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The Mun Valley and Central Thailand in prehistory: integrating two cultural sequences

Charles Franklin Higham
  • Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
  • Email:
/ Fiorella Rispoli
  • International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (ISMEO), Via E. Giovenale 88, 00176 Rome, Italy
  • Email:
Published Online: 2014-07-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opar-2014-0002

Abstract

This paper compares the later prehistory in two regions of Thailand. The Mun Valley lies on the eastern side of the Phetchabun Range, the Lopburi Region (LR) to the west. They are linked by a major pass. While the Lopburi area is rich in copper ore, the Mun Valley has none. Quality salt is abundantly available in the Mun Valley but less so in the LR. This study explores the inter-relationships between the areas over a period of 2300 years which sharpens our understanding of both, and presents explanations and possibilities in the context of cultural transmission theories. Neolithic farmers with ultimate origins in China, arrived in the first half of the second millennium BC. Widespread exchange in prestige goods was a factor in the adoption of copper-base metallurgy in the late 11th century BC, when the LR became a producer, the Mun Valley an importer. With the Iron Age, (from about 500 BC), sites grew in size. During the course of this period, gold, silver, agate, carnelian and glass ornaments were ritually placed with dead elites. It is in these powerful and wealthy Iron Age communities that we can identify the early transition into states with population growth, agricultural intensification, conflict and increased production and competition over salt and metal for exchange.

Keywords: Prehistoric Thailand; Neolithic; rice farmers; Bronze Age; cultural transmission; elite exchange; Iron Age; mortuary ritual

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Published Online: 2014-07-18


Citation Information: Open Archaeology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opar-2014-0002.

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