International interest is growing in a mysterious ancient
people, which University of Otago researcher Dr Nancy Beavan
has been doggedly investigating for the past 10 years, with
little previous funding.
That lack of funding and the semi-obscurity in which Dr
Beavan has previously been working, while living mostly in
Cambodia, has changed dramatically this year.
Research by her and international colleagues, including Dr
Sian Halcrow, a lecturer in the Otago anatomy department,
featured in a leading article in the international journal
Radiocarbon this year.
She and a international team of researchers have been
shedding light on the lost history of this unidentified
mountain people by studying their burial rituals.
Some leading international magazines have also featured the
Dr Beavan, a senior research fellow in the Otago anatomy
department, has just gained a $720,000 grant from the
prestigious Marsden Fund to continue the work over the next
Dr Beavan discussed her research at the Otago Museum on
Thursday night, as part of a series of talks and activities
titled "Beyond the Grave", which are this month delving into
"the fascinating topic of death", organisers say.
She was happy to gain the funding after putting in years of
hard work in the rugged and remote Caradom Mountains in
southern Cambodia, she said in an interview.
"I've done the hard yards.
"It's a classic example - sometimes persistence pays off."
Earlier this year, the scientists provided the first
radiocarbon dates for unusual jar and log coffin interments
found on exposed ledges high in these mountains.
This work shows that mysterious funerary rituals, which were
unlike any other recorded in Cambodia, were practised from at
least AD1395 to AD1650.
She confined her recent grant award celebrations to one day.
"Now, I have to really get to work."