Summer schools and teaching digs: when Ministry missions train future foreign archaeologists

Digs are particularly interesting for teaching local students, enabling them to overcome shortfalls of training in certain countries or learn specific methodologies that are little developed there. In Azerbaijan and Thailand, for example, the initiatives of heads of missions have led to original programmes.

The Boyuk Kesik mission in Azerbaijan has been contributing to the training of students from Baku State University since 2010, at the instigation of its leader, Bertille Lyonnet and in response to considerable demand from Azerbaijani partners. This University does not offer PhD training in archaeology. The members of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology have also received this training. As part of excavation campaigns, a dozen students have carried out apprenticeships in anthropology, palaeobotanics, and the study of lithic and bone material. They also received general training, in stratigraphy for example. These first experiences led to the project of a summer school.

Further East, the Franco-Thai Palaeolithic Mission, which was launched in 2002 and is dedicated to the prehistoric habitats and environments of northern Thailand, is based, at the initiative of its leader, Valéry Zeitoun, on the exploitation of the sites excavated in the form of teaching digs since 2005.

Over the last decade, the three phases of excavation carried out on the various sites have contributed to training students in archaeology and anthropology from Silpakorn University (Bangkok) and the Rajahphad university lecturers’ training school. The members of the Fine Arts Department have received additional training from the French team’s specialists, as part of a project supported by the non-profit organization SPAFA (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation Project in Archaeology and Fine Arts). All aspects of archaeological research were presented, including technical dimensions (sifting, opening graves, cleaning archaeological equipment, etc.) and theoretical and interpretative tasks (cartography, databases, etc.).

By regularly involving local people, including high school students, and raising their awareness to the issues of preserving sites, these teaching digs stand out as very important aspects of cooperation between France and Thailand, and contribute to the dissemination of French expertise.

Image Diaporama - Teaching anthropology: a student from Baku (...)

Teaching anthropology: a student from Baku State University and Modwene, a PhD candidate from the University of Lyon 2. Photo: Boyuk Kesik Mission, Bertille Lyonnet.

Image Diaporama - Study of archaeobotanical macroremains under (...)

Study of archaeobotanical macroremains under the microscope: an Azerbaijani student now studying in France. Photo: Boyuk Kesik Mission, Bertille Lyonnet.

Image Diaporama - Ban Fa Suai site: explanation of dental (...)

Ban Fa Suai site: explanation of dental remains. Photo: Franco-Thai Palaeolithic Mission, Valéry Zeitoun.

Image Diaporama - Ban Fa Suai site: explanation of stratigraphy (...)

Ban Fa Suai site: explanation of stratigraphy by Valéry Zeitoun. Photo: Franco-Thai Palaeolithic Mission, Valéry Zeitoun.

Image Diaporama - Teaching dig at the Doi Pha Kan site. Photo: (...)

Teaching dig at the Doi Pha Kan site. Photo: Franco-Thai Palaeolithic Mission, Valéry Zeitoun.

Image Diaporama - Measurement at the Doi Pha Kan site. Photo: (...)

Measurement at the Doi Pha Kan site. Photo: Franco-Thai Palaeolithic Mission, Valéry Zeitoun.

Image Diaporama - Visit of the SPAFA at the Doi Pha Kan site. (...)

Visit of the SPAFA at the Doi Pha Kan site. Photo: Franco-Thai Palaeolithic Mission, Valéry Zeitoun.

Updated : December 2016

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