Gerini and Pre History in Siam
Sran tongpan *
Most of the writings by Gerini (1860-1913) deal with the Siamese military, linguistics, tradition and history. In 1905, the editor of Dvi Panya Journal (a Siamese Crown Prince who later became King Rama VI) honoured him as a world famous scholar who had more profound and precise knowledge of ancient Thai subjects than most Thai people.
Although Gerini did not write a book on "pre history", there is evidence that he had a constant interest in this subject. The oldest evidence that the writer has found is from a book entitled "The Art of War: Military Organisation, Weapons and Political Maxims of the Ancient Hindus (1894). In this book, Gerini referred to "stone weapons" which were crude weapons used by primitive men living in caves or simple huts by a pond. Gerini explained that they were the same kind of weapons that had been discovered first in Europe by western scholars and later in the East - - in India, Burma and Samrong Sen in Cambodia.
An interesting part of the publication is an appendix in which Gerini has described the discovery of these "stone weapons of primitive people" in a brook of Luang Phrabang (which was in the territory of Siam at that time). Gerini wrote that, after examining these weapons, he found that they shared the same form and materials (serpentine) as those found in Samsong Sen in Cambodia. His point was that it can be inferred from these weapons that the primitive people living in the two areas belonged to the same culture. He then encouraged people involved to collect and excavate more of these stone weapons and make records of each site in order to accumulate knowledge on primitive people in our country and make comparative studies with those in other countries.
His later work relating to the pre-history of Siam appears in the first part of “Siamese Archaeology- Synoptical Sketch”in The Kingdom of Siam (1904), published on the occasion of the Kingdom of Siam Exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis in the United States. Later Gerini revised his writing in the Thai language based on his additional archeological findings, and it was published in the April and June 1905 magazine Dvi Panya. The topic which is of most interest to me is the presentation of Siamese history in the Neolithic Age. This is considered innovative because those who were his contemporaries in Siam go back a thousand years only.
His article “The First Chronicles of the Kingdom of Kampuchea and the Outline of the Origin of Prasat Hin in Summary” in Taweepanya of July 1905, have proved Gerini a progressive historian. In the article, he discusses the findings of the excavation of the pre-historic archeological sites conducted by French archeologists at Samrongsen, Kampuchea . This is probably the first publication about the excavation of the prehistoric archeological site ever presented in the Thai language. It is unfortunate that it was not a complete article, as only one part was published. A few months later, because of his poor health, Gerini resigned from his post and went back to Europe. He never returned to Siam again.
* Editorial staff of Muang Boran Journal