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Cambodian resources on archaeology [UPDATED]

[Update: Already getting suggestions on my Alison in Cambodia Facebook page– new additions are listed below]

A recent study found that Facebook was the main source of news for tech-savvy Cambodians.  I’ve also found there to be an increasing number of Facebook pages by Cambodians that frequently post about Cambodian archaeology – including new developments and news stories that are not always covered in the English-language sources.

As a partner to my informal list of archaeological projects in Cambodia (which will be updated soon), I thought I’d also start a list of some of these resources for those who are interested.  I will note that many are written in Khmer.  (If you don’t read Khmer, Google Translate is doing a better job lately).

The APSARA Authority’s Facebook page.  A great resource and very frequently updated about all manner of APSARA Authority activities.

National Authority for Sambor Prei Kuk Facebook page.  Sure to be filled with new developments as this site has recently received UNESCO World Heritage status.

Kerdomnel Khmer Group Facebook page. This page is run by Cambodian archaeologist Chen Chanratana and frequently posts about Cambodian archaeology. A few years ago, they published a couple issues of a  magazine on Cambodian archaeology.

Angkor Sharing Club Facebook Page.  I recently started following this page, which frequently posts and shares posts from other sources on Cambodian archaeology, culture and heritage.

Khmer Youth of the Mekong Delta Facebook Page. This page is not archaeology-focused, but does frequently post about archaeology and culture heritage, especially things related to southern Cambodia.

Saved Team of Cambodian Culture Heritage Facebook Page. This is run by my friend/colleague Tep Sokha and especially focuses on his work related to conservation of Cambodian (archaeological) ceramics.

ខ្យងKhcang Blog. This new blog is run by my friend/colleague Piphal Heng. He has just started, but publishing in Khmer and English. So far, he’s spent some time discussing the name “Sambor Prei Kuk.”

គំនូរក្បាច់បូរាណខ្មែរ និងគំនូរបូរាណខ្មែរ . This roughly translates as Ancient Khmer Ornaments and Drawings. Posts frequently on Khmer decorative arts.

Living with Heritage Project. Their Facebook page description says  “founded by An Raksmey in 2013. We work on cultural research for heritage promotion.”

Have I missed anything? Please let me know in the comments!

Lidar is Magic: Part 1

[UPDATE: Please check the comments for Damian Evans’ friendly critiques of my comments]

I first visited Angkor in 2005 as a tourist (following a couple months of survey in southern Cambodia).  If you’ve visited Angkor perhaps you, like me, stared out from your tuk-tuk as you breezed pass the thick trees in Angkor Thom and wondered “I wonder what is going on in there?” You might also have recognized that at its height, Angkor and its many temples would not be the vacant ceremonial center that it appears today, but a bustling city and so you might have also wondered “Where were all these people living?”

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Our 2015 excavation of a house mound within the Angkor Wat temple enclosure.

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How the sausage gets made

I’ve had several people contact me with an interest in doing archaeological research in Cambodia and questions about becoming an archaeologist.  Although I’ve discussed this a bit in this post, I realized that not a lot of people know what it’s like to be an archaeologist.  So, I thought I’d take some time to detail my experiences and explain what it is I actually do. Your regularly scheduled news and insights into Cambodian archaeology will return after this post.

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Working with Royal University of Fine Arts students in Cambodia

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Harihara and the early rulers of Cambodia

The return and reunification of the head of a Harihara statue has been in the news as of late. The head was taken to France from the southern Cambodian hilltop temple site of Phnom Da in the 19th century by the French scholar Etienne Aymonier. Phnom Da is just outside the walled city of Angkor Borei, home to the earliest dated Khmer inscription and a central place in what some (including me) might argue was an early state-level society in Southeast Asia.

These statues, although perhaps perceived as primarily art objects now, were intimately tied to the power and status of early rulers. Art Historian Paul Lavy has suggested that the Harihara statues specifically played an important role in the strategies of emerging rulers seeking to expand their power.

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The head of the Harihara from Phnom Da, recently returned and reunited with his body in Cambodia (via).

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Fully funded PhD Scholarship in Southeast Asian archaeology at University of Wollongong

Fully funded PhD opportunities are rare, and one in Southeast Asian archaeology is a unicorn.  I pass on an announcement for a PhD opportunity at the University of Wollongong with my colleague, Dr. Ben Marwick.

THE POSITION

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD position in archaeology, within the Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), University of Wollongong (UOW). The successful candidate will join a multi-disciplinary project that is seeking to generate new data related to the Late Pleistocene colonisation of Asia and Australasia by modern humans (Homo sapiens) and other archaic hominins present in the region at this time. This forms part of the ARC Australian Future Fellowship project led by Dr Ben Marwick, The archaeology of Thailand and Myanmar: A Strategic Region for Understanding Modern Human Colonization and Interactions Across our Region. This project is linked to Prof Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts’ ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship Out of Asia: unique insights into human evolution and interactions using frontier technologies in archaeological science. To address substantial questions concerning early modern human colonisation and adaptation in mainland Southeast Asia, we are developing a number of innovative archaeological- science techniques, and are assembling a research group with strengths in artefact analysis, geochronology, geoarchaeology, and archaeological chemistry.

The PhD candidate will study stone artefact assemblages to engage with major global and regional archaeological questions relating to the timing and nature of human activity during the Late Pleistocene in Southeast Asia and the wider region. The position will involve overseas fieldwork in Myanmar and an intensive, laboratory-based analytical research program. The candidate will be expected to help develop and apply novel techniques for analysing stone artefacts, and conduct an experimental program.

The candidate will receive a tax-free stipend of AUD 25,849 per year (indexed annually), for three and a half years. Research funding opportunities are available, with candidates encouraged to apply for the various university-wide schemes available at UOW and CAS. For more details, see http://www.uow.edu.au/research/rsc/prospective/index.html

The real problem with taking naked photos at Angkor

Apparently there has been yet another incident of tourists taking nude photos at Angkor. The first was a photo of an “Asian female” that was posted on Facebook. The second involved a group of Frenchman who were deported. The third got two American sisters kicked out of Cambodia. And most recently a German tourist’s nudes were discovered on Facebook, after the fact.*

One might be amazed that there are still quiet corners of the Angkor park, which are not crawling with hordes of tourists, where one can disrobe undisturbed. At certain sites, if you play your cards right, you can often find yourself alone with only your thoughts.**

The Cambodian government and the APSARA Authority are understandably upset, noting that this is disrespectful to Cambodian culture, and their sense of morality and virtue.

I think the other problem with these photos is the underlying assumption by these tourists that Angkor is some kind of amusement park and not a living heritage site that is important to many Cambodians. These tourists are only using the temples as a backdrop to their “cool” photos. They show a willful ignorance of the cultural context of the temples, of Cambodia’s ancient and modern history, and the sacredness of these sites to the Cambodian population today.

The Angkor Archaeological Park is a place of great pride for Cambodian people. Relatively recently, insults to the memory of Angkor have caused death and destruction of property. Many Cambodians who live in Cambodia, including many students studying archaeology in Phnom Penh, have never been to see Angkor, but are proud of this part of their heritage and consider it to be an important part of their national identity. Taking nude photos is like taking a photo of someone flipping the bird at Arlington National Cemetery, or taking nude photos at the 9/11 Memorial, or Notre Dame Cathedral.

To take nude photos at Angkor means that you do not understand or care to learn about the history and culture of Cambodia, or choose to ignore this for your own amusement. It is disrespectful, but I do not think that any of the tourists meant any disrespect. I think they thought they were being cute, or artsy, or funny and they took those photos because their foreign identities and financial means gave them a certain amount of (perceived) impunity.

It is a special kind of privilege to be able to visit Cambodia and not give a crap about the place you’re visiting.

Please don’t be that person.

*Before that were these classy folks riding naked on a motorbike.

**The website of the German tourist shows one nude photo taken at the Bayon (although all the photos are mislabeled as being at Angkor Wat, because see above re: not caring). I have no idea how that photo was taken without being seen by anyone.

Fieldwork opportunities in Southeast Asia

I am frequently contacted by people interested in doing fieldwork in Cambodia. For reasons I detail here, this is often difficult.  However, there are several schools running fieldwork projects this summer in other parts of Southeast Asia. These are a good introduction to the archaeology of the region.

Ifugao Archaeological Project in the Philippines (Application Deadline: March 16th)

Summer archaeological Field School at Promtin Tai, Thailand (Application Deadline: February 15th).

Summer archaeological Field School in Krabi, Thailand (Application Deadline: February 15th)

Related:

Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities 

AIA fieldwork scholarships  (Application Deadline: March 1st)