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Himalayan archaeological researchersí conference honours Peter Van Ham
By Tsewang Rigzin, Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A daylong seminar on archaeological research in the western Himalayas with a focus on Ladakh was held in honour of German author and photographer Peter Van Ham for his 30 years of journey and extensive research in the western Himalayas on July 22 at Centre for Archaeological Studies, Ranbirpur, Leh.  

Giving a presentation about the contribution of the great translator of the 9th- 10th Century Lotsawa Rinchen Zango in regions of the western Himalayas, Peter Van Ham said Alchi, of course, is the gem of the period of Rinchen Zangpo and urged for its proper documentation.  

“There is an urgent need to document this place and all other places also because you never know what’s going to happen,” he alerted, citing examples of how heritage sites were destroyed in other parts of the world. 

In the last 30 years, Peter has documented several monasteries in the western Himalayas associated with Rinchen Zangpo. He is planning to document Alchi also if all necessary permissions are granted. 
“There are so many issues with Alchi.  There are unclear inscriptions which have never been read or analysed. There might be over paintings like the Drigung Kagyudpa School in the 12th century was taking over Alchi”, Peter Van Ham said, suggesting that with infrared photography one can look through layers of paintings without affecting anything.

The daylong conference was an initiative of Dr. Sonam Spalzin from the Archaeological Survey of India and Dr. Sonali Gupta-Agarwal, Director (programmes) Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California Los Angeles. 
Dr. Sonali Gupta gave a brief introduction about the vision and relevance of the new venture called the Archaeological Institute of Himalayan Studies that both of them have embarked upon. 

Dr.  Sonam Spalzin, who has authored two books ‘Shesrigs’- discourses on archaeological and cultural identity and ‘gSter-rNying’ – archaeological remains of Ladakh, briefed about the archaeological view of Ladakh region from pre-history to the present.    She said the recent archaeological discovery in Saser that dates back to 8500 BC (more than 10,000 years ago) makes Ladakh more important and interesting for archaeological studies.
Dr. Dawa, CEC appreciated all who are engaged in the preservation and conservation of Ladakh’s heritage.  While appreciating Dr Spalzin, CEC promised to provide her assistance from LAHDC for the efforts and contributions being made by her in the field of archaeology in Ladakh. 

Dr. Dawa acknowledged that today people from different parts of the world are visiting Ladakh to see its rich cultural heritage and therefore it is imperative to the people of Ladakh to preserve this heritage.
Dr. Monisha Ahmad, Director LAMO talked about adaptive reuse of heritage building as LAMO itself is housed in a heritage house after proper restoration and it has now become a centre for cultural exchange, exhibition and learning. 

While giving a presentation about petroglyphs found in different parts of Ladakh, Prof Tashi Dawa of the EJM College urged for the need of heritage conservation as he has seen many petroglyphs and other heritage sites being destroyed in the name of development.  Stating that there is no single body that presently represents the interests of heritage conservation in Ladakh, Dawa suggested that Ladakh can have its own heritage committee/authority under the aegis of LAHDC.

Tsering Angchuk Hornak, Convenor Ladakh Chapter INTACH presented his experience of conservation of historical Basgo Castle – the initiative later bagged UNESCO award for conservation. 

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