Surveying in Takeo Province

I have had many fewer opportunities to blog than I thought I would, so this post is long overdue.   We’ve been spending a lot of time in the field with no access to internet and we’ve only got a few days off before we had back- so this will be the only post for a couple weeks.

As I mentioned below we’re doing archaeological survey in Takeo province.  Dr. Miriam Stark and her project assistant have spent the last few years looking through aerial photos and remote sensing data of the landscape around certain areas of Takeo province and have identified features on the landscape that could possibly be archaeological sites.  These are primarily mounds (ទូល) and small ponds called trapeang in Khmer (ត្រពាំង).   Now our job is to visit all these sites and see if they are in fact archaeological sites.  It is not always the case that they are old, since there was quite a bit of landscape modification during the Pol Pot period and more recent times.  However, there are lots of mounds and ponds that appear to date from the Angkorian period and even earlier.

After the jump I’ll go over what we’re doing in more detail and show-off some photos!


Above: An ancient mound in a rice field in Takeo Province

Once we arrive at a site, we map them and take points with fancy GPS units and check the surface for pottery sherds that could be diagnostic for different time periods.   At the end of the survey we’ll be presenting this data to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and Dr. Stark will be sharing the methodology so they could do similar research in other parts of the country.   I’m working with Dr. Stark, three of her graduate students (including one Cambodia PhD student),  people from the Ministry of Culture, and several students from the Royal University of Fine Arts.

We start our days early: up at 6am and eating breakfast about 6:30.  Around 7 we try to head out the door on motobikes and drive to a nearby area with sites for us to check out.  Below is my colleague Chetra checking out our aerial photo map trying to determine where we’re heading next.


Below: Chetra, Piphal (the project manager and University of Hawaii PhD student, and some RUFA students consult our map to determine where we’re going).


It’s rainy season here and the roads we are traveling on are not always that great.  Here’s my colleague Shawn going through a road that’s been flooded.


Below: Dr. Miriam Stark and Piphal gave up on trying to ride and are walking through the same road.


Below: We’ve only had to ride in a boat once, to cross this small canal.


Once we get to a site we walk around the surface trying to get a feel for the size/shape of the mound or pond and looking for any artifacts on the surface.  Quite a few of the mounds are used for cultivation and so there are pottery sherds (អំបែង) on the surface in the plow zones.

walkingtoamoundAbove: walking to a mound to begin surveying it

Below: Dr. Stark and some Royal University of Fine Arts students are looking for pottery sherds on the surface of a mound.


Below is an example of a mound with LOTS of pottery.  All of those specs are pre-Angkorian pottery sherds that have been eroding out of the side of a mound.  We almost never find this much pottery in once place!  It is really helpful to find so many pieces of pottery though, because it can help us date the mounds and figure out when they were being used.


A few mounds have ancient brick on the surface- remanants of ancient structures or shrines that were once there.  At many places the local villagers have stories about the structures that used to stand there and were subsequently looted. Below is a picture of some brick on the surface of a mound.


Below is my colleague Chetra tracking the edge of a pond/moat with the GPS unit.


We’ve been surveying with the help of a local Ministry of Culture official who has been a huge help. He knows the area very well and many of the names of the ancient mounds.   Sometimes his dog comes out with us to help survey.


Lastly I’ll wrap up with a few photos of what some of these features look like.  Here’s a few trapeang or ponds.


pond 2

Here’s a few mounds:



Here’s a group of us in front of our “home” for the next few weeks, just getting ready to head into the field (thanks to Shawn for this photo):

IMGP2579I’ll post more when we’re back from the field in a couple weeks!

Related: Survey in Banteay Meanchey province

7 responses to “Surveying in Takeo Province

  1. Very cool to see what you are actually up to throughout a survey. Not having that kind of field experience I really have no idea how you go about doing a survey and dig.

    Also, a few of those “mound” pictures are like trying to find the monkey in the tree. Are you sure there is really a mound in there because I can’t see it!

  2. That is so interesting. Love the photos. What’s the place where you are staying?

  3. It is the district office for the area we’re in. In Khmer it is called the “Sala Srok” or សាលាស្រុក

  4. Russell Carter

    I guess mounds are relative in size, aren’t they. I find it so interesting that you find sherds so readily.

  5. Hi, Alison
    Is there any written records left regarding the attributtion of Fu-nan’s capital to the Angkor Borei area? like, we have the records from the Chinese envoy Zhou Ta-kuan concerning Angkor in the 13th. century ? I understand Fu-nan was a much older settlement than Angkor.
    Thank you, for any clues. I found your blog very interesting, and appreciate reading it.
    Cheers and good luck
    Malu (Maria Lucia), Brazil

  6. Pingback: Surveying in Takeo Province (part 2) « Alison in Cambodia

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