sulawesi/ . . . #indonesiaarchaeology #archeology #archaeology #uraniumseriesdating #cavepaintings #rockpaintings #caveart #ancient #prehistory #prehistoricpaintings #oldest #hunting #therianthropy #visitindonesia #makassar #visitsulawesiselatan #southeastasia #gambarcadas #gambarcadasprasejarahindonesia #nature_perfection
Those were my highlights from this year in Southeast Asian Archaeology. There were of course, many other stories and discoveries that were not mentioned, so feel free to browse the archives!