9 - Human biology from the bronze age to the iron age in the Mun River valley of northeast Thailand  pp. 220-240

Human biology from the bronze age to the iron age in the Mun River valley of northeast Thailand

By Kate Domett and Nancy Tayles

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Introduction

Prehistory

Recent excavations of two sites in the Mun River valley in Northeast Thailand (Fig. 1.1, p. 5) as part of The Origins of Angkor Project have uncovered two large cemeteries. The site of Ban Lum Khao includes a bronze age cemetery in use between approximately 3400 and 2500 BP (Higham 2002). A 10 m × 14 m square was excavated to a maximum depth of 1.7 m on the edge of this mounded site as other areas of the site had been subjected to looting (Higham 2002). The cemetery site of Noen U-Loke, only a few kilometres to the west, is dated to the iron age, approximately 2300–2200 BP to 1700–1600 BP (Higham 2002). This iron age site was considerably more extensive than earlier sites and covered up to 12 ha (Higham 2002). A total of 220 m2 were excavated to a depth of 5 m (Higham 2002). Given the size of these sites, neither was excavated to their full extent. These two sites present an opportunity to compare health changes through time with the significant advantage that the populations lived in similar natural environments.

The aim of the Origins of Angkor Project is to investigate the social, cultural and technological developments in the Mun River valley that led to autonomous communities in this area undergoing the transition to more centralised and hierarchical societies (Higham and Thosarat 1998). The descendants of these communities built large-scale monuments and temples, some of which are still standing in the northeast today.

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