In the absence of textual evidence for the earliest periods of cultural exchange between South Asia and Southeast Asia, the technological analysis of ceramics from Khao Sam Kaeo (KSK) appears to provide convenient means with which to understand these interactions. Indeed, the technological approach, based on the ‘chaîne opératoire’ concept (Creswell 1996), permits the identification, starting from archaeological materials, of the technical practices used, and extends to the question of production centres, circulation networks and modalities of distribution (direct circulation, indirect, circulation of objects or ideas, circulation of craftsmen). This approach has already been employed in Southeast Asia to investigate distribution networks of hard stone beads and socio-technical exchange between South Asia and Southeast Asia (Bellina 2007). However, for this last region, it is the first time that it is applied to a ceramic assemblage. I propose, firstly, to describe ceramics that are distinctive of the local productions and which I suppose reflect exchange patterns. Secondly, to identify such exchanges, I will compare these ceramics to productions from the Indian subcontinent. Finally, the origin of KSK's ceramics will be discussed, along with the contacts they attest during the fourth-second centuries bce.
I employ a technological approach to the archaeological assemblages which refers to the concept of ‘chaînes opératoires’ as an analysis and observation tool. This methodology has been developed and used by V. Roux and M.A. Courty (Roux 2003: 1-30, Roux et al. 2005: 201-14). According to Creswell, the ‘chaîne opératoire’ is the result of ‘a catalogue of steps which turn a raw material into a finished product’ (Creswell 1996), or, for H. Balfet, it is ‘the whole set of steps that a group of human beings creates and works out here and now, according to the skill this group has got, notably the technical ability this group masters, so as to get a result: the satisfaction of a need, socially recognized’ (Balfet 1991: 12). Ideally, there are three stages in the study of the ‘chaînes opératoires’.The first one consists in classifying the different shards in technical groups, according to the macrotraces that can be observed: they allow characterising the fashioning and/or finishing work phases.