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The Iron Age of the Mun Valley, Thailand

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 July 2011

C F W Higham*
Affiliation:
C F W Higham, FSA, Department of Anthropology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. E-mail: charles.higham@otago.ac.nz

Abstract

The archaeological landscape of the Mun River valley in north-east Thailand is dominated by many large, prehistoric settlements. These are easily recognized from the air, since they are encircled by banks and moats. Several of these sites were later occupied under the Angkorian kingdom, and incorporate brick temples. These sites present both an enigma and a challenge. Few have ever been excavated, and then only on a very small scale. This article presents the results of a fifteen-year research programme designed to illuminate the cultural sequences at several sites, investigate the social organization as it changed over time, and to identify the period when the moats and banks were constructed. Three sites have been excavated and a cultural sequence covering more than 2,000 years has been dated. This paper concentrates on the Iron Age (450 bcad 500), a period of effervescent social change that may be linked with population growth, engagement in a maritime trade network that incorporated India and China, the development of militarism and, in due course, the rapid transition into the period of the early states that anticipated the foundation of the kingdom of Angkor.

Résumé

Le paysage archéologique de la vallée de la rivière Mun, au nord-est de la Thaïlande, est dominé par de nombreux grands peuplements préhistoriques. Ils sont faciles à reconnaitre de l'air car ils sont entourés de talus et de douves. Plusieurs de ces sites furent occupés par la suite à l’époque du royaume angkorien, et ils intègrent des temples en brique. Ces sites présentent à la fois une énigme et un défi. Peu d'entre eux ont été fouillés, et ceci seulement à très petite échelle. Cette communication présente les résultats d'un programme de recherches, qui dura quinze ans, conçu pour éclaircir les séquences culturelles dans plusieurs sites, pour examiner l'organisation sociale au fur et à mesure de son évolution dans le temps, et pour identifier l’époque à laquelle furent construits les talus et les douves. Trois sites ont été fouillés, et une séquence culturelle couvrant plus de 2,000 ans a été datée. Cette communication se concentre sur l’âge du fer (entre 450 avant J.-C. et l'an 500) une époque de changement social très actif qui peut être lié à la croissance de la population, à l'engagement dans un réseau commercial maritime qui englobait l'Inde et la Chine, au développement du militarisme, et, éventuellement, à la transition rapide vers l’époque des premiers états qui anticipèrent la fondation du royaume d'Angkor.

Zusammenfassung

Die archäologische Landschaft des Mun-Flußtals in nordost Thailand ist von vielen großen prähistorischen Siedlungen geprägt. Diese sind leicht aus der Luft zu erkennen, da sie von kreisförmigen Wällen und Gräbern umgeben sind. Mehrere davon wurden später durch das Königreich Angkor besiedelt und enthalten Ziegeltempel. Diese Stätten sind sowohl ein Rätsel als auch eine Herausforderung. Nur wenige sind durch Ausgrabungen untersucht, und dann nur in kleinem Rahmen. Dieser Bericht stellt die Resultate eines fünfzehnjährigen Forschungsprogramms vor, das die Kulturellen Entwicklungsstufen an verschiedenen Stätten, sowie die Veränderungen innerhalb der sozialen Organisation aufzeigt und des weiteren den Zeitraum identifiziert, in dem die Wälle und Gräben konstruiert wurden. An drei Stätten wurden Ausgrabungen durchgeführt und die kulturelle Entwicklung über einen Zeitraum von 2,000 Jahren datiert. Dieser Bericht beschränkt sich auf die Eisenzeit (450 bcad 500), eine Periode stürmischer sozialer Veränderungen, die wahrscheinlich mit dem Bevölkerungswachstum zusammenhingen, sowie dem Aufbau eines China und Indien umfassenden, maritimen Handelsnetzes, und der Entwicklung des Militarismus, gefolgt vom schnellen Übergang in eine Periode früher Staatenbildungen, welche die Grundlage zur Gründung des Königreiches Angkor bildeten.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 2011

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