|dc.description.abstract||A metalsmith's ability to tum stone into metal and mould metal into useable objects, is one of the most valuable production industries of any society. The conception of this metallurgical knowledge has been the major catalyst in the development of increasing socio-political complexity since the beginning of the Bronze Age (Childe, 1930).
However, when considering the prehistory of Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, it is noted that the introduction of metallurgical activity, namely copper and bronze technology, did not engender the increase in social complexity witnessed in other regions. It is suggested that the region is anomalous in that terms and concepts developed to describe and define Bronze Ages by scholars working in other regions, lack strict analogues within Southeast Asia. Muhly (1988) has famously noted the non-compliance of Southeast Asia to previous models, "In all other comers of the Bronze Age world-China, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, the Aegean and central Europe-we find the introduction of bronze technology associated with a complex of social, political and economic developments that mark the rise of the state. Only in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand and Vietnam, do these developments seem to be missing" (Muhly, 1988:16).
This "rise of the state" is associated with the development of hierarchy, inequality, and status differentiation, evidence for which, it is argued, is most explicitly articulated in mortuary contexts (Bacus, 2006). Evidence would include an intra-site restriction in access to resources, including prestige goods, and ranking, a vertical differentiation, often related to interment wealth. Thus the introduction of metallurgical technology saw copper and other prestige goods, used to entrench authority and advertise status (Coles and Harding; 1979). Such evidence has so far been absent in Bronze Age, Southeast Asian contexts. Accordingly, the usefulness of the term "Bronze Age" for describing and defining Southeast Asian assemblages has been questioned (White, 2002). However, the Ban Non Wat discovery of wealthy Bronze Age interments, with bronze grave goods restricted to the wealthiest, has furrowed the brow of many working in the region, providing evidence to at least reconsider this stance.
Despite its obvious importance in shaping Bronze Age societies around the globe, and now, significance in Northeast Thailand, very little is known of the acceptance, development, and spread of tin-bronze metallurgical techniques during the prehistory of Southeast Asia. Only a handful of investigations of archaeological sites in the region have investigated the use of metals beyond macroscopic cataloguing.
Utilising an agential framework, the Ban Non Wat bronze metallurgical evidence has been investigated as an entire assemblage, from the perspective of the individual metalsmith, in order to greater understand the industry and its impact upon the society incorporating the new technology.
Furthermore, mortuary data is investigated by means of wealth assessment, as an insight into social form throughout the corresponding period of adoption, development and spread of metallurgy.
The bivalent study of society and technology has shed light on the development of sociopolitical, and economic complexity during Bronze Age Southeast Asia, and in doing so, outlined the direct impact the metalsmiths themselves had on the supply, spread and functioning of their important industry.
Variabilities in grave 'wealth,' have been identified at Ban Non Wat. A further situation not previously encountered in Bronze Age Southeast Asia, is the restriction of bronze goods, in death, to differentiated, wealthy individuals. The existence of such individuals suggests that society during this period was rather more complex than regional precedents would suggest. I contend that it is the introduction of metallurgy, and in particular, the nature in which it was conducted that engendered these developments.
Therefore, when considering the traditional course of developing social-political complexity during the Bronze Age, it now seems that Thailand at least, is potentially, not that anomalous.||en_NZ