Cave raiders: Thai archaeologists hunt historic art work

Cave raiders: Thai archaeologists hunt ancient artwork

An antelope, a lonely determine, a household linking arms—Kanniga Premjai shines her flashlight throughout a cave to disclose long-hidden work, a surprising discovery for Thailand’s scrappy staff of archaeologists.

Cave raiders: Thai archaeologists hunt ancient artwork
An antelope, a lonely determine, a household linking arms—Kanniga shines her flashlight throughout
a cave to disclose work believed up to now again to the pre-historic period, a surprising
discovery for Thailand’s scrappy staff of archaeologists [Credit: AFP]

For months, Kanniga and her small staff have combed Sam Roi Yot Nationwide Park, about 4 hours southwest of Bangkok, following a ranger wielding a machete as he slashes a path by means of thorny vegetation.

That they had searched about 40 caves—with no luck—earlier than they came across a cavern positioned a steep climb by means of rocky cliff terrain.

“I screamed once we discovered the work,” she tells AFP, declaring clusters of rust-coloured figures that appear like they’re holding fingers.

The darkish partitions initially shrouded the etchings, however cautious examination and using a cellular utility—which helps researchers improve rock artwork—uncovered the drawings.

“They’re pre-historic and so they’re about 2-3,000 years previous,” Kanniga says.

Thailand has unearthed historic temples and cities, such because the ruins within the historic former capital of Ayutthaya and northern Chiang Mai—which are a magnet for home and overseas vacationers.

However the seek for cave drawings is more difficult for Thailand’s understaffed Division of High-quality Arts, typically due to the arduous trekking required.

“Lots of their main work is simply preserving what’s already discovered… and that already takes up a variety of time,” says Noel Hidalgo Tan, an professional with Southeast Asia’s regional centre for archaeology and nice arts.

“There’s a variety of locations in Thailand which can be nonetheless unexplored.”

Misplaced for hundreds of years

Locals typically enterprise into the caves to gather guano—or bat feces used as fertiliser—however won’t discover the wall artwork, which is why Kanniga’s mission is “to go looking each cave and cliff within the park”.

Cave raiders: Thai archaeologists hunt ancient artwork
The invention of work in 2016 by authorities doing a cursory sweep of Sam Roi
Yot Nationwide Park’s perimeter prompted consultants to push for additional analysis
within the unmapped grounds [Credit: AFP]

“We do not know what we’ll bump into,” the 40-year-old archaeologist says, as she geese into the cave’s interior chambers.

Whereas they aren’t Thailand’s oldest—that title belongs to markings believed to be between 5-11,000 years previous discovered within the north—the “Clay Cave” helps Kanniga’s speculation that the Sam Roi Yot space was as soon as residence for pre-historic folks.

Cave exploration is Kanniga’s ardour, however this yr is the primary in her practically two-decade profession that she is ready to dedicate time and sources to it.

She is one among three archaeologists overseeing six provinces within the Ratchaburi High-quality Arts Division and beforehand frolicked assessing historic websites to find out age and provenance.

“Overseas archaeologists normally concentrate on one factor, however in Thailand we have to do a little bit of the whole lot,” she says.

The invention of work in 2016 by authorities doing a cursory sweep of Sam Roi Yot’s perimeter prompted Kanniga to push for additional analysis within the park’s unmapped grounds.

As we speak, the nationwide park is common with home vacationers visiting close by seashores and avid birdwatchers observing the wetlands.

‘Discovering treasure’

The proof means that hunter-gatherers lived within the space some 3,000 years in the past, says Tan, a senior specialist on cave and rock artwork within the area.

Cave raiders: Thai archaeologists hunt ancient artwork
An archaeologist assesses newly found cave work in Khao Sam
Roi Yot Nationwide Park in Thailand [Credit: AFP]

“They might be shifting camp-to-camp, so they might have a camp up within the mountains,” he says, including that the shoreline of the Gulf of Thailand would have been additional inland.

Regardless of the realm’s potential, sustained exploration by the dominion’s overstretched archaeologists is probably going troublesome as a result of “caves cannot be simply became tourism websites” like historic temples, Tan says.

“As a option to protect them and defend them, you want to generate income however it isn’t as monetisable.”

However Kanniga stays undeterred by the challenges, pushing on with two researchers to seek for hidden finds within the park’s unexplored caves.

“It is fairly thrilling, however it’s a bit scary particularly once we’re climbing,” Chananchaita Kitcho tells AFP.

The 23-year-old is grateful they’ve been profitable of their exploration, particularly for the reason that troublesome climbs can at instances really feel futile.

“First we get misplaced. Then we discover the cave,” she jokes.

Kanniga says she nonetheless will get goosebumps when she spies scrawls within the tell-tale ochre pigments.

She says: “If you discover the work, it is such as you’re discovering a treasure. The appeal of archaeology is you by no means get bored.”

Creator: Dene-Hern Chen | Supply: AFP [October 06, 2020]

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