Zooarchaeological analysis of animal resources in the Upper Mun River Valley, Northeast Thailand

Stenhouse, Gordon Robert Ernest (2019) Zooarchaeological analysis of animal resources in the Upper Mun River Valley, Northeast Thailand. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.25903/exts-sr71
 
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Abstract

Recent research has made considerable progress towards our understanding of the origins of agriculture and the domestication of animals in prehistoric Southeast Asia. This thesis will contribute to this knowledge by investigating the faunal assemblage from archaeological sites in the Upper Mun River Valley, northeast Thailand. The major goal of this research is to address the hypothesis:

Prehistoric communities in the Upper Mun River Valley became more reliant on domestic animals as part of their subsistence strategies over time, from the Neolithic to the Iron Age

To address this hypothesis 22283 vertebrate animal remains from the prehistoric sites of Ban Non Wat, Ban Salao, and Nong Hua Raet were identified and analysed into 57 taxonomic groups. From this analysis, the subsistence strategies in these early communities were determined. Whether these strategies changed throughout time, due to social changes, was investigated. The zooarchaeological records from the three sites were compared to modern comparative studies from the Hmong and Lao-Isan cultures of Southeast Asia.

The results show that the subsistence role of domestic animals in the Upper Mun River Valley changed from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. At Ban Non Wat, a site that encompasses a time span of 1650 BC to 500 AD, the volume (m3) of pig and bovid remains increased in the Bronze Age contexts, with bovid remains increasing again in Iron Age contexts. This illustrates the increasing importance of animal husbandry at this site. Wild resources such as deer, fish, and turtle/ tortoise remains were also identified in lower volumes in Iron Age contexts in comparison to Bronze Age and Neolithic at Ban Non Wat. At Ban Salao, an Iron Age site (500 BC to 500 AD), bovid remains made up the majority of the assemblage, with pig second highest. Only a small number of deer, fish, and turtle remains were identified. Likewise, at the Iron Age site of Nong Hua Raet (500 BC to 500 AD), bovid remains were found more often than pig remains and other animals, such as deer, fish, and turtle. The age at death estimates for pig, and the frequency of skeletal elements at Ban Salao and Nong Hua Raet, indicates that pigs may have been raised or butchered offsite. The lack of fish species related to rice agriculture, and low numbers of rats and mice, suggests that Ban Salao and Nong Hua Raet were not intensive rice farming sites. It is argued that these sites were seasonally occupied. If the Iron Age results are analysed as a community of sites, it demonstrates clustered groups specialising in one or two resources, with linear communities sharing resources.

These findings demonstrate how the subsistence role of animals in early agricultural communities in the Upper Mun River Valley changed over time, with communities becoming more reliant on domestic animals from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. However, hunting and fishing remained an important part of subsistence strategies throughout all time periods at Ban Non Wat. The increased reliance on domestic animals confirms a socio-cultural change in subsistence towards the use of domestic animals as a food source, and provides evidence of an agricultural intensification of seasonal rice farming. The comparative studies from the Hmong and Lao-Isan cultures has led to the conclusion that the seasonal nature of intensive Iron Age agricultural may have had an influence on the season wild animals were hunted.

The results of this thesis are inconclusive as to which current model of social change in Southeast Asia the data supports. This may relate to the overlap within the structure of the models themselves, or suggest that no model entirely encompasses social change that occurred in the prehistoric communities of the Upper Mun River Valley. This research contributes significantly to our understanding of changes to subsistence resources in agricultural communities of Upper Mun River Valley and the wider Southeast Asian region.

Item ID: 63888
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Agricultural, Animal, Archaeology, Ecosystems, Ban Non Wat, Ban Salao, Bone, Bronze Age, Domestic, Faunal Remains, Fishing, Hunting, Husbandry, Iron Age, Khorat Plateau, Neolithic, Nong Hua Raet, Northeast Thailand, Phon Songkhram, Seasonality, Social Change, Southeast Asia, Subsistence, Upper Mun River Valley, Zooarchaeological
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2019 Gordon Robert Ernest Stenhouse.
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2020 01:43
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210103 Archaeology of Asia, Africa and the Americas @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210199 Archaeology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950502 Understanding Asias Past @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 50%
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