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Ban Chiang

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Little-visited Ban Chiang is a sleepy, rural town whose sole focus for visitors is the astounding archaeological excavations.

Set near to the junction of three small streams, it was not until the 1960s that excavation of the sites surrounding Ban Chiang began after a number of visitors reported finding large pots of immense beauty. The first serious dig in 1967 unearthed a complete skeleton including bronze and iron relics, pottery and an assortment of glass beads.

This early result encouraged further digging and by 1973, 30 square metres had been unearthed. By the early 1970s however, looting had become a very serious problem as private (often foreign) collectors did their best to pillage the natural history of the region. The amount of damage done by these looters was immeasurable and it became difficult for the archaeologists to work in areas which had not already been damaged.

Tragically, one of the original instigators of the early research and excavations, Chester Gorman, died in 1981 as summarising investigations were being undertaken. Although Chester was never to see the results of his and many other's work, you can.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 the site is probably more of interest to archaeologists than casual visitors though the small museum is well laid out. In addition to displaying ancient artefacts discovered at the nearby excavation site like tools and adornments, as well as the celebrated funeral urns that the region is famous for, there are informative explanations in English about the items.

On the upper floors are some fascinating displays of urns buried with adults, and larger examples in which children were buried.

You're most likely to visit Ban Chiang from Udon on a day trip -- it's about a two-hour round trip. We were quoted 1,000 baht for a return journey. Add in the 150 baht entrance fee to the museum for foreigners, and this isn't a cheap day out unless you happen to be passing anyway. The museum is open 08:00-16:00 Wednesdays to Sundays. Phone: (04) 232 5406/7.

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Text and/or map last updated on 19th October, 2014.

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