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Interpreting Southeast Asia's Past

Monument, Image and Text

Elisabeth A. Bacus, Ian C. Glover and Peter D. Sharrock

Publication Year: 2008

Interpreting Southeast Asia's Past: Monument, Image and Text contains 31 papers read at the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists. The authors present new research on monumental arts, sculpture and painting, epigraphy and heritage management across mainland Southeast Asia adn as far south as Indonesia. New monumental arts research includes papers focused on the enduring enigma of the Bayon of Angkor, as well as material on the great brick temple sites of the state of Champa, neighbors of the ancient Khmers. The sacred art of Burma, Thailand and southern China incites new analysis of sculpture and painting including the first study of the few surviving Saiva images in Burma. The collection includes an account of a spectacular find of bronze Mahayana Buddhas, an analysis of the sculpted bronzes of the Dian culture, and an assessment of the purpose of making and erecting sacred sculptures in the ancient world. Ancient Khmer materials, including recently discovered Cambodian ceramic kiln sites, are the main focus of new research on craft goods and crafting techniques that treat the source, dating and adoption of amalgam gilding among Khmer craft specialists; the sandstone sources of major Khmer sculptures; and the rare remaining traces of paint, plaster and stucco on Khmer stone and brick buildings. More widely distributed goods also receive attention, including Southeast Asian glass beads. There are also contributions to Southeast Asian heritage and conservatioin, including research on Angkor as a living World Heritage site, and discussion of a UNESCO project on the stone jars of the Plain of Jars in Laos that combines recording, safeguarding, bomb clearance, and eco-tourism development.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vii

List of Tables

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pp. viii-9

List of Figures

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pp. ix-xxii

List of Color Figures

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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pp. xxiv-29

Interpreting Southeast Asia’s Past: Monument, Image and Text is the second volume of peer-reviewed papers based on presentations at the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists held at the British Museum in 2004 (see Bacus, Glover and Pigott 2006 for the first volume of selected papers). The 31 chapters, organized into six sections, present new ...

Monumental Arts of Southeast Asia

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pp. 1-31

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Chapter 1: Moats and Enclosure Walls of the Khmer Temples

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pp. 3-8

One of the first things that students of Khmer civilization learn is the symbolism of the moats of the temples, which, like the temple itself, are sometimes surrounded by its town in a microcosm in which the temple enclosure wall symbolizes the mountains surrounding the world, and the moat symbolizes the four oceans. One would expect from this that temples have only one moat, but there are some temples with two moats, such as Ta Prohm and Banteay Srei or Muang Tam, at the foot of Phnom ...

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Chapter 2: How Many Face Towers in the Bayon?

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pp. 9-24

The face towers of the Bayon temple are indisputably the great plastic innovation of Khmer art and architecture from the end of the Angkorian period. The towers of the Bayon, the state temple of King Jayavarman VII (1181–c. 1218), have been the focus of much research into the identification of the deity whose face they bear and their possible symbolic significance. This paper critically reviews the current count of 49 face towers on the Bayon and five more on the surrounding gateways of Angkor Thom. ...

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Chapter 3: The Date of the Baphuon and theLater Chronology of Angkor

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pp. 25-45

This paper will critically examine the current dating of the Baphuon temple at Angkor, and show how the date of the temple and the later chronology of Angkor as a whole has been reconstructed. I will then look at some of the archaeological and historical inconsistencies of this dating, using in particular the contemporary descriptions of the Baphuon recorded in Chinese historical accounts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and the structural evolution of the pillared gallery. Finally, I will suggest a ...

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Chapter 4: The Dancers and Musicians of Tra Kieu: Pedestal or Base?

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pp. 46-54

One of the most original and specific characteristics of Cham Art lies in the many sumptuous decorated pedestals that one encounters all along its development. Among the most celebrated pieces of the kind, the ‘dancers’ pedestal from Tra Kieu, preserved in Da Nang Cham Museum, has never been analyzed in the light of contemporary architectural decoration. This study will lead us to consider the organization, iconography, and decoration of some tenth- to eleventh-century sanctuaries in central ...

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Chapter 5: The Relationship between Architecture and Sculpture in Cham Sacred Art of the Seventh to the Ninth Centuries CE

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pp. 55-72

Early research on Cham art applied a methodology based on either architecture or sculpture. However, in the religious arts of Champa there is an integral relationship between the temple, its icon, and the central pedestal. This paper examines the relationship between the structure of Hindu temples and the square sandstone pedestals installed in their sanctum sanctorum during the first phase of Cham culture The author points out the evolution of the first phase of the Cham arts, as follows: ...

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Chapter 6: The Archaeology of Champa, North of Hue — Towards New Perspectives

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pp. 73-84

Two important new Cham discoveries in Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam have drawn attention to the archaeological remains of this part of ancient Champa. Analysis of these remains, including iconography, architecture, epigraphy, and settlements such as Trivikramapura, gives us a new light on this part of Champa. This analysis also provides us with a better idea about the role of Mahayanist Buddhism there. There have been no excavations in this area, despite the important archaeological ...

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Chapter 7: Recasting the Sacred Heroes: A New Discovery of Sculptural Epic Narration from Ancient Champa

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pp. 85-99

The relief sculpture programs adorning the Hindu and Buddhist temples of Southeast Asia were an integral element of these monuments’ schema. In addition to enhancing religious credos and defining spiritual cosmologies, they often served as multivalent metaphors to express principles of worldly authority and aesthetic ideals. In the Spring of 2001 the foundation bases of three previously excavated temples were discovered at the early tenth-century Cham site of Khuong My in Quang Nam Province of ...

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Chapter 8: Candi Singasari — A Recent Study

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pp. 100-121

As an important historical site in Java, Candi Singasari has been a focus of attention of early travelers, archaeologists, and art historians since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Much information regarding the monuments, however, has been lost through natural as well as human agencies. Remains of many structures which formed part of the complex have now disappeared, while their sculptural components became widely dispersed in Europe and Asia. Records of early travelers, photographs, and ...

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Chapter 9: Ancient Gardens and Hindu-Buddhist Architecture in Java

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pp. 122-132

The architectural remains are the most important evidence of the Hindu-Buddhist heritage of Java. They consist of sanctuaries, hermitages, and profane buildings. Inscriptions dating from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries in central and east Java mention the establishment of a garden near a temple, and flower offerings to the gods of the temple at established times. Flower gardens even replaced the economically more profitable orchards. From temple reliefs and written texts, like the Nāgarakr.tāgama, ...

Sculpture and Painting in Southeast Asia

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pp. 133-163

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Chapter 10: Śiva in Burma

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pp. 135-141

The little evidence of Śaivism in Burma suggests that it was restricted to peripheral sites, in Arakan in the northwest, to Thaton on the Gulf of Martaban, and to Indian trading communities in Central Burma. This chapter examines the sculptural evidence from sites in these areas, and concludes that in Arakan, Śaivism, while showing close connections with cults prevalent in Bengal from around the seventh century CE, was also in contact with centers to the west, such as Sambor Prei Kuk. In the ...

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Chapter 11: The Sermon on Mount Meru in the Murals of Pagan

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pp. 142-155

The visit which Śakyamūni paid to His mother in the world of the Gods has been represented in the murals of Pagan in a way not encountered in India: the Buddha is not only depicted as coming back from Mount Meru at Saṃkassa, but he is also depicted ascending towards Meru and actually sitting on the mountain. This topic occupies a complete wall in the Loka-hteik-pan or in the monument 1150, datable to the twelfth or thirteenth century. This scene was preserved in later temples, though in a ...

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Chapter 12: Buddhist Artifacts Recently Unearthed in Lopburi

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pp. 156-164

In July 1997, when one of the buildings of the Faculty of Science, Thepsatri Rajabhat University at Lopburi was under construction, 13 bronze Buddhist artifacts in excellent condition were discovered. This is an important event which has enabled the Lopburi National Museum to acquire outstanding These artifacts were contained in an unglazed stoneware jar (Figure 12.1) which was buried about 1.50 m below the ground surface. They include ten Buddha images (Figures 12.2–12.11), two miniature ...

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Chapter 13: The Yoginīs of the Bayon

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pp. 165-183

Judging by the number of images of Hevajra found around Angkor and on various sites on the Khorat Plateau in Thailand…it would seem that a cult of this important tantric divinity was practised from the 11th century onwards. Since no relevant literature is available, not even a stray reference on a carved inscription, nothing of certainty This paper argues that Vajrayāna, Buddhism’s third vehicle, played a more important role in Cambodia than has been acknowledged, and that it was key to the state cultus under King Jayavarman VII at the ...

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Chapter 14: The Rock Shelter of Peung Kumnu and Visnu Images on Phnom Kulen

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pp. 184-192

Sacred spaces in Cambodia frequently hold significance for all believers. The rock shelter of Peung Kumnu on Phnom Kulen was decorated in the eleventh century by a hermit with carvings and inscriptions celebrating Brahmanistic gods. The site is now sacred to Buddhist worshippers and exemplifies the absorption of Hindu structures into Theravādin temples. The many caves and rock shelters of Phnom Kulen, like the Vaisnavite carvings of the river precincts of Kbal Spean, have multiple interpretations, ...

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Chapter 15: A New Fashion in Male Headdress during East Javanese Majapahit Time — the Teke-cap in Narrative Reliefs of Candi Jago

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pp. 193-207

In this article the author discusses one of the features which newly emerged in East Javanese art, specially within Majapahit art (1300–1500 CE). It is a figure wearing a helmet-like cap. It had never appeared before in the temple reliefs of the Central Javanese period which were still strongly under Indian influence. This figure with the cap can be interpreted as an indigenous Javanese element which has to be seen in one line with the other newly emerging elements in architecture, arts, and literature ...

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Chapter 16: Heger I Bronze Drums and the Relationships between Dian and Dong Son Cultures

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pp. 208-224

Ancient bronze drums referred to as Heger type I, after his (Heger 1902) classification based on variations in overall shape into four types, I–IV, have been dated to between the third century BCE and the early centuries CE. They are widely distributed through mainland and island Southeast Asia and are linked, despite some regional variations, by the continuity of shape and decoration. This paper presents an analysis of the formal and decorative elements of particular local clusters of bronze drums ...

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Chapter 17: Horses in the Dian Culture of Yunnan

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pp. 225-238

The role of the horse in Dian culture and society in eastern Yunnan Province of China is examined incorporating data gained through archaeological and ethnographic studies. It is argued that complex movements of distinct communities in central and western Yunnan in the first millennium BCE brought a horse-riding people of mixed origins into the Lake Dian region who, ruling over earlier settled agriculturalists, created what is known in archaeology as the Dian Culture....

Epigraphic and Textual Studies

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pp. 239-269

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Chapter 18: Kalpanā in Ancient Cambodia

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pp. 241-247

The word kalpanā, of Sanskrit origin, is widely used in Old Khmer epigraphy (seventh to fourteenth century); later, during the sixteenth century, it was replaced by Khmer words. Its 1,000-year history thus attests to a strong association with the Khmer community. And yet the word has never been properly defined. I have now undertaken a thorough investigation, concentrating on the texts of Khmer speakers as the best mirror of the ancient society, and concluded that kalpanā, as well as meaning ...

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Chapter 19: Buddhist Sealings in Thailand and Southeast Asia:Iconography, Function, and Ritual Context

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pp. 248-262

Baked and unbaked clay artifacts produced from seals or molds, known as ‘sealings’ or ‘votive tablets’, are found throughout Southeast Asia, most frequently in proximity to stūpas, but also in caves. They are especially numerous in Thailand, where they were produced from about the seventh century up to the Ayutthaya and even Bangkok periods. They bear a rich variety of designs, from single Buddhas or bodhisattvas to complex scenes. Some designs are common to the ‘greater Buddhist world’, others ...

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Chapter 20: The Act of Naming Avalokiteśvarain Ancient Southeast Asia

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pp. 263-272

This article proposes that the act of naming the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara is a Mahāyāna strategy based on the close connection among texts, words or signs, and visual images. In contrast, there is an indifference to naming thein Theravāda Sri Lanka, and the early Buddhist cultures of the Mon, Pyu, and Khmer in mainland Southeast Asia. In these contexts the bodhisattvas appear to represent categories of meaning, to be symbols or types, rather than to be named....

Craft Production and Trade in Southeast Asia

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pp. 273-303

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Chapter 21: New Data on Khmer Kiln Sites

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pp. 275-285

During the Angkor period (ninth to thirteenth centuries), many monuments and bārāy, as well as city infrastructure, were constructed in the Angkor region. While a number of ceramic kiln sites have been found throughout Cambodia and northeast Thailand, the study of ancient ceramic kilns in Cambodia has not progressed as much as the study of Khmer kilns in northeast Thailand. Recently, seven groups of kilns were identified in the Angkor area of Siem Reap (between Phnom Kulen and Roluos), four ...

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Chapter 22: Water and Fire — Farming and Ceramics — On Phnom Kulen: Putting People into Angkor

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pp. 286-295

Discussions of the Angkor area, whether archaeological or ethnographical, often neglect Phnom Kulen, the mountain massif to the north and northeast of the site’s temple center. This paper proposes a rethinking of the significance of this mountain in Angkorian life and ritual. The waters of Phnom Kulen had meaning to the farming populace of the Angkor region (newly understood in broad scale) as they did to the rulers. Confirmation of stoneware ceramic production atop Phnom Kulen raises the question ...

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Chapter 23: Amalgam Gilding in Khmer Culture

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pp. 296-305

Amalgam gilding is a chemical gilding technique, sometimes referred to as fire gilding. It was first developed in ancient China around the fourth century BCE by Daoist alchemists to make gold from base metal. To date, there is no evidence that amalgam gilding was known or practiced by the Khmer until the late seventh or eighth century, which seems extremely late for a culture where gold was a major feature of elite life. When, why, and from whom did the Khmer learn amalgam gilding, ...

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Chapter 24: Recent Research on Dvāravatī Cultural Workshop Sitesin Petchaburi Province, Central Thailand

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pp. 306-322

Dvāravatī was a predominantly Buddhist kingdom, or number of related kingdoms, occupying the Central Plains, parts of the northeast, and the northern parts of the Peninsula of Thailand during the early to late first millennium CE. Remains of many brick stūpas and sculptures in a distinctive style have been discovered at the major settlements of the period, including stone dharmacakra (The Buddhist Wheel of the Law). Evidence of stone workshops has been found in Petchaburi Province, particularly ...

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Chapter 25: Chronology of Various Types of Ceramics Basedon Some Recent Excavations in the Malay World

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pp. 323-332

Ceramics excavated from various sites have revealed, or confirmed, several elements of periodization over the past few years, namely with some series appearing simultaneously. The sherds from several excavated sites covering different periods, such as Barus (Sumatra), Trowulan (East Java), and Patani (southern Thailand), have displayed dates that agree with those at other sites and with shipwrecks. The absence of certain types at these sites is also useful in confirming the chronology. ...

Technical Studies

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pp. 333-363

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Chapter 26: A Study of Mid-first Millennium CE Southeast Asian Specialized Glass Beadmaking Traditions

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pp. 335-356

Beads are important and often culturally diagnostic artifacts, although their full archaeological, chronological, and ethno-historical information potential may be difficult to unlock, at least in part because of spread through long-distance trade, possible longevity in use, and the visual similarity of many beads, particularly to the non-specialist. In contrast to the relatively extensive research on small Indo-Pacific beads, there has been little academic attention to other types of South and Southeast ...

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Chapter 27: Petrographic Characterization of Khmer Sculpture at the National Museum of Cambodia,Phnom Penh

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pp. 357-366

Stone samples from 26 major Khmer sculptures at the National Museum of Cambodia and several related ancient and modern stone samples from elsewhere in Cambodia were studied by petrography and scanning electron microscopy to understand the materials chosen for sculptural purposes in antiquity. Khmer stone sculpture is typically composed of dark gray sandstones (e.g. lithic arkose, feldspathic litharenite, and litharenite). The variety of sand-sized mineral and rock fragments in these sandstones ...

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Chapter 28: Paint, Plaster, and Stucco — Decorative Features of Khmer Temples in Cambodia

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pp. 367-374

The temples in the Angkor region nowadays present themselves as stone constructions decorated by excellent stone carvings and superior bas-reliefs. During Khmer times their outer appearance was very much different from our modern impression. Most probably the stone and brick surfaces of the temples were covered by paint layers with or without washes, plaster, and stucco. In the course of the German Apsara Conservation Project (GACP) remains of these features have been carefully surveyed ...


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pp. 375-405

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Chapter 29: The Need for Anthropological Approaches to Conservation and Management of Living Heritage Sites: A Case Study of Angkor, Cambodia

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pp. 377-390

This paper highlights the need for anthropological approaches in the conservation and management of heritage sites with resident populations, such as in Angkor, Cambodia. While the number of living heritage sites designated as national and/or World Heritage Sites is on the increase, a common problem is emerging, i.e. the contestation over cultural and economic resources and meaning, as well as the control of space among stakeholders. The local community is often excluded from decision-...

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Chapter 30: The ‘German Apsara Conservation Project’ at Angkor Wat — Stone Conservation of the Khmer Heritage of Cambodia — Practical Execution and New Results

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pp. 391-399

Hans Leisen, Esther von Plehwe-Leisen, Simon Warrack, and Nari LongAt the 6th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists in Berlin in 1998, investigations into the weathering of the sandstone used and the possibilities for the preservation of the precious stone reliefs at the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia were presented. Since then the conservation strategy has been implemented and there has been preservation work on ...

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Chapter 31: Legacy of a Secret War: Archaeological Research and Bomb Clearance in the Plain of Jars, Lao PDR

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pp. 400-408

The megalithic stone jars which make up the Plain of Jars archaeological site number in the thousands, and are widely distributed over the mountainous expanse of Xieng Khouang Province, northern Lao PDR. This chapter summarizes what is known about the stone jars, and describes the UNESCO project for recording them and helping the Lao authorities to safeguard them, to cooperate with bomb clearance programs to ensure the safety of both visitors and residents, and to encourage eco-tourism based on the ...

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About the Authors

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pp. 409-414

Elisabeth A. Bacus received her PhD in anthropology (archaeology) from the University of Michigan, and is currently an independent scholar with affiliation as a Research Professor at the University of Akron. Previously, she was the Lecturer in Southeast Asian Archaeology at University College London, and a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at U.C. Berkeley. Her research interests in Southeast Asian archaeology include complex societies, political economy, gender, ceramics, and ...


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pp. 415-429

E-ISBN-13: 9789971696955
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971694050

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 375 images
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: New