I was away on an official trip to Northeast Thailand where we brought a pack of archaeologists and heritage management professionals to rock art sites.
It took us over twelve hours to reach Pha Taem National Park in Ubon Ratchatani province. The park has the longest rock art site in the country. The huge paintings are on a huge side of a tall cliff overlooking a tributary of the Mekong River and across it is Lao PDR.
It's my firsime to see rock paintings, and their size at Pha Taem made the experience very awe-striking. There are various subjects like fish, humans, livestock, turtles, tools, and a variety of geometric shapes scattered all over the rock walls. These remnants of the work of pre-historic men are tantamount to having a glimpse into their imagination as well as interpretations of the world around them.
We then moved to Udon Thani province to Phu Prabat Historical Park. Along the way we stopped by Ban Chiang, a World Heritage Site known for its red pottery. Some artifacts found in burial sites have been dated to about 2100 BC.
I've always wanted to see Ban Chiang because one of the chief archaeologists of the site was my former boss. In fact there are many pictures of him all over the beautiful museum.
At Phu Prabat we saw rock art on the magnificent rock shelters dotting the landscape. The paintings are Phu Prabat are smaller, thus less striking. The rock shelters are definitely the main highlight of the site. These natural rock formations were supposedly carved millions of years ago by glacier movement. It has also evidence of pre-historic and historic human activities (but not settlements).
Aside from the rock paintings, the site also has sculptures in various styles and periods, namely, Dhvaravadi, Buddhist Khmer, and Lan Chang. Some of the rock shelters have been converted into Buddhist monastic sites and these still serve as places of worship to this day. Because of the historical, natural, and cultural importance of the area, it is in the process of being nominated as a World Heritage Site.
The trip was definitely a good chance for me to spend time with my colleagues who again proved to be such a very hard-working lot. I also did a bit of shopping for pots, baskets, and woven textiles.