University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

My time at YOC (Year of Ceramics)

By: Sureeratana Bubpha

April 4, 2011

Pot Coding at the Ban Chiang Lab, Penn Museum, 2010-11.

YOC or “yuk” as my friends in Thailand pronounce it.

Since I came to Penn last September, I have been keeping up-to-date with my friends and colleagues back in Thailand on Facebook. They often ask the question, “What is the progress of my work here at The Ban Chiang Project?” Last semester, when I was taking the first part of the Introduction to Archaeological Ceramics class, I would reply that I had a lot of technical papers about ceramics to read. So many papers! Three to four per week was the norm and it was hard to finish one week’s papers before the next week would start again with more papers to read and understand! I needed more time than the other Americans in the class because my first language is Thai.

My friend Korokot from Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (SAC), in Thailand thought it was cool when I showed him our reading list from the class syllabus; he was always interested in what I was doing/reading this year because he had worked with me on many of the MMAP (Middle Mekong Archaeological Project) seasons in Laos. He thought it was great that I was reading papers from so many different parts of the world about ceramics and that it was very useful information for me to learn.

Munsell Color Chart.
Another friend, Ms. Watcharawadee who is the director of the Fine Arts Department at the Songkhla Museum in Thailand, was curious about our system for organizing our data. I chat with her about using the program File Maker Pro (FMP) to archive/organize ethnographic images (slides) for The Ban Chiang Project. But most of my time is spent using the program “Access” which I use to code Ban Chiang pots. I think I have the Munsell color chart and the color’s corresponding numbers memorized by now. Certainly after coding 200+ pots I should know it pretty well! We have almost 300 pots to go, I hope we can get them all coded by the time I leave in mid-May, but I don’t know. Marie-Claude jokes that she will lock me in the Ban Chiang offices until I have finished coding all the pots here at the Penn Museum!

Some cool things I have observed while coding pots: How was the pot was actually made? Or, what was the “forming technique” used when the pot was made thousands of years ago? Was the pot made with a coil or mold? What was the pot used for? Maybe it was used for holding water, cooking, or food storage. These questions are being answered and recorded in a database for the first time and I get to be a part of it!

Sureeratana Bubpha is a former lecturer in the Cultural Management Programme in the College of Innovation at the University and will return as a visiting lecturer after the Year of Ceramics. Her BA in Archaeology-Anthropology and MA in Prehistory are from Silpakorn University. Sureeratana’s research interest is prehistoric archaeology, especially ceramic ecology. She first joined MMAP in 2008, and has continued with the team in 2009. She is interested in learning more about the “big picture” of Middle Mekong archeology, to better understand the relationship between Lao prehistory and the prehistory of northeast Thailand.

Click here for the Thai translation of this blog.

Click here to read Joom’s other blogs.

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