Friday, May 14, 2010

An all-too-typical example of Southeast Asian Looting

As a brief, interim post to keep this blog going, I would like to share the following two links, to give further publicity to a very important project:

1. The first describes the discovery and eventual cessation of looting activity during 2007 at the village of Prohear, Prey Veng Province, Cambodia. What has come to be understood as a very important Iron Age cemetery site-crucial to understanding how the complex and stratified social organization that characterized the Angkorian Empire arose-was almost immediately looted out before archaeologists (from the Memot Centre) could reach the site. Eventually, collaboration was established with the locals and the controlled excavation of what was left could begin. Unfortunately, many of the rarer and more intact pieces were sold off immediately...the complete Dong Son drum being one of the more striking examples (see above left for jewelry examples). This event is not widely known outside of Southeast Asian archaeology circles, so I've chosen to give it more publicity here, as it's important to provide more examples of the kinds of materials turning up on the market, often with no provenance more specific than "Cambodia" or "Thailand," and provide proof that fresh loot is still flowing out of the region.

2. This link, from the Deutsches Archaologisches Institut (German Institute of Archaeology), led by Dr. Reinecke and an international team of colleagues, documents this important work in more detail, in the context of recent archaeological discoveries across the boarder in Vietnam and elsewhere in Cambodia. 52 intact burials were uncovered in the last of the "emergency digs" conducted in amongst the looter's pits, and only because they were positioned directly under the village road, which no one wished to destroy! Results, however, were beyond all expectations for such a ravaged site-demonstrating the site to represent one of the most elaborate and wealthy burial grounds (i.e. communities) in the entire southwestern region of Southeast Asia. Three of the 52 burials even contained Dong Son drums, establishing connections far to the north. Just imagine if the entire estimated 20,000 square meters had been reached...if local poverty and international greed hadn't gotten to it first...

While the more detailed technical and restorative aspects of the excavation are ongoing, outreach to the local public and archaeological community is already occurring. As always, it is fervently hoped that future work at sites of this type throughout the region, especially in Southeast Asia, will begin in time to mitigate as much of the damage as possible.

I am currently conducting research into two current and former collectors who have direct ties to the overall antiquities trade emanating from East/Southeast Asia, and will blog about them in more detail soon. Stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment