Ban Chiang Archaeological Site


Ban Chiang was the center of a remarkable phenomenon of human cultural, social, and technological evolution in the 5th millennium BC, which occurred independently in this area of south-east Asia and spread widely over the whole region. It is without question the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in south-east Asia. It presents the earliest evidence for true farming in the region and for the manufacture and use of metals: its long cultural sequence, size and economic status has no parallel in any other contemporary site in the region.

Recent archaeological work at Nok Nok Tha and, later, Ban Chiang on the Khorat plateau of north-east Thailand has demonstrated that in south-east Asia prehistory was culturally backward. This area of modern Thailand has been shown by excavation and field survey to have been the centre of a cultural development in the 4th millennium BC that was an independent from China to the north and India to the west over much of south-east Asia and beyond into the Indonesian archipelago.

Settlement of the Khorat plateau began around 3600 BC. The settlers came from the neighbouring lowlands, bringing with them a hunter-gatherer economy that was beginning to develop sedentary farming, with domesticated cattle, pigs, and chickens and an elementary form of dry-rice cultivation. The settled village life of this Early Period at Ban Chiang lasted until around 1000 BC. Agricultural methods were refined and improved, along with other skills such as house construction and pottery manufacture. The equipment of burials reflects an increasing social complexity.

The Middle Period (1000-500/300 BC) was notable for the introduction of wet-rice farming, as evidenced by the presence of water buffalo bones, and technological developments in ceramic and metal production. It was a time of considerable prosperity, as shown by the grave-goods, and one which saw the introduction of iron into common use.

Although occupation appears to have ended at Ban Chiang in the 3rd century AD, while continuing at other sites in the region, Ban Chiang is considered to have been the principal settlement in this area of the Khorat plateau and has given its name to a distinctive archaeological culture. The prehistoric settlement, a low oval mound established by Laotian refugees in the late 8th century, lies beneath the modern village of Ban Chiang. Only very limited excavation has been possible in the settlement site, but this has established the existence of deep stratification and long cultural continuity.

The main excavations have taken place on the perimeter of the modern village, where a large number of burials from all three periods, with rich ceramic and metal grave-goods, have been revealed and recorded. One of the excavations has been preserved for public viewing, with a permanent cover building: there is an excellent site museum in another part of the village.


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