Accepted Papers:

From stones to stories and back to stories: anthropology and archaeology among the ruins of Sambor Prey Kuk, Cambodia  

Author:

Tuck Po Lye (Universiti Sains Malaysia)

Paper Short Abstract:

One point of productive tension between anthropology and archaeology begins by recognizing the limitations of the stories they both tell, and synthesizing these stories with those of the people of the landscape; i.e., the locals. However, cross-cultural considerations of power, authority, and knowledge are still relevant.

Paper long abstract:

This paper draws from fieldwork along the Stueng Saen (river) in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. While my purview extended to the socio-economic relations among riverside communities, my physical base was near Sambor Prey Kuk monument complex. It has been described as the third largest ancient monument site in Southeast Asia. Discovering that remains (including temple ruins and associated infrastructure) are truly integrated into village landscapes today, I started to follow new leads on local communities' stories and knowledge. The past is in the present—how does the present relate to the past?

An important fieldwork challenge in the anthropology of ancient sites is learning how to make sense of the landscape. In conventional ethnographic fieldwork, first-order learning is through attending to the ways that locals engage with the environment, behaviourally and cognitively. It is more complicated, as at Sambor Prey Kuk, when the landscape has been roadmapped by archaeologists but remains an anthropological frontier. Anthropologists are, in this instance, upstart newcomers tactlessly questioning everything. One point of productive tension between anthropology and archaeology begins by recognizing the limitations of their respective stories, and synthesizing these stories with those of the people of the landscape; i.e., the locals. However, cross-cultural considerations of power, authority, and knowledge are still relevant: whose story do we believe and accept? What leaps of imagination are necessary in order to deal with contesting epistemologies? What methods and standards of verification do we use, and value? What kind of story would emerge?

panel P32
Imagining past and present landscapes