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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.