House commitee approves Baybayin as national writing system

via ABS-CBN News, 23 April 2018:

The House Commitee on Basic Education and Culture has approved a bill seeking to declare Baybayin, a pre-Hispanic writing system used in the Philippines, as the country’s national writing system.

Source: House commitee approves Baybayin as national writing system

Farmer discovers mystery stone tablet in Anlong Veng

via Phnom Penh Post, 09 April 2018

Historians and archaeologists are working to determine the origin and significance of a stone tablet appearing to bear the inscription of a Khmer King’s royal directive that a farmer found last week in an Oddar Meanchey cassava field.

Source: Farmer discovers mystery stone tablet in Anlong Veng

Was Cambodia home to Asia’s ancient ‘Land of Gold’?

via Phnom Penh Post, 5 January 2018: An inscription on a Cambodian tablet names it as the Land of Gold. But, many places in Southeast Asia also claim the name of Suvarnabhumi.

The location of the fabled realm of Suvarnabhumi is shrouded in mystery. A Cambodian scholar believes an inscription on a stone tablet provides compelling evidence that it was in the Kingdom — but he is far from the first person to make the claim for their own country.

Source: Was Cambodia home to Asia’s ancient ‘Land of Gold’?

The Life, Death, and Resurgence of Baybayin

via Esquire Philippines, 11 August 2018: A feature on the ancient written script of the Philippines, which went almost extinct after the arrival of the Spanish.

The influence of this ancient language can be seen in how Filipinos write today.

Source: The Life, Death, and Resurgence of Baybayin | Esquire Ph

Kuthodaw Pagoda inscriptions to be restored

Stone inscriptions in Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay will be the subject of a restoration project jointly run bu the Myanmar Ministry of Culture and the University of Sydney.

Mandalay. Source: TTR Weekly 20151123
Mandalay. Source: TTR Weekly 20151123

Mandalay restores stone plaques
TTR Weekly, 23 November 2015

Myanmar Ministry of Culture’s Archaeology and National Museum is collaborating with Sydney University’s Buddhist Studies Programme in Australia to restore stone inscriptions at Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay.

Global New Light of Myanmar reported the collaboration started since the beginning of the year.
According to Archaeology and National Museum’s Mandalay branch, technicians and experts are undertaking preservation works of stone plaques and pagodas, taking photo records, translating stone inscriptions from Pali-Myanmar to English and publishing academic articles about the stones and inscriptions.

Translation and publishing are being carried out by Sydney University.

Full story here.

Scholars to read Myanmar’s ancient script an endangered species

The expertise to translate the ancient languages of Myanmar, including Pyu, Mon, Rakhine and Pali, is becoming increasingly rare as there is decreasing interest among young scholars in learning such languages.

The Maha Ganda Bell at Shwedagon Pagoda. Source: Myanmar Times 20150810
The Maha Ganda Bell at Shwedagon Pagoda. Source: Myanmar Times 20150810

Myanmar’s history lost in translation
Myanmar Times, 10 August 2015

Much of Myanmar’s early history is recorded in multi-lingual inscriptions dating back more than 1000 years. These words – etched into stone slabs, bronze bells, burial pots, clay tables, even the walls of sacred caves – describe the deeds of kings and reveal details about ancient civilisations, cultures and customs.

But while some of these inscriptions have been deciphered, many more have not, and only a handful of scholars possess the expertise to translate the millennium-old versions of the Pyu, Mon, Rakhine, Pali, Myanmar and Sanskrit languages in which they are written.

Deputy Minister of Culture Daw Sandar Khin said these languages are in danger of becoming extinct if action is not taken to preserve them.

Full story here.

Preserving poetry inscribed on Hue’s buildings

Conservators in Vietnam met recently in Hue to discuss the best ways to preserve the unique poetry carved on some of the heritage buildings in the historic city.

Carved poetry on buildings in Hue. Source: Viet Nam News 20150511
Carved poetry on buildings in Hue. Source: Viet Nam News 20150511

Conservationists discuss Hue carvings
Viet Nam News, 11 May 2015

The country’s leading conservationists gathered in Hue over the weekend to discuss the poetry that is carved on wooden and concrete heritage buildings in the former royal capital city.

The conservationists also will seek ways to protect this poetry.

Despite Han Chinese characters being used for transcription of the poems, they are still different from carved calligraphy found on ancient buildings in China, the conservationists agreed.

According to Vu Thi Minh Huong, chairwoman of the national committee for Memory of the World Programmes, carved poetry on imperial buildings in Hue and the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) woodprints included poems for the general public.

Full story here.

Earliest known inscription of ‘0’ is Cambodian

The author of the book ‘Finding Zero’ describes the earliest known inscription of the number ‘0’ in the modern Arabic numeral system, which is found in a Cambodian inscription.

Update and correction: A reader has pointed out to me that the representation of zero in the Arabic numeral system appears simultaneously in Cambodia and Sumatra in 683CE, and that prior to that we have symbolic representations of the number zero using words such as ‘void’, ‘air’, ‘wind’ from Cambodian inscriptions dating to 604CE. See G. Coedès (1931) A propos de l’origine des chiffres arabes. (Thanks Terry Lustig)

Sambor inscription with the earliest known zero. Source: 20150507
Sambor inscription with the earliest known zero. Source: 20150507

My Quest to Find the First Zero, 07 May 2015

It’s humanity’s great invention

At 1:35 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2013, in a deserted, dusty shed in a clearing in what was once a lush, dense tropical forest a few miles southeast of the imposing ancient temple of Angkor Wat in northwest Cambodia, I had a rendezvous with history.

I found myself standing in front of a long-lost archaeological artifact whose importance for the history of science could not be overstated. It had taken me five years of intense effort to find this piece of stone. After talking to experts on three continents, and trekking through jungles, arid fields, sweltering deserts, and ragged mountains in India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, I was finally here, in front of the object I had almost lost hope of ever finding.

The artifact was a 5-foot-by-3-foot stone slab weighing half a ton, with ancient writings in a lost language chiseled into its smooth face. The language was Pre-Angkorian Old Khmer, an ancient form of the language of present-day Cambodia. This stele once adorned the wall of a 7th century temple at a place called Sambor on the Mekong River, all the way across the country, and it bore a description of the gifts made to this temple from the people of the area, including a list of slaves, five pairs of oxen, and white rice for the subsistence of those who worshipped there.

Full story here.