The Angkorian World: Major Volume about Southeast Asia’s Largest Ancient State Features Scholarship by AC’s Tess Davis

Angkor–the most powerful ancient state in Southeast Asia–persisted for more than six centuries and remains central to its Cambodian descendants. Its wealth of archaeology, culture, and economic history serves as a vital resource for individuals studying Asia.

On April 28, a new publication about Angkor will be published by editors Mitch Hendrickson, Miriam T. Stark, and Damian Evans. The Angkorian World dives into the historical and environmental contexts of Angkor, the anthropogenic landscapes of Angkor, Angkorian ideologies and realities, and political and aesthetic Angkorian legacies that explain why this great empire is valued by Cambodians today.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, joined researcher Eileen Lustig to author a chapter about Angkorian law and land. Their insights will assist students, researchers, academics, and others seeking to understand how the Angkorian Empire arose and functioned in the premodern world.

Learn more about the publication and secure your copy here.

AC’s Tess Davis Calls for Increased Transparency from the Met in ProPublica

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (the Met) is a globally-recognized institution, yet it is facing rising questions on its practices for acquiring and displaying art and antiquities with suspicious provenance, or none at all.

An investigation from ProPublica revealed that part of the museum’s extensive collection features cultural artifacts currently taken from Native American tribes. Two of these artifacts include wooden masks that had been taken from tribal lands almost 150 years ago. 

These pieces of history made their way to the Met from the Dikers, a couple known for having one of the country’s most significant collections of Native American objects. The provenance of these antiquities does not begin until 2003, when the Dikers purchased them from a collector and transferred ownership to the Met in 2017.

This isn’t the first time the Met has received antiquities with questionable ownership, and ProPublica reports that only 15% of the Met’s collection from the Dikers has a complete history.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, emphasized that while the Met is claiming to increase transparency, much more should be done to set the gold standard for national and international institutions. 

Davis was quoted as saying:

“[The Met] could set an example about the importance of combating illegal trade and the need to protect cultural heritage. But it seems they are doing the opposite.”

The Antiquities Coalition continues to call for the Met to increase transparency and outlines specific recommendations for how the Museum can regain public trust. 

Read the full investigation from ProPublica here.

AC Interviews Zoe Caselli on Return of Cambodian Heritage

Cambodia is home to a wealth of rich cultural history, but unrest led its heritage to be plundered by bad actors for their own gain. Infamous antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford was able to take advantage of Cambodia’s vulnerability during the Khmer Rouge rule and loot an untold number of significant masterpieces. Those objects ended up scattered across the globe, in some of the world’s most prestigious museums and private collections. 

Many found their way to the American and British art markets. Thankfully, experts in these countries have worked tirelessly alongside Cambodian partners to ensure these antiquities return to their rightful home.

One such expert, Zoe Caselli, is an interdisciplinary consultant and researcher in cultural heritage and international affairs. Recently, Caselli attended a ceremony welcoming some of these pieces back to the Kingdom. The Antiquities Coalition interviewed her about the high-level event and international efforts to combat cultural racketeering.