The Archaeological Institute of America awarded a Site Preservation Grant to Heritage Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Southeast Asia’s cultural heritage, for a project in Cambodia. Heritage Watch will be working with Global Heritage Fund, which began a major development and conservation program at the archaeological site of Banteay Chhmar in 2008. The 12th century temple complex is overrun by jungle growth and plagued by looters. With new road improvements, the site is expected to become a major tourist attraction for those traveling from Thailand to Cambodia’s major archaeological attraction, Angkor Wat, located 165 kilometers to the southeast. Global Heritage Fund and Heritage Watch’s programs aim to ready the site for the increasing tourist numbers while helping members of the local community to support themselves through economic development initiatives that protect the site, rather than destroy it. Heritage Watch will use the award for community tourism development, guide training, and stewardship programs.
The Heritage Watch program is a response to economic development in the area. In an effort to reach the more inaccessible parts of the country, the Asian Development Bank is funding extensive road improvement in remote areas of northeast Cambodia, near the border with Thailand. While this will open up many economic opportunities for the region it endangers local archaeological sites that have seen little tourist activity. In many cases, the expansion of the tourism industry in developing nations does not address the needs of local residents, who see little profit from archaeological sites and thus do not feel compelled to maintain them. Locals sometimes turn to looting sites to support themselves and often there is little concern when site preservation programs instituted from afar fail. As a result, sites are destroyed forever, tourist numbers dwindle, and area residents still lack any means of long-term support.
Heritage Watch’s program at Banteay Chhmar is intended to ensure that the benefits of tourism development are filtered back into the local community and distributed appropriately amongst the resident stakeholders by implementing specialized training in English and guiding tours. Heritage Watch will have outreach programs open to the entire local community to increase awareness of the value of the site both as a part of their heritage and as a source of revenue in order to secure the long term protection of Banteay Chhmar.
About AIA Site Preservation Program and Grants
The AIA Site Preservation Program emphasizes outreach, education and the spread of best practices in site preservation. The Institute also supports preservation projects in Turkey, Easter Island, and Cyprus. In addition to grants, the program includes advocacy to stop the destruction of archaeological sites, informs U.S. Troop of cultural materials they may encounter while deployed, presents outreach activities for children, maintains online resources for the public and professionals, hosts workshops, and gives awards for best practices. All aspects of the program, including the awarding of grants, are made possible through donations to the AIA. To learn more, please visit archaeological.org/sitepreservation.
About Archaeological Institute of America (AIA)
Founded in 1879, The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) is North America’s oldest and largest archaeological organization. Today, the AIA has nearly 200,000 members belonging to 107 local societies in the United States, Canada and overseas. The organization promotes public interest in the cultures and civilizations of the past, supports archaeological research, fosters the sound professional practice of archaeology, and advocates for the preservation of the world’s archaeological heritage. The organization hosts archaeological fairs, lectures and other events throughout North America; publishes Archaeology magazine and the American Journal of Archaeology; awards fellowships and honors; and leads global archaeological travel excursions.