Monday, August 1, 2011

Passion and mystery

The main ledge at Phnom Pel has five large burial jars in situ, believed to be 500 years old
One of my favourite people in Phnom Penh is the Jar Lady. I call her that as she is so passionate and uber-enthusiastic about her chosen subject, namely burial jars in the Cardamom Mountains. She's been working on this unique project, to document and conserve the clay and earthenware burial jars and wooden coffins in the wilds of the Cardamoms, for a few years now and she has her biggest and trickiest part of her project coming up at the beginning of next year. There are 12 burial jar sites in the Cardamoms, that she knows about. There are likely more besides. The best known site is called Phnom Pel (or Peang Boran) and it's close to the ecotourism project at Chiphat. I've been there and so have many others because of its accessibility. Most of the other locations aren't so easy to get to including the next one on her hit-list at Phnom Khnorng Perng, also known as the 70-Jar site. The easiest way to get there is by helicopter, or a three-day hike. In January, the Jar Lady and her team are proposing to spend ten days at the site, documenting and on-site preserving of an incredible total of seventy jars. This is akin to the holy grail to the Jar Lady. Trying to fathom out why burial jars, and wooden coffins, containing human remains and a few artifacts, carbon-dated to around 1450-1620 AD, would be housed on high rock ledges in nooks and crannies of the Cardamoms is one of the puzzles the Jar Lady is trying to unravel. Trying to find the funding for her holy grail trip is another puzzle that she has to work out as well. I hope she manages it as someone with her passion deserves to succeed. And the identity of the Jar Lady... Dr Nancy Beavan.

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Anonymous Damien said...

I, too, am priviledged to know Dr. Beaven, as we are both archaeologists and bioarchaeologist with Southeast Asian focii (Vietnam for me, however). I wish her all success for this next phase of her project.

November 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM  

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