SPAFA Archaeology Advanced Field Training: Human Bone Handling and Conservation: Postponed to 2021

COVID-19: Advisory: As indicated previously, the global situation regarding Covid-19 has not improved. It is not possible to conduct this field training at the point in time, due to the health risks and also given the large amounts of travel restrictions in place. This training will therefore be postponed to June 2021 (tentative). If you applied for this course previously, we will consider your application then, as well as open a new round of applications next year. 

1. Southeast Asian nationals (citizens of the ASEAN countries, plus Timor Leste) only
2. Practising field archaeologists, without prior experience in handling bone material preferred
3. Graduate students with field experience may also be considered
4. All applicants are expected to have passports with the appropriate dates of validity (expiration no earlier than January 2021)
5. The course will be conducted in English

1. Places are limited. Applicants are assessed according to qualifications, professional experience, and geographic representation
2. Successful applicants will be notified in early May 2020.

Course fee:
US$250, payable on acceptance into the course. This highly-subsidized rate includes twin-sharing accommodation, transport to and within Thailand and most meals for the duration of the workshop (8-15 June)

Contact Person:
Dr. Noel Hidalgo Tan, Senior Specialist in Archaeology

        • Type/Category: Training / Archaeology 
        • Venue: SEAMEO SPAFA (Bangkok) / Nong Ratchawat Site (Suphan Buri)
        • Date: 8 – 15 June 2020 (Monday – Sunday, plus one half-day public seminar)
        • Potential Partners/Collaborators: Silpakorn University; Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture, Thailand; and Resource person from Indonesia
      1. Practicing field archaeologists from Southeast Asia. At least one funded spot per country. Preference for trainees who do not have experience with human remains, or who will be working with human remains in the near future [Priority]
      2. Graduate students with advanced field archaeology experience, who do not have experience with human remains, or who will be working with human remains in the near future

A seven-day intensive training for field archaeologists in human osteology and the excavation, extraction and stabilization of human remains, with a particular focus for Southeast Asian conditions where tropical climates are typical, and resources are under-served. The training is conducted by Southeast Asian experts and targeted towards field archaeologists in the region. The training will be conducted at SEAMEO SPAFA in Bangkok, and at the Nong Ratchawat Neolithic Cemetery site in Suphan Buri under the supervision and training of seasoned archaeologists from Silpakorn University and the Thai Fine Arts Department.

Bones, and in particular human remains, are one of the common finds in archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Bones can be found in archaeological sites of all dates and can be extremely significant in understanding the past; some notable sites with human remains include the Plain of Jars in Laos (where excavations are currently underway at several jar sites); the Purbakala Neolithic cemetery in Bali, Indonesia; the Portuguese Village Cemetery in Ayutthaya, Thailand and the discovery of Homo luzonensis in Penablanca, Philippines.

Bones are especially fragile in tropical environments, and are prone to disintegration if not properly extracted and consolidated following excavation. At the same time, during the recent SEAMEO SPAFA Archaeology Education Needs assessment conducted in 2018-2019, archaeological excavation and in-situ conservation of artifacts ranked highly as training needs identified by archaeology professionals in Southeast Asia (85.9% and 77% respectively), while the conservation of artefacts in-situ and human skeletal analysis were both skills deemed essential for the profession (77% and 62%, respectively).

Taking into account feedback from archaeologists in Southeast Asia, the Centre has identified an opportunity to re-establish its role as a training centre to meet the needs of professional archaeologists in the region, therefore directing SEAMEO SPAFA towards organizing an advanced fieldwork training programme focused on human bone conservation.

Following the Centre’s survey on Archaeological Education Needs in Southeast Asia, improving professional practice in Southeast Asian Archaeology by providing advanced field training in the extraction and conservation of human bones in-situ has been identified as a skills gap amongst Southeast Asian archaeologists. Indeed, a formal training on human bone handling and conservation has yet to be conducted in Southeast Asia, with recent or upcoming programmes taking place in either Europe or North America, which are not accessible and unsuited to the Southeast Asian context.

  1. To teach basic osteology and recent developments in Southeast Asian archaeology related to human remains
  2. Impart practical knowledge on how to identify and extract human remains in archaeological contexts
  3. Impart practical knowledge of how to stabilize human remains extracted from archaeological contexts for transport, research and long-term storage

The teaching team will comprise specialists in human osteological remains: Dr Praphid Phongmas (Silpakorn University), Dr Prasit Autrakulvit (Silpakorn University), Dr Korakot Boonlop (Silpakorn University), Dr Naruphol Wangthongchaicharoen (Silpakorn University), Prof. Dr Harry Widianto from the National Center of Archaeology of Indonesia and Ms Supamas Doungsakun from the Fine Arts Department.

      1. Training in human bone excavation and conservation
      2. Multimedia essay and/or fieldwork report for the SPAFA Journal
      1. Enhanced fieldwork skills in excavation, extraction and consolidation of human remains
      2. Enhanced knowledge of current methods and knowledge of archaeological practice in the region
      1. Increased professional competence amongst archaeologists in Southeast Asia
      2. Better interaction, networking and knowledge exchange in the archaeological profession in the region
      3. Enhanced reputation of SEAMEO SPAFA as a training centre for archaeology and fine arts
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