Sites, survey, and ceramics: a GIS-based approach to modelling ancient settlement patterns in the Upper Mun River, Northeast Thailand

Evans, Caitlin Violet (2015) Sites, survey, and ceramics: a GIS-based approach to modelling ancient settlement patterns in the Upper Mun River, Northeast Thailand. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis focuses on analysing the development of settlement in the Upper Mun River Valley of northeast Thailand, from the eighteenth century BCE till the fourteenth century CE. It integrates pre-existing research with the results of a new series of satellite and pedestrian surveys - the first time such wide-spread intensive and systematic survey has been attempted within northeast Thailand. This research utilises the statistical capabilities of a Geographic Information System, to bring together the environmental, cultural, and socio-political landscapes of the prehistoric and historic Upper Mun River Valley.

The Upper Mun River Valley is situated upon a major tributary of the Mekong, at the heart of mainland Southeast Asia. This location is critical to the development of the region. Previous research within the Upper Mun River Valley has focused on excavation, reconnaissance survey, and the reconstruction of Angkor period temples. Key individual sites have revealed the region's complex, multi-period occupation sequence; stretching from early Neolithic agriculturalists, to the area's absorption into the Angkorian polity in the first millennium CE. There is, however, a lack of detailed, intensive survey to contextualise these remarkable individual sites within their local surrounds. This thesis systematically revealed the surface remains of over 100 prehistoric and historic sites, within a sample of four distinct landscape types (deep alluvial floodplains, upper alluvial floodplains, terraces, and uplands). The results allowed us to reconstruct long-term settlement trends, in the context of environmental, cultural, and socio-political change. The Phon Songkhram Archaeological Survey [PSKAS] settlement pattern analysis has revealed the flexibility, strength, and resilience of Upper Mun River Valley communities. They maintained a complex relationship to the local landscape, most notably water features. Within the wider context of tropical Mainland Southeast Asia, the Upper Mun River Valley appears to be relatively localised, reactive, and internal in its development. This raises questions regarding the relationship between tropical resource abundance, or a lack thereof, and the need for an increase in complexity to ensure long-term sustainability. Such a trend could be further revealed, with intensive surveys, in comparable regions of Southeast Asia.

In conclusion, this thesis reveals the sheer wealth and variability of settlement with the Upper Mun River Valley, and purports that the river valleys of the environmentally challenging Khorat plateau experienced a settlement development trajectory unique within the region. Emerging from this thesis, key transitional sites identified during this project, will be examined further through planned future excavations. Moreover, it is hoped the success of the methods utilised in this thesis will prompt the use of systematic intensive survey techniques in future projects throughout Southeast Asia.

Item ID: 48508
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: ancient settlements, archaeology survey methods, archaeology, early states, geographic information systems, historic archaeology, Khorat, northeast Thailand, prehistoric, resilience, southeast Asia, Thailand, Upper Mun River Valley
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Evans, Caitlin, Chang, Nigel, and Shimizu, Naho (2016) Sites, survey, and ceramics: settlement patterns of the first to ninth centuries CE in the Upper Mun River Valley, northeast Thailand. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 47 (3). pp. 438-467.

Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2017 23:25
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210103 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 40%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified @ 60%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950502 Understanding Asias Past @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960311 Social Impacts of Climate Change and Variability @ 60%
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