PEMSEA Field School Blog 2023: Day 2
UCLA Class of 2023, Anthropology Major, Community Engagement and Social Change Minor
On our first day in Siem Reap we were welcomed with a delicious seafood and pork rice porridge. We left breakfast around 8:00 a.m. and soon arrived at the site of Wat Chedai which translates into “pagoda stupa.” Pagoda refers to a spiritual place and stupa refers to the grave that one’s ashes are placed into. After arriving at the site at 8:30 a.m., students, elders, community members, educators, researchers, and archeologists made their way into the common space. A ceremony was held to honor the valuable and rich collaboration between everyone. Dr. Piphal Heng, the PEMSEA Field Director, led the ceremony by acknowledging the community members’ importance in this process— the site would not exist without them. The ceremony was held in order to ensure transparency about the excavation process and illustrate the importance of learning about Khmer culture. There were more than one million people living in Angkor Wat at one point and it is important to acknowledge that the people and their culture didn’t just disappear. Our collaborative team will use mapping and ceramic dating to help learn about Angkor’s rich history. Our team will make sure that unnecessary damage is not made to this spiritual site.
The ceremony ended soon after 10 a.m. The group visited some of the trenches further down the site that were already being excavated by Dr. Heng’s team. Lunch began at 12 p.m. where we ate tasty chicken vegetable stir fry and rice. After lunch, we visited another site known as Wat Athvea that was built around the same time as Angkor in the 12th century. We learned about anastylosis— the method of reconstruction that uses the old method of construction with original materials. After exploring Wat Athvea, we loaded up and went back to Siem Reap.
Being able to learn about Angkorian and Khmer history while collaborating with community members was something special and memorable. Our team hopes to debunk myths about Angkorian history that have been used to give meaning to this empire.