Robes and Shovels: Medieval Monks Cultivated Wetlands | Ancientfoods

From the Ancientfoods weblog, this little gem from European monasteries:

“They placed these abbeys in all sorts of marginal areas to cultivate,” said study researcher Philippe De Smedt, a soil scientist at Ghent University in Belgium. In the High Middle Ages between the 12th and 14th centuries, Europe’s population was growing, De Smedt told LiveScience. Monk labor provided a solution to the crowding by making the land livable.

Indeed. Monks as agricultural pioneers is a bit of a trope through the world.

Robes and Shovels: Medieval Monks Cultivated Wetlands | Ancientfoods.

Quote: Margaret Slocomb on the role of agriculture in the Cambodian economy

I was planning on writing up a short review and recommendation on Peg LeVine’s book Love and dread in Cambodia: weddings, births, and ritual harm under the Khmer Rouge today.  But then I finally got to a point in my writing where I picked up another book, Margaret Slocomb’s An economic history of Cambodia in the twentieth century, and at the end of it was this wonderful, refreshing quote:

As the following chapters will demonstrate, agriculture, which has always been the main occupation of the people and the mainstay of the state surplus, has consistently failed to fulfill its potential as the designated catalyst for the sort of economic development that Cambodia’s modernisers envisaged. It is equally true, however, that after each catastrophe that befell the nation, it was traditional agriculture that revived the national economy and salvaged the people’s livelihood. (p. 29)

Yes, yes, and again yes:  the role of agriculture as a foundation for economy, culture, politics, and ritual imagination, has never been genuinely appreciated in Cambodian studies (or indeed among Cambodian ideologues).

Sounding Buddhism for June 6 2011

  • Steven Collins’ new book on ordained and lay nuns in South and Southeast Asia
  • Steven Collins’ June seminar in Paris on “the status of the subject”
  • Daniel Veidlinger’s book on textuality, orality, and scriptural transmission in Thailand, featured on New Books in Buddhist Studies; interview!’
  • Trafalgar Meditation Flashmob
  • Derek K. Miller’s last blog post before he died
  • Skateboarding video in Burma is great
  • My current fascination (for 5 years now): Göbleki Tepe.
click through for the actual content Continue reading

Sounding on Religion, April 15, 2011

Welcome to Tax Day, if you’re in the United States. They say that only two things in this world are certain: death and taxes. I concentrate on death, of course, and at any rate, there are lots of people who get away without paying taxes at all. I am not among them, more’s the pity.

So, while some of us are working towards one of life’s supposed ubiquities (taxes), here are a few stories that have to do with religion.

  • Star Trek Hypothesis
  • Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President argues that Buddhism, Hinduism, and Marxism are demonstrations of Satanic Power.
  • “America’s Top Exorcist,” a rather lurid CNN video piece in which the Vatican’s chief American exorcist, and inspiration for new movie “The Rite,” is given the mini-biopic treatment. This would be uninteresting and just another case of lurid religion-movie tie-ins in the media (especially around horror-genre films), except that I’ve recently become interested in the immense rise in the number of officially credentialed exorcists in the Catholic Church in the last few years, and the scary rise in exorcisms generally.
  • Mayan Corn God/Jester God images discovered
  • Prehistoric Burial Sites in PNG
  • Robert Fisk on Secular Popular Revolts Not Backed By Secret Islamists
  • “A Taxonomy of Gods”
  • The Trot Dance Ritual in Khmer New Year celebrations (Khmer language video)
  • Mike Huckabee interview with Jon Stewart
  • 7 Best Unintentionally Sexual Church Signs
Actual links and comments after the jump

Sounding on Archaeology for June 21, 2010

There’s been some pretty crazy-great archeological news out there.  Some of the stuff I starred to point out specifically, recently, were these:

Sounding on Cambodia for February 19, 2010

Busy as a Beaver on Methamphetamines (Yama, Yaba) these days, but here are some of the Cambodian things I’m watching:

  • A US citizen who moved to Kompong Thom to open a “grassroots health clinic,” and was raped, beaten, wrapped in barbed wire and left for dead, has had her account confirmed by the Embassy, in the face of the K. Thom police, who claim the entire thing is made up by the woman, who they characterize as insane.  DAS has an excellent take on the entire thing:

The State Department’s confirmation should spark a new wave of questioning, which will certainly prompt more ridiculous answers from corrupted local officials who are trying to cover up the truth. As any police chief knows, the strong routinely prey upon the weak. Spousal abuse is epidemic. And rape is not only commonplace, it’s considered sport among a significant part of the male population. Sadly, Cara Garcia’s attack was anything but “impossible.” Utterly predictable is more like it.

Give the circumstances, you would think that people would protest in the streets. That women would demand justice. Demand accountability. Demand safety. If not for Cara Garcia, for themselves. For the Cambodian woman who will be raped and likely murdered today. And the Cambodian woman who will be raped and likely murdered tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Ad infinitum. Continue reading

Bayon drainage system discovered | National news | The Phnom Penh Post – Cambodia’s Newspaper of Record

I’m looking at the archaeologists out there to explain to me if, and how, these drains affect the debates over hydraulic control and irrigation during the Angkorean Empire(s). To this layperson, it seems like it could be pretty ding-danged important. You Know Who You Are. And also, via.

Archaeologist inspecting drainage system at the Bayon

TEAM of Cambodian and Japanese archaeologists says it has uncovered an ancient man-made drainage system at the site of the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom.

The temple, built in the late 12th and early 13th centuries during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, has been the subject of three digs since 1999, but this is the first time such a drainage system has been discovered, according to the archeologists.

via Bayon drainage system discovered | National news | The Phnom Penh Post – Cambodia’s Newspaper of Record.