Things have been busy as I’ve been preparing to head back to Cambodia in just over a week. Before I go, I thought I’d share a few interesting links:
– The NY Times has an interesting story about the growth of higher education and its tie to the tourist industry in Siem Reap. Siem Reap seems to be growing and growing and every time I return (even after only a few months) there are new parts of the city that weren’t there before. It’s a good to keep in mind that many people you encounter as a tourist are working extremely hard (for themselves or a family member) for an opportunity at an education. However, my friends who study this kind of thing express some doubts about the quality of education people are receiving. But that is a whole ‘nother topic.
-UNESCO has an short little video on Ban Chiang, one of the most famous and important prehistoric sites in all of Southeast Asia. Plus bonus footage of salt production!
-An article on the damaged sites at Ayutthaya from the Bangkok Post. Thai archaeological sites often leave portions of the burial pit open with objects and burials in situ. It’s believed this makes the site more interesting for tourists, but I’ve heard many archaeologists question it’s utility, as exposing these objects to the elements does not help their preservation. One of the first photos from this article (below- before on the left, after on the right) highlights this point.
-I mentioned the amazing Cardamom Jar Burials in an earlier post. Here are some really lovely photos of this site.
-A very cool Angkorian period inscribed silver plate has recently been returned. Makes me wonder how many other pieces like this one are in private collections around the world.
-Speaking of artifacts with dubious provenance, this article in the Guardian on Chinese “tomb-raiders” was disheartening to me. Looting on this scale is highly organized
Officials say tomb thefts have become increasingly professionalised. Gangs from the provinces worst hit – Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan, which all have a particularly rich archaeological heritage – have begun exporting their expertise to other regions. One researcher estimated that 100,000 people were involved in the trade nationally.
Wei Yongshun, a senior investigator, told China Daily in 2011 that crime bosses often hired experienced teams of tomb thieves and sold the plunder on to middlemen as quickly as they could.
I honestly don’t know much about looting operations in Cambodia, but anecdotal stories I’ve heard suggest that there is some kind of organization behind looting there too. It’s not all opportunistic looting by poor farmers.
-Lastly, back to the NY Times where they ask the question “What does UNESCO recognition mean exactly?” In Cambodia, it means a lot of potential tourist dollars. World Heritage recognition re-started the border skirmish between Cambodia and Thailand and Cambodia has numerous sites it would like to nominate and encourage tourists to visit. However, as this article notes, mass tourism to sites can be overwhelming and harmful to people who aren’t prepared for it. There is also an interesting discussion on the listing of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In Cambodia, this list currently includes the Royal Ballet and Shadow Theater, although you might remember some tension between Cambodia and Thailand (again) about the registration of a hand gesture.
The next posts should be from the field in Cambodia. As always, thanks for reading!