Category: News@Ban Chiang.

Thai Antiquities, Resting Uneasily

WHS#575 | Ban Chiang | Tourist Map | Travel Guide | Photo & Video | News Update

By JORI FINKEL
Published: February 17, 2008

Stoneware at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Stoneware at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

IT just might rank as one of the biggest accidental discoveries in archaeology. In the summer of 1966 a Harvard student named Steve Young was living in a village in the northeast reaches of Thailand, going door to door canvassing political opinion for his senior thesis, when he tripped over the root of a kapok tree. As he hit the ground he found himself face to face with some buried pots, their rims exposed by recent monsoons. Intrigued by the look and feel of the unglazed shards, he knew enough to bring them back to government officials in Bangkok.

What he had stumbled upon is now viewed as one of the most important prehistoric settlements in the world. Initially dated as early as 4000 B.C. — a date since revised amid much controversy to 2000 B.C. or even later — the so-called Ban Chiang culture is the earliest known Bronze Age site in Southeast Asia, documenting the early development of culture, agriculture and technology to the region.

Now Ban Chiang is in the news again as a result of a five-year undercover investigation by three federal agencies. Their examination centers on two Los Angeles antiquities dealers, Cari and Jonathan Markell, and a wholesaler, Bob Olson, who federal agents say donated Ban Chiang artifacts to museums at inflated values in a tax fraud scam. Last month four California museums — the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Bowers Museum of Art in Santa Ana, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego — were raided as part of the inquiry.

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Category: News@Ban Chiang