Toiling in the Bronze Age
Trip Start Jan 03, 2004
26Trip End Dec 2004
On January 16, we flew from Krabi to Bangkok and then barely caught a northeast-bound train for Nakhon Ratchasima. (By barely, I mean the train was moving when we hopped aboard!)The five-hour train ride took us through farms, by distant mountains and into small villages to a region called Issan. We were also entertained by the traffic inside the train of vendors selling everything from cold drinks to leather belts. One young man selling chicken skewers wore a blue T-shirt that exclaimed, "My Belly Button has an Attitude!"
The next day we took the local bus to a smaller town called Phimai
The dig site at Bon Non Wat, which means Village Temple Mound, was a 45-minute drive by songthaew (the Thai word for a passenger truck). Our office for the next week was a 4-meter by 20-meter dirt hole dug almost 4 meters deep in Mr. Nuuy's backyard. Mr. Nuuy was planning on building a house for his son here but thankfully changed his mind and allowed Dr. Higham and his crew the opportunity to search for a prehistoric burial site they believed was there based on aerial photographs.
We learned quite a bit about archaeology during the week
One of the nice luxuries of the week was not having to worry about finding or ordering food. We ate hearty Thai meals of curry with bamboo shoots, wild boar soup, fried chicken wings, stir-fried vegetables, green papaya salad, and lots of rice.
Jill did get the heeby-jeebies working so close to human remains, but the 3,000-year-old skeletons stayed in their place, and Jill stayed in hers. Her fears of accidentally ramming a hand trowel through an eye socket thankfully never happened. She did get to put her many years of puzzle experience to use by gluing together a pot from a pile of shards. Perhaps the least enjoyable job of the week was wiping down a clay oven Dr. Higham hypothesizes was used to fire bronze. She told Andy that she thought their oven in DC was the last one she'd have to clean for a year!
All in all, we enjoyed the week and the reprieve from the backpacker trail. We did hit it again after the expedition ended stopping at Khao Yai National Forest and Ayutthaya on their way back to Bangkok.
Our recommendations: An Earthwatch Expedition www.earthwatch.org gives you a chance to try something completely different and helps to support earth-friendly research projects. If you have the time, visit Khao Yai National Forest and stay at Green Leaf Guest House outside of Pak Chong. The accommodations are very basic (don't expect to flush any toilets), but the tour guides are knowledgeable and friendly. If you visit Ayutthaya, stay at Bat Kun Phra. The rooms are furnished with Thai antiques and the common areas overlook the river.