UNESCO World Heritage at Ban Chiang
Ban Chiang: Skeletons & Pottery, Paradise Regained?
The village of Ban Chiang is approximately 20
minutes away from Gecko Villa, beyond Nong Han, and we will be happy to
drive you there should you wish to visit during your stay.
The village is centred around its museum and archaeological dig, and has several shops and craft stores selling the renowned Ban Chiang pottery with its distinctive variety of designs, varying from red and cream swirls to black patterns, as well as numerous other handicrafts. The village also has several small restaurants. The museum has informative signs in both Thai and English.
The designation of the site by UNESCO as a
World Heritage Site (for bearing "unique
testimony to a civilization that has disappeared") has helped encourage the villagers to maintain and promote their ages-old traditions and cultures, and to rekindle many of the techniques used by their ancestors.
Nirvana or Never Never Land
Ban Chiang as it stands today was originally thought to have been
constructed up to 4 to 5,000 years ago on top of a cemetery and old
remains (the exact dates are still subject to discussion, or perhaps
more accurately, bitter dispute!) It would appear that the location has
been occupied almost constantly, and as a result of this, excavations
here show an evolution from the pre-metal to the Bronze age and then to
the Iron age. Other artefacts include iron and bronze jewelry and tools,
as well as glass, shell, and stone objects. Even today, some of these
objects escape definition, such as the clay rollers with their detailed
carvings, that were found in what appear to be children's graves.
What was particularly fascinating at the time of the dig was that Ban Chiang seemed to change the long-held perceptions of southeast Asia as being an insignificant nowhere during the Bronze Age. Beyond this, the discovery at Ban Chiang seemed somehow to evoke visions of a paradisiacal past, of pastoral bliss amongst a farming people (rice grains were discovered) living in a closely-knit community, and at peace: the weapons typically found in European and other global Bronze Age communities were absent here...
Adding to this, the received understanding of the site's discovery tells of a young American (Stephen Young) back in 1966, stumbling over a relic emerging from the eroded soil in the village, leading to the eventual exhumation of a ghost-like village from the past.
Thus whilst the skeletons and pottery, the art and relics are undoubtedly genuine, there is little desire among many to accept a more recent dating of the antiques found here to "only" 2,000 years ago. The mirage of the world's most advanced Bronze Age people, living in peace, and farming rice then as today, emerging from the past as if by accident, is too captivating...