Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-r5zm4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-14T11:48:47.622Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Radiocarbon Dates from Jar and Coffin Burials of the Cardamom Mountains Reveal a Unique Mortuary Ritual in Cambodia's Late- to Post-Angkor Period (15th–17th Centuries AD)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Nancy Beavan*
Department of Anatomy, University of Otago Medical School, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Sian Halcrow
Department of Anatomy, University of Otago Medical School, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Bruce McFadgen
School of Maori Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Derek Hamilton
SUERC Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory, East Kilbride, Scotland
Brendan Buckley
Tree-Ring Laboratory, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, New York, USA
Tep Sokha
Ceramics Conservation Laboratory, Royal University of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Louise Shewan
Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Ouk Sokha
Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia
Stewart Fallon
Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
John Miksic
Southcast Asian Studies Program, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Richard Armstrong
Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Dougald O'Reilly
School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, Australia
Kate Domett
James Cook University, Queensland, Australia
K R Chhem
Institute of History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany
Corresponding author. Email:
Rights & Permissions [Opens in a new window]


Core share and HTML view are not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

We present the first radiocarbon dates from previously unrecorded, secondary burials in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia. The mortuary ritual incorporates nautical tradeware ceramic jars and log coffins fashioned from locally harvested trees as burial containers, which were set out on exposed rock ledges at 10 sites in the eastern Cardamom Massif. The suite of 28 14C ages from 4 of these sites (Khnorng Sroal, Phnom Pel, Damnak Samdech, and Khnang Tathan) provides the first estimation of the overall time depth of the practice. The most reliable calendar date ranges from the 4 sites reveals a highland burial ritual unrelated to lowland Khmer culture that was practiced from cal AD 1395 to 1650. The time period is concurrent with the 15th century decline of Angkor as the capital of the Khmer kingdom and its demise about AD 1432, and the subsequent shift of power to new Mekong trade ports such as Phnom Penh, Udong, and Lovek. We discuss the Cardamom ritual relative to known funerary rituals of the pre- to post-Angkorian periods, and to similar exposed jar and coffin burial rituals in Mainland and Island Southeast Asia.

Copyright © 2012 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 


Bayliss, A. 2009. Rolling out revolution: using radiocarbon dating in archaeology. Radiocarbon 51(1):123–47.Google Scholar
Beavan-Athfield, NR, McFadgen, BG, Sparks, RJ. 2001. Environmental influences on dietary carbon and 14C ages in modern rats and other species. Radiocarbon 43(1):714.Google Scholar
Bellwood, PJ. 1976. Archaeological research in Minahasa and the Talaud Islands, Northeastern Indonesia. Asian Perspectives 19(2):240–8.Google Scholar
Bellwood, PJ. 2007. Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago. Canberra: ANU E-Press. 385 p.Google Scholar
Brock, F, Bronk Ramsey, C, Higham, T. 2007. Quality assurance of ultrafiltered bone dating. Radiocarbon 49(1):187–92.Google Scholar
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51(1):337–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brown, R. 2004. The Ming Gap and shipwreck ceramics in Southeast Asia [PhD dissertation]. Department of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
Buck, CE, Cavanagh, WG, Litton, CD. 1996. Bayesian Approach to Interpreting Archaeological Data. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. 402 p.Google Scholar
Coedès, G. 1968. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
Cort, LA, Massumeh, F, Gunter, AC. 2000. Asian Traditions in Clay: The Hauge Gifts. Washington, DC: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M Sackler Gallery, 148, no. 74.Google Scholar
Dressler, JR. 2010. Plotting history – the interdependent development of Siamese and Cambodian chronicles. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Language, Society, and Culture in Asian Contexts. Thailand: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Mahasarakham University. p 335–47.Google Scholar
Fallon, SJ, Fifield, JK, Chappell, JM. 2010. The next chapter in radiocarbon dating at the Australian National University: status report on the single stage AMS. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 268(7–8):898901.Google Scholar
Fink, D, Hotchkis, M, Hua, Q, Jacobsen, G, Smith, AM, Zoppi, U, Child, D, Mifsud, C, van der Gaast, H, Williams, A, Williams, M. 2004. The ANTARES AMS Facility at ANSTO. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 223–224:109–15.Google Scholar
Fox, RB. 1970. The Tabon Caves. Manila: National Museum Monograph 1.Google Scholar
Grave, P, Maccheroni, M. 2009. Characterizing Asian stoneware jar production at the transition to the early Modern period, 1550–1650. In: McCarthy, B, Salzman-Chase, E, Cort, LA, Douglas, JG, Jett, P, editors. Scientific Research on Historic Asian Ceramics. Proceedings of the Fourth Forbes Symposium at the Freer Gallery of Art. London: Archetype Publications. 110 p.Google Scholar
Hagesteijn, R. 1989. Circles of Kings: Political Dynamics in Early Southeast Asia. Dordrecht: Foris Publications. 175 p.Google Scholar
Hagesteijn, R. 1996. Lack of limits: cultural aspects of state formation in early continental Southeast Asia. In: Claessen, HJM, Oosten, JG, editors. Ideology and the Formation of Early States. New York: Brill. 444 p.Google Scholar
Harris, P. 2007. Zhou Daguan: A Record of Cambodia, the Land and Its People. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books. 150 p.Google Scholar
Harrisson, T. 1962. Borneo death. Bijdragen tot de Taal, Lan—en Volkenkunde 118:141.Google Scholar
Harrisson, T. 1974. Early ‘jar burials’ in Borneo and elsewhere. Asian Perspectives 17(2):141–4.Google Scholar
Higham, C, Thosarat, R. 1998. Prehistoric Thailand: From Early Settlement to Sukhothai. Bangkok: River Books. 234 p.Google Scholar
Higham, C. 2002. Early Cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia. Bangkok: River Books. 376 p.Google Scholar
Hoper, ST, McCormac, FG, Hogg, AG, Higham, TFG, Head, MJ. 1998. Evaluation of wood pretreatments on oak and cedar. Radiocarbon 40(1):4550.Google Scholar
Horr, DA. 1959. Area 19-Southeast Asia, No. 1. COWA Survey. Cambridge: Council for Old World Archaeology.Google Scholar
Hotchkis, MAC, Fink, D, Jacobsen, GE, Lawson, EM, Shying, M, Smith, AM, Tuniz, C, Barbetti, M, Grave, P, Hua, Q, Head, J. 1994. 14C analyses at the ANTARES AMS Centre: dating the log coffins of northwest Thailand. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 92(1–4):2730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hua, Q, Jacobsen, GE, Zoppi, U, Lawson, EM, Williams, AA, Smith, AM, McGann, MJ. 2001. Progress in radiocarbon target preparation at the ANTARES AMS Centre. Radiocarbon 43(2A):275–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hua, Q, Barbetti, M, Zoppi, U, Fink, D, Watanasak, M, Jacobsen, GE. 2004. Radiocarbon in tropical tree rings during the Little Ice Age. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 223–224:489–94.Google Scholar
Hurst, S, Carter, BJ, Beavan-Athfield, N. 2010. Investigation of a 10,214 BP Late Paleoindian bison kill at the Howard Gully Site in southwestern Oklahoma. Plains Archaeologist 55(213):2537.Google Scholar
Kurjack, EB, Sheldon, CT. 1970. The archaeology of Seminoho Cave in Lebak, Cotobato. Silliman Journal 17:518.Google Scholar
Kurjack, EB, Sheldon, CT. 1971. The urn burial caves of Southern Cotobato, Mindanao, Philippines. Silliman Journal 18:127–53.Google Scholar
Martin, MA. 1992. Histoire du peuplement du massif des Cardamomes sous la monarchie khmère. In: Condominas, G, editor. Disciplines Croisées: Hommage a Bernard Philippe Groslier. Paris: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. p 219–54.Google Scholar
Martin, MA. 1997. Les Khmers Daeum “Khmers de l'origine.” Paris: Pressés de l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient, Monographies no. 183.Google Scholar
Metcalf, P, Huntington, R. 1991. Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 258 p.Google Scholar
McCormac, FG, Hogg, AG, Blackwell, PG, Buck, CE, Higham, TFG, Reimer, PJ. 2004. SHCal04 Southern Hemisphere calibration, 0–11.0 cal kyr BP. Radiocarbon 46(3):1087–92.Google Scholar
McFadgen, BG, Knox, FB, Cole, TRL. 1994. Radiocarbon calibration curve variations and their implications for the interpretation and timing of New Zealand prehistory. Radiocarbon 36(2):221–36.Google Scholar
Mook, WG. 1986. Business meeting: recommendations/Resolutions adopted by the Twelfth International Radiocarbon Conference. Radiocarbon 28(2A):799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mouret, C. 2000. Grottes et falaises se'pulcrales de Luzon et Sulawesi [Burial caves and cliffs of Luzon and Sulawesi]. In: Actes de la 10e'me Rencontre d'Octobre. Paris: Speleo-Club de Paris.Google Scholar
Mouret, C. 2004. Burials in caves. In: Gunn, J, editor. Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science. New York: Taylor and Francis. 960 p.Google Scholar
O'Reilly, D. 2007. Early Civilizations of Southeast Asia. Lanham: AltaMira Press. 238 p.Google Scholar
Pelliot, P. 1903. Le Fou-nan. Bulletin de l'Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient 3(2):248303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peterson, BJ, Fry, B. 1987. Stable isotopes in ecosystem studies. Annual Review of Ecological Systems 18:293320.Google Scholar
Pitiphat, S. 1992. Ceramics from the Thai-Burma Border. Bangkok: Thai Khadi Research Institute, Thammasat University. 190 p.Google Scholar
Santos, GM, Southon, JR, Druffel-Rodriguez, KC, Griffin, S, Mazon, M. 2004. Magnesium perchlorate as an alternative water trap in AMS graphite sample preparation: a report on sample preparation at the KCCAMS Facility at the University of California, Irvine. Radiocarbon 46(1):165–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sayavongkhamdy, T, Bellwood, P. 2000. Recent archaeological research in Laos. The Melaka Papers, Volume 3. Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association Bulletin 19:101–10.Google Scholar
Shaw, JC. 1985. Tak hilltop burial sites. Arts of Asia July-Aug:95102.Google Scholar
Shaw, JC. 1986. The kilns of Lan Na and the Tak hilltop burial sites. The Siam Society Newsletter 2(4):113.Google Scholar
Shaw, JC. 2009. Thai Ceramics. Bangkok: Craftsman Press. 119 p.Google Scholar
Slota, PJ, Jull, AJT, Linick, TW, Toolin, LJ. 1987. Preparation of small samples for 14C accelerator targets by catalytic reduction of CO. Radiocarbon 29(2):303–6.Google Scholar
Somreth, S. 2008. Les Urns et les Rites Funerraires des montagne Cardamomes au Cambodge [unpublished proposal for a Master's thesis]. Toronto: University of Toronto.Google Scholar
Sørensen, P. 1973. Prehistoric iron implements from Thailand. Asian Perspectives 17(2):134–73.Google Scholar
Stark, MT. 2001. Some preliminary results of the 1999–2000 archaeological field investigations at Angkor Borei, Takeo Province. Udaya 2:1931.Google Scholar
Stuiver, M, Kra, RS. 1986. Editorial comment. Radiocarbon 28(2B):ii.Google Scholar
Stuiver, M, Polach, HA. 1977. Discussion: reporting of 14C data. Radiocarbon 19(3):355–63.Google Scholar
Stuiver, M, Reimer, PJ. 1986. A computer program for radiocarbon age calibration. Radiocarbon 28(2B):1022–30.Google Scholar
Stuiver, M, Reimer, PJ. 1993. Extended 14C data base and revised CALIB 3.0 14C calibration program. Radiocarbon 35(1):215–30.Google Scholar
Szabo, K, Piper, PJ, Barker, G. 2008. Sailing between worlds: the symbolism of death in northwest Borneo. In: Clark, G, Leach, F, O'Connor, S, editors. Islands of Inquiry Colonisation, Seafaring and the Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes. Terra Australis 29. Canberra: ANU E-Press. p 149–70.Google Scholar
Tsuda, T. 1999. Myanmaa, Mandaree shhen no dokizukuri mura to sumkingu piipu [Earthenware-making villages and smoking pipes around Mandalay in Myanmar]. Tnan Ajia kokogaku [Journal of Southeast Asian Archaeology] (Journal of the Japan Society of Southeast Asian Archaeology) 19:115360. In Japanese with English summary.Google Scholar
Valdes, CO, Nguyen-Long, K, Barbosa, AC. 1992. A Thousand Years of Stoneware in the Philippines. Makati, Metro Manila: National Museum and the Oriental Ceramic Society of the Philippines.Google Scholar
Vandeputte, K, Moens, L, Dams, R. 1996. Improved sealed-tube combustion of organic samples to CO2 for stable isotope analysis, radiocarbon dating and percent carbon determinations. Analytical Letters. 29(15):2761–73.Google Scholar
Wannasri, S, Pumijumnong, N, Shoocongdej, R. 2007. Teak log coffin head styles in northern Thailand: time sequencing with dendrochronology. ScienceAsia 33(1):4756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ward, GK, Wilson, SR. 1978. Procedures for comparing and combining radiocarbon age determinations: a critique. Archaeometry 20(1):1931.Google Scholar
Wilson, SR, Ward, GK. 1981. Evaluation and clustering of radiocarbon age determinations: procedures and paradigms. Archaeometry 23(1):1939.Google Scholar
Wolters, OW. 1974. North-western Cambodia in the seventh century. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 37(2):355–84.Google Scholar
Wolters, OW. 1979. Khmer ‘Hinduism’ in the seventh century in Early South East Asia. In: Smith, RB, Watson, W, editors. Essays in Archaeology, History and Historical Geography. New York: Oxford University Press. p 427–56.Google Scholar
Woodman, N, Beavan-Athfield, N. 2009. Post-Clovis survival of American mastodon in the southern Great Lakes region of North America. Quaternary Research 72(3):359–63.Google Scholar
Xu, S, Anderson, R, Bryant, C, Cook, GT, Dougans, A, Freeman, S, Naysmith, P, Schnabel, C, Scott, EM. 2004. Capabilities of the new SUERC 5MV AMS facility for 14C dating. Radiocarbon 46(1):5964.Google Scholar
Zazzo, A, Saliège, J-F. 2011. Radiocarbon dating of biological apatites: a review. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 310(1–2):5261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar