Environmental and social change in northeast Thailand during the Iron Age

Higham, C.F.W., Manly, B.F.J., Thosarat, R., Buckley, H.R., Chang, N., Halcrow, S.E., Ward, S., O'Reilly, D.J.W., Shewan, L.G., and Domett, K. (2019) Environmental and social change in northeast Thailand during the Iron Age. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 29 (4). pp. 549-569.

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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.

Item ID: 57797
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1474-0540
Keywords: archaeology; Iron Age; SE Asia; Non Ban Jak; social change
Copyright Information: © 2019 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Funders: Australian Research Council, Earthwatch Institute, Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand, University of Otago
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2019 03:33
FoR Codes: 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4301 Archaeology > 430102 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950502 Understanding Asias Past @ 80%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960311 Social Impacts of Climate Change and Variability @ 20%
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