[Talk] Mystery of the Prehistoric Log Coffin Culture in Highland Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son Province

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Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this talk at the Siam Society on Thursday by Prof. Rasmi Shoocongdej.

Mortuary practice is an important indicator of past ideology and its analysis can be developed by classifying burials into specific types, a method which can limit our understanding of mortuary variability, particularly the horizontal and vertical scales of social organization. Research in Highland Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son province, on the Thai-Myanmar border, has revealed the unique features of log coffins placed on posts inside caves atop limestone cliffs. The log coffin culture dates to 2,200-1,000 years ago and bears similarities with the hanging coffins of the extant local inhabitants, the Yue, who are associated with the Tai peoples of Yunnan, South China. This talk will present an overview of Log Coffin culture in Thailand in relation to China and Southeast Asia, through a cross-cultural approach. It will also examine the cemetery organization from the Ban Rai Rockshelter and Long Long Rak Cave sites of Highland Pang Mapha, through a temporal and spatial analysis of the archaeological evidence, to assess the stylistic approach and mortuary practice as units of analysis for the symbolic and cultural landscape, cemetery organization and social memory. The resulting analyses will help our understanding of mortuary and social organization of ancient Highland communities and the complex interactions between South China and Southeast Asia.

Source: Mystery of the Prehistoric Log Coffin Culture in Highland Pang Mapha, Mae Hong Son Province. A Talk by Rasmi Shoocongdej

Thai Log Coffin Culture in Archaeology Magazine

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If you get the chance, pick up this month’s issue of Archaeology Magazine which features an article on the Log Coffins of Mae Hong Son Province in Northern Thailand. One of the archaeologists involved in the project, Dr Rasmi Shoocongdej, kindly shares the article with us here. You can also read previous articles about the Highland Archaeology Project at Mae Hong Son here.

Letter from Thailand: Mystery of the Log Coffin Culture
Archaeology, Sep/Oct 2009
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Coffin site discovered near Cambodian village

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An ancient coffin site is discovered in Cambodia’s Koh Kong Province, estimated to be about 500 years old. Judging from the pictures the coffins look like they were hewn from whole logs – and such coffins are quite common throughout Southeast Asia.

500 year-old tombs discovered in Koh Kong
Koh Santepheap Daily, 27 February 2009 (in Khmer)
English translation by Khmerization
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Ancient tree trunk coffin received at museum


04 september 2007 (Vietnam Net Bridge) – An ancient tree-trunk coffin, found in the Quang Tri Province of Vietnam, is donated to the local museum. The coffin is said to be the material culture of either the Malayo-Polynesian people or the Mon-Khmers who operated in the area 700 years ago.

Vietnam Net Bridge, 4 Sep 2007

700-year-old tree coffin discovered in Quang Tri

The Quang Tri Museum has recently received an ancient coffin made from a tree trunk, according to the museum’s director, Mai Truong Manh.

The coffin was discovered on August 28 in Trung Chi village, Dong Luong ward, Dong Ha commune at 1.2 m underground when local residents were digging for the construction of an electricity post.

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Kinabatangan Valley, The Resting Place Of Timber Coffins

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4 April 2007 (Bernama) – 700-year-old timber coffins found in Sabah, a whole lot of them, from a period where little is known about Sabah and Borneo. The coffins are said to have some similarities with those found in China and Vietnam, which is plausible as Borneo rested in the middle of trade routes between China and Island Southeast Asia – some Chinese accounts also report of Chinese communities living on Borneo.

Kinabatangan Valley, The Resting Place Of Timber Coffins

Lembah Kinabatangan, located in Sabah’s central region, is not only renowned for its vast oil palm plantations. The valley is also the resting place of priceless treasures in the form of “timber coffins”.

It is believed that about 2,000 timber coffins, some as old as 1,000 years, dotted the Kinabatangan Valley, making the area one of the nation’s important archeological sites.

Many of the coffins, made from hard wood like belian and merbau, are found in several caves at the valley.

Among the caves is Agop Batu Tulug in Kampung Batu Putih, Kinabatangan, turned into an archeological site by the Sabah Museum Department on July 6, 1995.

The Sabah Museum authorities, with collaboration from the National Museum and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), are now carrying out restoration works in efforts to conserve the timber coffins found in the valley.

Related Books:
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz

Exhibition displays Central Highlands ancient artifacts

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27 August 2006 (Viet Nam Net Bridge)

Exhibition displays Central Highlands ancient artifacts

The Vietnam Museum of History in Ho Chi Minh City, in coordination with the Kon Tum General Museum, opened an exhibition titled “Lung Leng – The Mystery of the Prehistoric Central Highlands” on August 26…

A collection of working tools from the paleolithic and neolithic eras, pottery and jewelry, trunk tombs, and many valuable photos and scientific documents on the Lung Leng site are also being displayed at the showroom, which will be open until November.