Trade ceramics recovered from the MMG-LXML Sepon mining tenement, Savannakhet Province, the Lao PDR – preliminary review: trading and distribution based on composition, origin and age

Shimizu, Naho, Souksavatdy, Viengkeo, Chang, Nigel, and Luangkhot, Thonglith (2016) Trade ceramics recovered from the MMG-LXML Sepon mining tenement, Savannakhet Province, the Lao PDR – preliminary review: trading and distribution based on composition, origin and age. Journal of Southeast Asian Archaeology, 36. pp. 47-60.

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[Japanese] 要約:東南アジア大陸部中央に位置する現在のラオスは、タイ・カンボジア・ヴェトナム・ミャンマー・中国の5 ヶ国に囲 まれ、先史古代から現在にいたるまで、陸路および河川を介して隣国との活発な交易活動を展開してきた。ラオス中南部の Savannakhet 県内東方、ヴェトナム国境に近い山間部の鉱山MMG-LXML Sepon Mining Tenement では多年にわたり金及び銅の鉱 床開削および採掘事業が継続しているが、2008 年、採掘現場内より大型の銅鼓が発見され、続いて古代の銅採掘や精錬に関わ る遺構および各種遺物の出土が確認されたことから、当鉱山区域内の埋蔵文化財保護を目的として、ラオス政府情報文化観光省 国家遺産局・鉱山会社・James Cook University による調査プロジェクトが組織され、以降2016 年現在にいたるまで発掘調査お よびUXO 除去にともなう遺物の表面採集作業を継続している。当遺跡地に関しては、出土銅鼓の編年型式および検出された縦 坑木枠炭化材のC14 測定結果等から、紀元前後より活動を開始した大規模な銅採掘・精錬に関わる生産址との解釈がなされて いるが、遺跡の存続期間について現時点では詳らかでない。一方、上述した先史古代の銅生産関連資料以外に、遺跡地内では堆 積土上層に検出される歴史時代の集団墓址周辺域から、これまでに相当量の陶磁器類が採集されている。筆者(Shimizu)は2011 年および2014 年、現地調査に参加し、出土陶磁器類を実見する機会を得た。資料の主体は、後代(15-18 世紀)に他地域より搬 入された、いわゆる貿易陶磁であり、中国陶磁(16~17 世紀の景徳鎮および漳州窯製品・18 世紀代の福建広東製品等)のほか、 ヴェトナム陶磁(青花・五彩)・タイ鉄絵製品に加えて、日本の肥前染付磁器も確認することができた。 本稿では、この出土貿易陶磁器を検討対象とし、生産地別に資料の器種構成および製作年代を検証し、東南アジア大陸部の諸 遺跡における調査事例、とくにラオスの首都ヴィエンチャン旧市街地内で実施された発掘調査における出土貿易陶磁との比較を ふまえて当地における出土傾向を明らかにする。また生産地と製作年代から、当地域への貿易陶磁搬入と流通の歴史的背景につ いて考察を試みる。

[English] The Lao Peoples Democratic Republic sometimes known as Laos or Lao is a small, land-locked country, which is located in the center of a region renowned for its ceramic production over the last millennium. Lao shares common borders with China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, all of which have been fairly well researched. The history of ceramic production and trading in these countries is already quite well understood yet, little is known about production and trade of ceramics in Lao, especially during Lao’s historical period. In comparison to its neighboring countries, years of conflict and political unrest in the Lao PDR severely restricted field research. Over the last few decades the country began to open up and is now subject to quite rapid development. As Lao began to open its doors it gradually became possible to undertake archaeological excavation and survey. Over the last decade several archaeological surveys have been implemented. Today, as a result of recent archaeological field projects, Laos’ vital link to other countries is becoming progressively clearer. In the attempt to reconstruct past human activity the analyses of ceramic trade, distribution, and production is most revealing. The MMG-LXML Sepon Mining Tenement Site is situated in Vilabouly District, Savannakhet Province in the southeast of the Lao P.D.R. The mining tenement is located in the mountains of Truong Son Cordillera, which runs north-south along the border between Lao and Vietnam. In 2007, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Department of Heritage (Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lao PDR), MMG-LXML (an internationally-based mining operation) and James Cook University (Australia) in order to cooperate to manage and investigate archaeological heritage within the current MMG-LXML mining tenement. Subsequently more than ten extensive excavation projects have been undertaken, beginning in 2008 and ongoing, with the archaeological sites grouped together as the “Vilabouly Complex” (Tucci et al. 2014). The complex has gained considerable notoriety upon the discovery of hundreds, if not thousands, of artifacts from various periods of history. One of the most dramatic finds recovered was a large bronze drum estimated to be 2,000 years old. Excavations at several sites have also revealed hundreds of extremely well preserved bamboo and hardwood structures integral to mining shafts dated to between 1000 BC and AD 700 (Chang et al. 2014: 191). Other significant finds associated with these remains such as burials containing grave goods, crucibles, wooden mining tools, copper alloy axes, ingots and woven bamboo baskets are fine examples of Lao’s “pre-historic period”, the Iron Age and older. There is now good evidence of Bronze Age mining at sites as well as significant numbers of older Neolithic stone tools. During excavations at the Sepon mining tenement another significant layer of history began to emerge as ceramic products in large quantities from a more recent period began to be revealed. Most of these historical period artifacts were recovered by chance in accordance with stringent UXO (unexploded ordnance) bomb clearance operations. What is particularly interesting to note is that these ceramic collections included an unexpected amount of trade ceramic. That is to say, these ceramics were imported items that were produced abroad. It now appears that these ceramics were imported to the Sepon region over several centuries during Lao’s historical period known as the Lane Xang Kingdom that existed from the 14th century until 19th century. Most of this collection of trade ceramics is currently stored on-site at the mining tenement’s Cultural Heritage Unit Workshop awaiting further conservation and analyses. The lead author’s first opportunity to visit the tenement and examine recovered ceramics was in September 2011. During this visit, a collection of some 15 significant finds was observed. A second opportunity to visit was made available in October to November 2014 and during this visit, a further 67 pieces of ceramic were documented and observed. This brief paper focuses on the preliminary observations of some 82 specimens of “trade ceramic”. It details the examination of their context, composition, characteristics and chronology through comparative analysis with previous research in the Lao PDR, such as the Vientiane Road No.1 survey which was undertaken in the central district in the nation’s capital, Vientiane, by Japan’s Grant Aid Assistance during 2006 and 2007.

Item ID: 47421
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0918-4457
Keywords: Sepon, Vilabouly, Savannakhet, copper mining, Lao PDR, Lane Xang Kingdom, east-west corridor of mainland Southeast Asia, Vientiane, trade ceramics, blue and white porcelain, Hizen, Jingdezhen, Zhangzhou, maritime trade, age of commerce
Funders: MMG-LXML (Sepon Mining Tenement)
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2017 02:22
FoR Codes: 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430102 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 60%
43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430107 Historical archaeology (incl. industrial archaeology) @ 40%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950502 Understanding Asias Past @ 100%
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