Social Variation and Dynamics in Metal Age and Protohistoric Central Thailand: A Regional Perspective

Eyre, Chureekamol Onsuwan
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University of Hawai'i Press (Honolulu)
Southeast Asia is one major region where applications of sociopolitical frameworks emphasizing progressive development and increasing degrees of social hierarchy have been argued as inadequate for understanding past societies. Settlement systems in Thailand that existed throughout the period of technological change incorporating the bronze and iron ages have not yet been investigated from a heterarchical viewpoint. While reconnaissance and systematic surveys conducted over the past few decades in Thailand have discovered hundreds of prehistoric sites, a recent survey stressing intensive methodologies to test heterarchical and hierarchical frameworks for best fit with settlement patterns in the region of Kok Samrong-Takhli Undulating Terrain (KSTUT) in the eastern side of the Upper Chao Phraya River Valley has revealed unexpected patterns of land use and settlement systems. This article discusses the methodology and results of the KSTUT Survey in central Thailand. A two-stage survey, a reconnaissance survey followed by a 58 km2 intensive survey, was conducted in order to locate sites across di¤erent landscapes, to identify subregional ceramic variation and possibly geographic shifts in ceramic subregions over time, and to determine evidence for economic specialization among sites of varying sizes. The 25 sites dating between 2000 b.c. and a.d. 1000 provide evidence for a prehistoric settlement system emphasizing long-lived, often large, but heterarchically related occupations. Sharp changes including the appearance of site hierarchy occurred rapidly just prior to the protohistoric period c. a.d. 400, about 1000 years later than previously thought.
social complexity, Metal Age, Thailand, heterarchy, intensive survey, settlement systems
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