You might have noticed a lack of news stories last week (and subsequently, a whole lot of news posted this week!), and that’s because I was away in Laos conducting some rock art training and fieldwork. My employer, SEAMEO SPAFA, had last year received a technical assistance request from the Lao National Commission for Unesco on behalf of the Department of History and Archaeology at the National University of Laos to conduct some training specifically on rock art recording – as it happens, I have a little knowledge about the subject!
And so, our colleagues and I put together a quick week-long training programme centred around recording a petroglyph site in the Pak Lai district of Sainyabouli province. This was a site that I had known about for a long time, but never had the chance to visit it and so it was great to build a training programme for the faculty and students of the department and also do a proper recording of the site. The site itself is pretty special, since it’s in the middle of the Mekong River and more accessible during the dry season.
The participants were made up of both lecturers and students from the Department of History and Archaeology, many of whom already had some archaeological experience and so the actual training was really a matter of refining systems and methodologies. The first day and a half were made up of lectures covering rock art in Southeast Asia and the detailed recording of rock art followed by two days of field recording at Pak Lai district. After learning the basics using recording forms, the participants started doing field recording themselves, developing their own shorthand and system once the understood the basic principles.
After the ground surveys, we also found many anthropogenic cupules in the area. Cupules are not all that common in Southeast Asia, so it’s interesting to find so many of them here. We ended up recording five distinct sites in the area. Along the way we used a variety of recording techniques, including drone photography, making silicon casts and 3D scanning. Another part of the training involved interviews with the local communities to understand the stories and histories associated with the rock art.
The training programme ended back in Vientiane with a few more lectures and small closing ceremony with certificates and gifts of appreciation exchanged. It’s fair to say this was a great experience for everyone involved, and the work continues in putting together a report and detailed inventory of the rock art. There was some coverage in the Lao news about the programme, here:
Also, if you don’t follow me on Instagram, here is a short video that I put together about the programme:
Again, my thanks to the Lao National Commission for Unesco, SEAMEO SPAFA and the Department of History and Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Laos for putting together this programme. Hopefully it will not be too long again before I return to Laos!