Youngsters have been captivated by archaeology for many years and this brimming curiosity is now being used to cement ties with neighbouring countries.
Youngsters are busy sketching at the archaeological dig at Khao Phra Narai in Surat Thani. PHOTOS BY LAMPHAI INTATHEP
Around 60 children from across Thailand and 10 university students from the Universiti Sains Malaysia's Center for Global Archaeological Research recently attended the 1st Malay Peninsula Next Generation Activity, an archaeological youth camp.
Participants undertook field work at the ancient monument at Khao Phra Narai in Surat Thani and the Fine Arts Department's 14th Regional Office in Nakhon Si Thammarat between March 5 and March 7.
The project was aimed at familiarising students with archaeology and using the various activities to build stronger bonds between the participants.
It forged better relationships between Thailand and Malaysia through the promotion of culture, according to project leader Surat Lertlum from Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy.
"This camp inspired the kids to take an interest in archaeology and got the local people interested in their own heritage," said Col Surat, also a research scientist.
An instructor demonstrates the use of a compass.
"If they know the importance of their own heritage, they will start protecting that heritage automatically."
The project also provided an opportunity for archaeologists from both countries to work together.
Two similar youth camps were organised between Thailand and Cambodia in 2007 and again last year.
They were an offshoot of the Living Angkor Road Project which surveyed historical sites along the ancient route built during the reign of the Khmer emperor King Jayavarman VII. The programme was an attempt to strengthen ties between the two countries which had deteriorated due to disputes over Preah Vihear, an ancient Hindu temple that straddles the Thai-Cambodian border.
The 1st Malay Peninsula Next Generation Activity was organised as a result of the success of the Angkor project.
It studied the Malay Peninsula's cultural history by collaborating with Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, Silpakorn University, the Fine Arts Department and various other international experts.
Students sketch the piles of bricks at the archaeological monument at Khao Phra Narai.
The studies were sponsored by the Thailand Research Fund.
"Youngster were able to learn what archaeology is and what archaeologists do, such as surveying, registering artefacts, mapping and sketching sites and how to use some archaeological equipment," Col Surat said.
There was also a lecture on 3D modelling and web applications.
"Archaeology gives children a clearer picture of ancient history. I hope that will make them proud of their country," he said.
The youngsters were excited about studying archaeology for the first time.
Sarawut Ketyos, from Surat Thani, was engrossed in sketching the ruins at Khao Phra Narai. The 13-year-old from Khao Srivichai School said that before he had no idea how historically important the ruins were.
"Now I know it is the sanctuary of Phra Vishnu [a Hindu deity]. I will tell my mother all about it when I go home," he said.
Students are taught towashdirt off pieces of ancient finds.
The Indian-style shrine to Vishnu at Khao Phra Narai comprises eight brick shrines at the top of the hill and 10 ruins situated around the bottom.
"I enjoyed being taught how to use a compass by the archaeologists," said Sarawut.
A baby's footprints were found during an excavation at Khao Phra Narai last year.
Pongdhan Sampaongern, chief of the 14th Regional Office of the Fine Arts Department, said the footprints were found imprinted in a 1,300-year-old brick. Diggers were intrigued by the find as the footprints were pointing in opposite directions.
"This find is the most valuable so far. It is believed to be one of the earliest finds of human prints discovered in the country," he said. Mr Pongdhan was working as a co-researcher at the camp.
Sumsudin Late, a Mathayom 4 student from Pattani's Azizstan Foundation School, said during the three-day camp he learned about the common heritage shared by the people of the Malay Peninsula.
Students learn to cleanbones after they were dug up from the excavation site.
"The prolonged conflict in the southernmost provinces might be improved if [the separatist insurgents] know they share our ancestral roots," said the 17-year-old.
Archaeology reveals the amazing connections between different cultures, he said.
A hands-on study of history is far more educational than learning about the past through textbooks, he said.
Nur Fadhilah Othman, a second-year student at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said there were similarities between artefacts found in Thailand and Malaysia. This could imply that people in the southern region had the same history and culture.
"In my country, not many children are interested in archaeology because there are few [archaeology] jobs," he said.
Artifacts areexamined before they are sorted out.
Students takeacloser look at the ruins at Khao Phra Narai.
Brokenbits of artifacts are put under a microscope which could help determine their origin.
Astudent looks through a theodolite during his field trip.
About the author
- Writer: Lamphai Intathep