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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Cultures of the Mekong

All-Day Seminar

Full Day Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, August 2, 2014 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0967
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Civilizations have risen and fallen for centuries on the banks of the Mekong River. Long before there was Phnom Penh or Hanoi, there were the settlements at Ban Chiang, Angkor, and Champa in the areas now known as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Robert DeCaroli, associate professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University, explores these cultures that grew up along this massive 2700-mile river.

10 to 11:15 a.m.  Thailand and Laos

As it flows past the Laotian capital of Vientiane, the Mekong and its tributaries draw water from Thailand's north and east. Although Thailand's greatest states emerged along the Chao Phraya River, the Khorat Plateau was home to some of the nation’s earliest civilizations, including the Ban Chiang culture and the state of Dvaravati. Explore the sparsely recorded and sometimes-elusive history of the region, whose early contributions to later civilizations are often overlooked.

11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.  Cambodia

Water and water imagery were closely linked to the Khmer god-kings of Angkor. DeCaroli explores those ancient associations and how they are represented in the art and architecture of the Angkorian period.

12:45 to 2 p.m.  Lunch

Enjoy a catered luncheon of Vietnamese dishes.

2 to 3:15 p.m.  Vietnam and Champa

Although now part of Vietnam, this rich delta region on the southern edge of Southeast Asia was first home to the ancient civilization known as Funan. Over time, this land became the home of the Cham people, whose kingdom of Champa developed and declined over the course of centuries. Explore the early civilization of the Cham, and their eventual fall to the state of Dai Viet.

Other Connections

Between 1997 and 2007, more than 1,000 species previously unknown to science were discovered in the Greater Mekong region. Take a look at a few, including a pink lizard and a spookfish.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW
Metro: Smithsonian Mall Exit (Blue/Orange)