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Living In the Shadow of Angkor

Living In the Shadow of Angkor - How well archaeological practice actually records history

Since 2003, Dr Nancy Beavan has studied the Jar and Coffin Burial phenomena of the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia. She was awarded a prestigious Marsden grant in 2013 to continue this work. The Cardamom Mountain Jar and Coffin mortuary ritual includes ceramic jars and log coffins (from locally harvested trees) as burial containers, which were set out on rock ledges at 10 currently known sites in the eastern Cardamom Massif. They date from AD 1395 to 1650. The time period reflects the 15th century decline of Angkor as the capital of the Khmer kingdom and the shift of power to new Mekong trade ports. However, the Jar and Coffin ritual practice has no relationship with any known mortuary practices during pre-Angkorian times or with the typical Hindu/Buddhist cremation rites in the 9th to 15th centuries of the Angkorian era.

These sites had been known at least since the 1970’s. But why was this unusual phenomena never investigated and how did it affect the complete telling of the history of the period? Do potential archaeological investigations tend to focus on and fund ‘majestic’ stories rather than the histories of the common people? And is the idea that wider public is more likely to want to hear about the ‘majestic’ stories actually true? Come to discuss these ideas and more as Dr Nancy Beavan of the University of Otago shares handouts about these wondrous burial sites, and discusses the efforts to fund their investigation, and the public interest in a phenomena absolutely *not* about Angkor, yet which has indeed captured public imagination.

Dr Nancy Beavan is a Senior Research Fellow in the Anatomy Department of the Otago Medical School, University of Otago. She is a radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis specialist with over 25 years of experience in archaeological projects in New Zealand, the UK, Europe and S.E. Asia.

Thursday 29th May 2014
6.00pm – 7.30pm
Wholly Bagels
34 Knights Road
Lower Hutt


Supported by: GNS Science, Royal Society of New Zealand Wellington Branch,
Wholly Bagels (Lower Hutt) and Hutt City Council