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Forging empire: Angkorian iron smelting, community and ritual practice at Tonle Bak

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 December 2019

Mitch Hendrickson*
Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 West Harrison Street, BSB (M/C 027), Chicago, IL60607, USA
Stéphanie Leroy
LAPA-IRAMAT, NIMBE, CEA, CNRS, CEA Saclay, Université Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
Cristina Castillo
University College London, Institute of Archaeology, 31–34 Gordon Square, LondonWC1H 0PY, UK
Quan Hua
Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Locked Bag 2001, KirraweeDC, NSW 2232, Australia
Enrique Vega
LAPA-IRAMAT, NIMBE, CEA, CNRS, CEA Saclay, Université Paris-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
Kaseka Phon
Archaeology Department, Institute of Culture and Fine Arts, Royal Academy of Cambodia, Russian Federation Boulevard, Sangkat Kakab, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
*Author for correspondence (Email:


Iron-production sites of the early historic period in Mainland Southeast Asia (fifth to fifteenth centuries AD) are rare. Recent excavations at the Tonle Bak site in central Cambodia now provide the first evidence for furnace technology, metallurgical characteristics of slag concentrations and evidence for the organisation of local smelting communities and ritual practices during the peak of the Angkorian Khmer Empire. The results demonstrate that the smelters were directly integrated with Angkorian state-exchange networks. They also raise questions about the use of ethnohistorical records for understanding the identity and organisation of these early metalworkers.

Antiquity , Volume 93 , Issue 372 , December 2019 , pp. 1586 - 1606
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2019

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