University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Looting Reported at Tam An Mah Cave

January 17, 2013

Tam An Mah Cave Buried jar site, Luang Prabang province, Laos
“In January 2010, Joyce White, MMAP co-director Bounheuang Bouasisengpaseuth, and other scholars from the United States, Italy, Ireland, Australia, England, Thailand, the Philippines, and Laos conducted a short but intensive excavation at a rock shelter site named Tham An Mah (Horse Saddle Cave). This site had been used in historic times as a temple. Paintings of seated Buddas remained on the walls. Human and animal bones were found scattered on the ground and in niches in the rock…” Read More of Elizabeth Hamilton’s Expedition Article…

Update: Tuesday, January 8, 2013. Images from the site of Tam An Mah, showing some of the amazing things MMAP found in 2010–and the current disturbed state of the site.

Site review by Helen Lewis, University College, Dublin (UCD), 2010 Tham An Mah excavation director. UCD School of Archaeology is a collaborator in the joint project of UPenn Museum & the National Museum of Lao PDR that is exploring the archaeology of the Middle Mekong.

Tham An Mah (Horse Saddle Cave)Above: (left) Dr. Joyce White of UPenn Museum with the first ceramic jar found by the project, its pit excavated. (center) The first jar we found was standing upright in the profile, in a pit. (right) When fully excavated, with the upper dirt taken out, we found three human skulls and other human remains, but no single entire body. Many jar burials in the area seem to represent a secondary deposition of previously buried, or sometimes cremated remains. Photos by MMAP and Amy Ellsworth

MMAP 2010
Above: In one area we found a pit that just kept going and going…This, the third intact ceramic jar found at the site was at the bottom of the hole. (Photo: Amy Ellsworth)

MMAP 2010
Above: The pot has been carefully excavated and is ready to come out of the pit. (Photo: MMAP)

MMAP 2010
Above: The pot taken from the deep pit… (Photo: MMAP)

MMAP 2010
…and its base (Photo: MMAP)

MMAP 2010
Above: Stone discs have been found on sites in the Plain of Jars, near to stone jars and associated with buried human remains. (Photo: MMAP)

MMAP 2010
Above: Underneath this disc we found an almost entire, although crushed, pot. Under that were human remains. (Photo: MMAP)

MMAP 2010
Above: This jar was found crushed underneath the stone disc and later reconstructed in the MMAP lab. (Photo: Korakot Boonlop)

MMAP 2010
Above: Human remains found under the third intact jar (Photo: Korakot Boonlop)

Tham An Mah: Sunday, January 6, 2013. Looting was reported to the National Museum not long after we had completed our test excavations, but it took us some time to be able to return to Tam An Mah and survey the extent of the damage. We are planning rescue sampling and recording of this and a second reported dug out known site in the vicinity.

MMAP 2010
Above: MMAP test excavation, Tham An Mah, January 2010 (Photo: MMAP)

MMAP 2013
Above: Tham An Mah, January 2013 (Photo: Beth Van Horn)

For more information, please visit the MMAP website.

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