By Kanchalee “Kelly” Jitjang
To underscore the U.S.’s respect for Thailand’s cultural heritage, Embassy Bangkok is working with the Faculty of Archaeology at Silpakorn University to conserve ancient log coffins in deep caves at Phi Man Long Long Rak Cave in Mae Hong Son. This project is part of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs’ Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and marks the 20th Anniversary of this program.
Phi Man Long Long Rak Cave is the only systematic research site on log coffins found in Southeast Asia and is an important archaeological site documenting migration and cultural dynamics dating back 2,000 years. Discovered in 20 16, the 30 log coffins in the cave also include the first evidence of textiles, baskets, decorated strings, and weaving looms from the region. Through the AFCP-funded project, communities will work with archaeologists from Silpakorn University to conserve and restore log coffins and related artifacts, as well as design a walking path inside the cave. This project will also foster technical exchanges between local representatives in wood conservation and American experts.
To connect the past to the present, training sessions will be held to teach the next generation about the prehistoric techniques of weaving, lacquerware, basketry, and wood carving. It may also be a prototype for new design products with the potential to create economic benefits for local communities. Archaeologists and scientists from across the Indo-Pacific region plan to visit the site after the 22nd Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association Congress in Chiang Mai in November 2022, to strengthen a cultural heritage conservation network among conservators, academics, and researchers across the region.
Embassy Bangkok has supported 20 AFCP projects throughout Thailand since 2001, totaling more than $2.5 million.
“The U.S. and Thailand have had an unbreakable friendship for over 200 years,” said Chargé d’Affaires Michael Heath. “Our roots in Thailand run deep, as does our respect and appreciation for Thailand’s rich culture.”
Kanchalee “Kelly” Jitjang is the senior cultural affairs specialist at Embassy Bangkok.