They study enigmatic funeral rituals in the mountains of Cambodia

They study enigmatic funeral rituals in the mountains of Cambodia

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand working in remote mountains in Cambodia shed new light on lost history of an unidentified people studying their enigmatic funeral rituals.

Otago researchers have provided the early radiocarbon dates for the unusual jug and coffin burial record displayed in the high ledges of the rugged mountains in southern Cambodia, the Cardamom Mountains. Since 2003, they have been working for locate and examine 10 burial sitesand date it using samples from the wooden caskets, tooth enamel, and bone.

Funeral urns

Together with colleagues from Cambodia, Austraia, USA and Scotland, Dr. Nancy Beavan and Sian Halcrow from the Department of Anatomy have published the dating of four sites in the publication Radiocarbon. This reveals that the mysterious funeral rituals, which are not like others documented in Cambodia, were practiced since at least 1395 AD until 1650 after Christ.

Beavan, currently in Cambodia, says that this period coincides with the decline and fall of the mighty kingdom of Angkor, which settled in the lowlands.

Burial practices in the kingdom of Angkor and its successors included cremation in a location remotely similar to those we have found and studied. This marked difference suggests that, culturally speaking, these unidentified mountain dwellers were 'a world apart' from their lowland contemporaries.”.

To date, most of the research known on the cultural history of the Khmer regions it has focused on the lowlands, he says. "Through our work we hope to broaden the understanding of this history beyond the legacies of the great Khmer kingdom only to those who lived on its fringes.", He says.

Sian Halcrow says archaeological finds from 10 other sites, which both she and Beavan have prepared for publication, will offer Important new clues as to who these mysterious people were, its culture, its commercial connections and biological adaptation to the environment.

Given the wild and remote locations of the placesThe fieldwork has not been without its problems, says Beavan.

In 2010 one of our camps was invaded by a wild elephant in the dead of night and had to be driven out by our camping team hitting pots. Turns out we had made camp between two tempting stands of wild banana. We packed up and left after that”.

University of Otago

Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


Video: Here, Living With Dead Bodies for WeeksOr YearsIs Tradition. National Geographic