Subsequent to the SPAFA Training/Workshop on the Introduction to Rock Art Studies in Southeast Asia organized on 2-13 May 2011, the course participants expressed great interest in obtaining more fieldwork practice, especially rock art site interpretation and conservation. Also, they would like to encourage the local communities to participate in archaeological fieldwork as it will be able to raise conservation awareness among the local people.
The Rock Art Training/Workshop in 2012 was designed to meet the needs mentioned above. Participants from SEAMEO member countries consisted of archaeologists and related fields. They engaged in archaeological excavation, a test pit, at a rock art site.
The participants applied their analytical skills to interpret the functions of the site used in the past as well as the present, including comprehensive knowledge on rock art paintings, artifacts found in the test pit, and the use of the surrounding areas by the local communities.
The local community, both adults and children, were invited to attend the archaeological fieldwork, and learn how to take part in an excavation, as well as assist the participants by guiding them around, and providing useful information.
There had only been two archaeological excavations conducted at rock art sites in Thailand, the first of which was conducted at Pratoo Pha Military Based Camp, Lampang Province, many years ago. The second excavation was an on-going project between Thailand and France that started in 2010 at Doi Pha Kan, Lampang Province. The aim of SEAMEO SPAFA’s Training on Rock Art Studies in Southeast Asia II was to increase comprehensive knowledge, and stimulate practitioners to engage in more research on rock art in Southeast Asia.
The programme was designed to focus on fieldwork, which involved rock art and site data collection, on-site conservation and community participation because of four (4) reasons below:
- In the past, in the study of rock art paintings, archaeologists concentrated on interpreting the paintings, and paid no attention to the surrounding areas, such as the landscape and the communities. Consequently, the linkage between the paintings and the environment was missing.
- Documenting rock art paintings used to be done mainly by rubbing, and they were unintentionally damaged by touch. To avoid rapid deterioration, digital photography became largely used. It is necessary for archaeologists to keep themselves appropriately informed and trained.
- In some countries, knowledge of rock art studies has been frozen for many decades. Numerous archaeologists of this generation neither have the necessary experience in rock art fieldwork nor comprehensive knowledge of rock art in Southeast Asia. This was an opportunity to acquire skills, and exchange recent research in the region.
- Local communities had not been invited to participate in conservation programme or contribute to site management policies made by governmental agencies managing rock art sites. The result is that they do not have awareness about conservation needs. In fact, the local communities can be very helpful as they are real stakeholders. They live in the area, and are in the best position to help the government monitor the ites. They deserve more attention and opportunities to participate in planning and management.
- Train archaeologists in the region on fieldwork related to rock art
- Enable participants to acquire new knowledge and understanding of technology relating to rock art studies and conservation
- Raise conservation awareness among the local communities
- Increase knowledge on rock art studies in Southeast Asia
- Demonstrate how the government can involve local communities in rock art conservation
- Southeast Asian archaeologists and other participants from related fields, such as botanists, geologists, anthropologists, etc.
- Local communities
- Orientation; theory, objectives, expected outcome
- On-site works; archaeological excavation, data collection (site, rock art painting, community), digital photography training, community participation, etc.
- Writing reports and conclusion relating to the excavation
An excavation report will be made; it will contain not only archaeological data of the site, but also ethnological, botanical, geological, and other information. This will increase archaeological knowledge of rock art in Thailand and Southeast Asia.
- The participants will have better understanding of rock art studies in Southeast Asia.
- The local communities will have participated in an archaeological excavation, which would raise their awareness on conserving national heritage.
- There will be more communication and better understanding between the local communities and the local governmental agencies, which potentially leads to co-operation in making development policies and management plans.
- Knowledge on rock art studies in Southeast Asia will be increased.