Thursday, April 28, 2011

Isaan Odyssey, Part 20: Phu Prabat 2

The overall sparse look to Phu Prabat Historical Park is deceptive. The huge rock structures you saw in yesterday's post were made by nature, but there was an enormous amount of man hours put into crafting many of them into cave dwellings worthy of The Flintstones cartoons from the 1960s. as a bizarre side track thought, back about the time of the TV show there was a home built South of San Francisco that caused quite an uproar with the "hi-so" neighbors. Some of us thought it was a hoot, though:

Sorry about that. Sometimes my mind just wanders off to some of the strangest places. Back to today's topic...

The residents of the Phu Prabat location carved usable areas from the rock walls and overhangs (note the carving markings in the photo below) to create space that was undoubtedly reserved for the higher-ranking members of the group, but this is just my guess. I'd suppose we rank and file folks had less durable shelter, if for no other reason than the vast amount of effort it must have taken to create the more desirable spots that were probably used for worship and royalty.

Note the countless scratches made while creating the flat wall - each one about 1cm wide

Estimates indicate the paintings inside the cave-like areas were done somewhere around 3000BC, and yet have stood the test of time - and visitors - since. Again, these were in the open and I'll admit there was a temptation to touch the wall where another human must have leaned that long ago... but I didn't, of course. Although the description "awesome" has been overused for years it truly was awe inspiring to stand before these true relics of prehistoric times. Below are a few of these paintings.

I'm still impressed that a sign has been all that's been needed to keep these paintings from being disturbed or vandalized, such as the ladder-like image in the photo above. I can't imagine that happening in too many other places.

The cave above was called tham khon, or human cave. The people sitting at the entrance give you some perspective for size, and behind them were a number of paintings such as the ones below showing a line of people and some water buffalo. The human images were about three feet tall, and the buffalo maybe 2 feet tall.

Also in the area were many areas believed to have been living and ceremonial spots, carved into the natural formations. As these are believed to have been done by peoples living there in the area between 3000BC and 6000BC there's no way to know, but they were fascinating to gaze upon and wonder.

The view above from a distance, the panorama below shows more detail

Naturally, there was also abundant evidence of a Buddhist presence to the site, of varying time periods. The one below was more current and had been regularly tended to in the present day.

The stone carvings to the left of the rocks below date back much farther, but there wasn't notation indicating when. You can see Suphot taking a photo almost beneath the large stone resting above him, and detail of the carvings is in the photo below that one.

It was an impressive site, start to finish. I had no idea where we were heading when we left the hotel that morning, and to say I was bowled over by this rich display of unusual terrain, amazing rock formations, culture and art work thousands of years old right in front of me would be an understatement. It was a day I'll long remember.

Phu Phrabat Historical Park is indicated by the green dot on the map above

[By the way - this is Part 20 of a series. If you found this via a search or just happened upon it some other way you can find parts 1 through 19 by clicking HERE]


GWM said...

It is amazing how similar the rock art there is to what is in the Southwest of the USA. Both made by pecking or scratching into the face of the rock, or painting images on the surface.
I now live in New Mexico and there are several sites near here and many more in Arizona. Bring your camera!!!

khunbaobao said...

At some point I'll take that advice, thanks. There are vast amounts of my home country that I've yet to explore - to my embarrassment.