Ancient Thai Artifacts Returned by American Collector

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via Khaosod English, 02 August 2018: The ceramics returned were from Ban Chiang. Thailand previously repatriated Ban Chiang ceramics from the Bowers Museum in 2014, and is still looking at 14 more artifacts housed in the Honolulu Museum of art.

Prehistoric artifacts dating back thousands of years to some of the earliest people in Southeast Asia have been returned to Thailand by an American collector, officials announced Thursday.

Source: Ancient Thai Artifacts Returned by American Collector
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[Paper] Ancient genomes document multiple waves of migration in Southeast Asian prehistory


A paper published in Science analyses the genomes of ancient Southeast Asian DNA and detected three distinct waves of migration into Southeast Asia beginning with hunter-gatherers around 45,000 years ago, followed by the Neolithic and the introduction of agricultural practices some 4,500 years ago, and a migration associated with the Bronze age, which reached Myanmar 3,000 years ago, Vietnam 2,000 years ago and Thailand in the last 1,000 years.

Ancient genomes document multiple waves of migration in Southeast Asian prehistory
Science 17 May 2018:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3188

Southeast Asia is home to rich human genetic and linguistic diversity, but the details of past population movements in the region are not well known. Here, we report genome-wide ancient DNA data from eighteen Southeast Asian individuals spanning from the Neolithic period through the Iron Age (4100–1700 years ago). Early farmers from Man Bac in Vietnam exhibit a mixture of East Asian (southern Chinese agriculturalist) and deeply diverged eastern Eurasian (hunter-gatherer) ancestry characteristic of Austroasiatic speakers, with similar ancestry as far south as Indonesia providing evidence for an expansive initial spread of Austroasiatic languages. By the Bronze Age, in a parallel pattern to Europe, sites in Vietnam and Myanmar show close connections to present-day majority groups, reflecting substantial additional influxes of migrants.

Source: Ancient genomes document multiple waves of migration in Southeast Asian prehistory | Science

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ไม่ปล่อยให้โกง…ใช้ “แสงซินโครตรอน” พิสูจน์เครื่องปั้นบ้านเชียงของแท้-ของปลอมได้แม่นยำ

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via MGR Online, 26 March 2018: The Thai Fine Arts Department and the Synchrotron Light Research Institute develop ways to study and authenticate Ban Chiang ceramics. Article is in Thai.

ไม่ปล่อยให้โกงนักวิจัยไทย-กรมศิลปากรใช้เทคโนโลยี “แสงซินโครตรอน” พิสูจน์วัตถุโบราณ “บ้านเชียง” อายุ 3,500 ปี ว่าเป็นของปลอมหรือจริงได้แม่นยำ

Source: ไม่ปล่อยให้โกง…ใช้ “แสงซินโครตรอน” พิสูจน์เครื่องปั้นบ้านเชียงของแท้-ของปลอมได้แม่นยำ

Thai artefacts going home

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Exciting news about the return of artefacts from Department of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii to Thailand, via ISEAA

Repatriation News!! The Department of Anthropology of the University of Hawai´i at Mānoa reports (drum roll…) all of…

Posted by Institute for Southeast Asian Archaeology – ISEAA on Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The legacy of the Ban Chiang discovery

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Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Ban Chiang culture in Thailand’s Udon Thani province. This article from the Isaan Record features and interview with Dr Joyce White and her involvement with the site.

Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

Burials at Ban Chiang. Source: The Isaan Record 20160420

The legacy of Ban Chiang: Archaeologist Joyce White talks about Thailand’s most famous archaeological site
The Isaan Record, 20 April 2016

Fifty years ago in August, in the village of Ban Chiang near Udon Thani, a visiting American student named Stephen Young tripped over an exposed tree root and fell atop the rim of a clay pot partly buried in the village path. His tumble set into motion two joint Thai-American archaeological expeditions to Ban Chiang in the 1970s that exposed the extent of prehistoric burial sites beneath the village, sites filled with thousands of pieces of pottery and metalwork buried as grave goods by Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples at different times between 4200 and 1800 years ago. The Ban Chiang finds revealed unexpected technological and artistic development among the peoples of the region and challenged prevailing ideas about the prehistory of Southeast Asia.

American archaeologist Dr. Joyce White is the Director of the Ban Chiang project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, USA, where she has studied the finds from Ban Chiang since 1976. She is an expert witness for the US Department of Justice in an ongoing antiquities trafficking case that in 2014 resulted in the return of many smuggled Ban Chiang items to Thailand.

Full story here.

US antiquities dealers jailed for tax fraud involving Southeast Asian loot

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This story is related to the repatriation of Ban Chiang artefacts to Thailand early this year. The antiquities dealer who was involved in the sale of the artefacts was sentenced to prison for an elaborate tax fraud scheme. Part of the sentencing agreement is the return of artefacts to their country of origin, including Thailand and Cambodia.

Calling Indiana Jones: Looted artifacts, tax scheme send ex-antiquities dealer to prison
My News LA, 14 December 2015

Operation Antiquity: Prison for Antiquities Dealer Behind Looting and Tax Fraud Scheme
Chasing Aphrodite, 15 December 2015

An ex-antiquities dealer who ran a complex Los Angeles-based tax fraud scheme involving looted artifacts was sentenced Monday to a year and a half in federal prison for making false declarations in customs documents in order to bring stolen archeological resources into the United States.

Jonathan Markell, 70, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson to 18 months behind bars followed by a year of supervised release.

An undercover federal agent and an expert in Southeast Asian antiquities both testified about the extent of the smuggling scheme, which, according to prosecutors, duped Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and other institutions.

Also Monday, Markell and his 68-year-old wife, Cari — who operated the now-defunct Silk Roads Gallery in the 100 block of North La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles for 10 years — were sentenced to probation for operating a related tax evasion scheme in which the couple “packaged” and sold smuggled artifacts to give clients tax write-offs when the items were donated to local museums.

A $1,500 “package” typically included antiquities from Ban Chiang, Thailand, along with false sales invoices to reflect an earlier sales date, and a fraudulently inflated $5,000 appraisal that contained a bogus expert’s signature, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns.

Full stories here and here.

Visit the Ban Don Thong Chai Archaeological Site

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Ban Don Thong Chai Archaeological Site. Source: Bangkok Post 20150326

The newly-opened Ban Don Thong Chai Archaeological Site is an open air museum and situated relatively close to the famous Ban Chiang archaeological site.

Ban Don Thong Chai Archaeological Site. Source: Bangkok Post 20150326

Ban Don Thong Chai Archaeological Site. Source: Bangkok Post 20150326

Digging ancient history
Bangkok Post, 26 March 2015

At first glance, Wat Chai Mongkol in Sakon Nakhon looks like a typical Buddhist temple. But it houses a recently-discovered archaeological site dating back 1,800-4,500 years.

Called the “Ban Don Thong Chai Archaeological Site”, the museum has been open to the public since the beginning of the year. The site is about 19 rai with the entrance behind a prayer hall of Wat Chai Mongkol.

Visitors are initially greeted with a blueprint of the temple’s grounds with markings of the 40 pit sites. Brief information is included about the ancient people who lived in this area, outlining three major periods which can be segmented the same way as Ban Chiang.

Full story here.

More artefacts to return to Thailand

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Source: Bangkok Post 20150307

Thailand announced last week the return of more Ban Chiang artefacts from the US, this time from the Mingei Museum in San Diego.

Source: Bangkok Post 20150307

Source: Bangkok Post 20150307

San Diego museum to return artefacts
Bangkok Post, 07 March 2015

A San Diego museum will be told to return to Thailand ancient artefacts found in a high-profile 2008 US federal investigation into allegations the museum had received looted cultural treasures, authorities said on Friday.

Dozens of pieces of pottery and other items from the prehistoric settlement of Ban Chiang, a Unesco World Heritage Site, were tagged as evidence at the Mingei International Museum during a series of raids that targeted four California museums.

The Mingei artefacts had been left in the museum’s vaults for the last seven years.

“After a careful review of the matter, we are planning on lifting the ‘seizure in place’ order and directing the museum to repatriate the artefacts that we believe were illegally obtained,” said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

Full story here.

Public Lecture: Ban Chiang: a new perspective of Thai prehistory

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Another one for Bangkok readers, a lecture at the National Museum by Charles Higham.

ban chiang flier

Ban Chiang: a new perspective of Thai prehistory
By Charles Higham
Venue: National Museum Auditorium, Bangkok
Date: Thursday February 19th, 2015
Time: 10:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Donation: Member 100 Baht / Guests 200 Baht

Although the Fine Arts/University of Pennsylvania excavations at Ban Chiang took place 40 years ago, the results have never been published. In this lecture, Charles Higham, who excavated at Ban Chiang in 1974-5, presents a new chronology for this site, based on radiocarbon dates taken from the bones of the prehistoric people themselves. This new dating framework necessitates a radical reappraisal of the place of Ban Chiang in the prehistory of Thailand, which comes into sharp focus when compared with new and dramatic archaeological discoveries in the upper Mun Valley that have uncovered princely Bronze Age graves and later, an agricultural revolution that stimulated the rise of early states, including that of Angkor. In this interpretation, Ban Chiang is seen as a provincial backwater, while the Mun Valley was a centre of seminal and rapid cultural changes.


Public lecture: Preserving Heritage through Building Partnerships

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For readers in Bangkok, Dr Joyce White will be giving a talk at Thammasat University at the end of the month.

Thammasat talk

Preserving Heritage through Building Partnerships
Date: 30 January 2015
Venue: Multipurpose Hall 3, 5th Floor, Room 513. Thammasat University, Bangkok
Time: 1 – 4pm
Register via this link: