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Environmental and Social Change in Northeast Thailand during the Iron Age

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2019

C.F.W. Higham
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand Email: charles.higham@otago.ac.nz
B.F.J. Manly
Affiliation:
Department of Mathematics, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand & Western Ecosystems Technology Inc., 415 W. 17th St, Suite 200, Cheyenne, WY 8200, USA Email: BryanManly@xtra.co.nz
R. Thosarat
Affiliation:
17, Mu 2, Chomsra Road, Tambon Nai Muang, Amphoe Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand 30110 Email: paetraboat@yahoo.co.nz
H.R. Buckley
Affiliation:
Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand Email: hallie.buckley@otago.ac.nz
N. Chang
Affiliation:
College of Arts, Society and Education, James Cook University, Townsville QLD 4811, Australia Email: nigel.chang@gmail.com
S.E. Halcrow
Affiliation:
Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand Email: sian.halcrow@otago.ac.nz
S. Ward
Affiliation:
Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand Email: stacey.ward@postgrad.otago.ac.nz
D.J.W. O'Reilly
Affiliation:
School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University, Acton ACT 2601, Australia Email: dougald.oreilly@anu.edu.au
L.G. Shewan
Affiliation:
School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, 253-283 Elgin St, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia Email: louise.shewan@unimelb.edu.au
K. Domett
Affiliation:
College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Townsville QLD 4811, Australia Email: kate.domett@jcu.edu.au

Abstract

The Iron Age of Mainland Southeast Asia began in the fifth century bc and lasted for about a millennium. In coastal regions, the development of trade along the Maritime Silk Road led to the growth of port cities. In the interior, a fall in monsoon rains particularly affected the Mun River valley. This coincided with the construction of moats/reservoirs round Iron Age settlements from which water was channelled into wet rice fields, the production of iron ploughshares and sickles, population growth, burgeoning exchange and increased conflict. We explore the social impact of this agricultural revolution through applying statistical analyses to mortuary samples dating before and after the development of wet rice farming. These suggest that there was a swift formation of social elites represented by the wealth of mortuary offerings, followed by a decline. Two associated changes are identified. The first involved burying the dead in residential houses; the second considers the impact of an increasingly aquatic environment on health by examining demographic trends involving a doubling of infant mortality that concentrated on neonates. A comparison between this sequence and that seen in coastal ports suggests two interconnected instances of rapid pathways to social change responding to different social and environmental stressors.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2019 

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