Mid-December archaeology linkdump

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It’s mid-December already, and I haven’t posted any news so far on account of being in Hanoi for the first couple of weeks, and then falling majorly sick after returning. So rather than trying to catch up with three week’s worth of archaeology news from Southeast Asia, here’s all of them in one brilliant link dump, sorted by date (most recent ones first) and country.

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Treasures of Sumatra opens in Jakarta

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An exhibition showcasing the ancient history and heritage of Sumatra is on show at the National Museum in Jakarta, before going to the Netherlands and the Asian Civilisations Museum next year. It looks like something I’m definitely going to catch at the ACM!

photo credit: Marc Veraart

Nat’l Museum displays ancient Sumatran heritages
Jakarta Post, 8 June 2009
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Wednesday Rojak #18


In this edition of Rojak…

  • Johny Setiawan takes a walk through the Indonesian National Museum and reflects on the shared heritage of Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • At Anthropology.net, we hear more about the recent discovery of the genetic mutation that might explain homo floresiensis.
  • Monkeysmooth visits the heritage-endangered site of Ayutthaya.
  • The Thai Art and Archaeology blog writes about recent excavations at Thung Kula Ronghai.
  • Filip visits the Bayon temple at Angkor
  • While this French site has some pictures of the bas-reliefs in Angkor Wat.

In this series of weekly rojaks (published on Wednesdays) I’ll feature other sites in the blogosphere that are related to Southeast Asia and archaeology in general. Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me!

Museums expose treasures of the past

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This feature in the Jakarta Post talks about the different museums in Jakarta – the National Museum, the Jakarta History Museum, the Wayang Museum and the Arts and Ceramic Museum are some of the 50 museums in Indonesia’s capital.

Museums expose treasures of the past
Jakarta Post, 13 January 2008
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Indon Prez says: Visit Museums!

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21 June 2007 (Jakarta Post) – Have you visited your museum lately? If you’re in Indonesia, you’ll have no less than the president exhorting you to visit the museum! President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was encouraging Indonesians to visit their museums.

It’s interesting to see how museums are now seen as cultural repositories of the past, particularly in the context of post-colonial Southeast Asia. The concept of the museum evolved from the desire to showcase “acquisitions” from the worldly travels of the European elite. This concept is somewhat different in the Southeast Asian context: more often than not, they initially began as a showcase of acquisitions by the former colonial masters to exhibit the exotic in the colonized lands; and in more modern times museums in Southeast Asia have played an important part in “recapturing” the exotic, and using it to develop and define the national identity. For example, it is no accident that the article mentions exhibits from the Majapahit empire, as the Majapahit is considered the height of ancient Indonesian glory. The celebration of past glories is a common motif in museums elsewhere in Southeast Asia: Malaysia has the Malacca Sultanate, Thailand has Ayutthuya and Myanmar has Pagan. This gives museums a political role in defining what national identity is, a definition controlled by the ruling power.

Of course, as the postcolonial states of Southeast Asia begin moving into industrialization and globalization, the role of museums have once again become slightly altered: a source of economic revenue. Because the value of history and heritage are impossible to quantify, tourism, and in particular heritage tourism, have become the new space for museums to reside, and grow, in an increasingly capitalistic world. The article also notes the (insufficient) cost of running Indonesia’s 287 museums, where money is needed to not only run, but promote its museums and must thus become treated as economically viable ventures.

SBY urges Indonesians to museums

Expressing his concern over the public’s lack of interest in visiting museums, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono encouraged people Wednesday to visit museums to learn from the wisdom of the past.

“Let us relive the past glory and pride to build Indonesia to become a developed, advanced and prosperous state. From museums we can learn to appreciate differences and become more tolerant,” Yudhoyono told the opening ceremony of the Gedung Arca (Statue Building) at the National Museum.

The president said Indonesia had to be more creative in expanding economic alternatives such as eco-tourism and heritage economics to survive in the future.

He said museums, as repositories of the nation’s cultural heritage, could be a new economic resource in the future.

Read more about Indonesia’s museums.

Books about museums in Southeast Asia:
Museum Treasures of Southeast Asia by B. Campell
Museums Of Southeast Asia by I. Lenzi
Extraordinary Museums of Southeast Asia by K. Kelly

Two Indonesian archaeology resources


Here are two websites I found on the archaeology of Indonesia. They are also added to the resources page, which has a long list of links to other sites relevant to the archaeology of Southeast Asia.

Palembang Archaeology

Museum Nasional Indonesia – The Indonesian National Museum

The first site is written in Bahasa Indonesia, which may pose a problem to English-speaking users. The Museum Nasional Indonesia’s website is also a little confusing, but if you explore it deep enough there are guides to the collections in the museums.

Related Books on Indonesian Archaeology:
Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula by P. M. Munoz
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)
Ancient History (The Indonesian Heritage Series) by Indonesian Heritage