Cracked pots and rubbish tips : an ethnoarchaeological investigation of vessel and sherd distribution in a Thai-Lao village.
Calder, Angela M.
PREAMBLE An interest in the social and cultural behaviour of ancient peoples is not new; Daniel Wilson (1851, 486) defined it as one of the goals of ‘prehistory’ when he coined the term in 1851. While it is true that there are still not many archaeological studies orientated toward deriving strictly cultural data in addition to spatial-temporal information, the few studies that do exist are suggestive of the level of sophistication that is obtainable. The analysis of settlement-subsistence systems within an ecological framework (Struever, 1968; Winters, 1969); studies of the patterning of material culture and ecology of modern hunters and gatherers, and horticulturists (Campbell, 1968; Lee and De Vore, 1968); the correlation of ethno-historic and archaeological evidence (Thompson, 1968); the excavation of historic sites as a proving ground for archaeological theory (Dethlefsen and Deetz, 1966) and the use of ethnographic analogies (Flannery, 1966; Binford, 1967; White and Peterson, 1969; Winters, 1969), are beginning to enable the archaeologist to derive for meaningfull inferences about prehistoric cultural behaviour. The use of ethnographic records as a means of gaining a wider understanding of the diversity of human activities is of prime concern to the research outlined in this thesis. This study was undertaken to examine the breakage and distribution patterns of pottery within a village in North-east Thailand. Two procedures are involved. The first was the collection and collation of ethnographic information to construct hypotheses concerning the breakage and distribution patterns of pottery. The second was the use of archaeological procedures in the form of excavations to test these hypotheses. The recent introduction of large-scale archaeological research programmes in mainland South-east Asia has resulted in the recovery of much new information concerning the prehistory of that area. Old theories of prehistoric development relating to the region have been seriously challenged by results from these programmes. In order to reconstruct prehistoric activities the information obtained must be examined using the broadest approaches of prehistory. In Thailand the relevance of ethnographic studies to such problems has been almost entirely ignored. Two of the few archaeologists who have considered this approach in relation to their research into Thai prehistory are van Heekeren (Heekeren and Knuth, 1967 : 38-40 : 106) and Bayard (1971a: 16-26; 1971b : 23-24).(Appendix 1) This introductory chapter outlines the growth of ethnographic studies, in particular those relating to ethnographic analogy and its place in archaeological interpretations. The fact that this procedure has not been widely used as an archaeological tool necessitates a detailed scrutiny of its methods, limitations, and implications. Special emphasis is given to the application of ethnographic studies in areas where the problems of reconstructing prehistory are similar to those of South-east Asian archaeology. The second chapter considers the relevance of ceramics within archaeological contexts, and the methods by which these have been used to interpret archaeological data. Further potentials for ceramic studies, especially in relation to ethnographic research, are also outlined; this is particularly relevant to the interpretation of archaeological sites in mainland South-East Asia where ceramic remains are plentiful. An examination of results from recent research in this area is also included. Special mention is made of the excavations undertaken in North-east Thailand, and the archaeological and ethnographic reasons for choosing this region in preference to others in Thailand is explained. The village of Ban Koeng is described and its relationship to a neighbouring pottery village examined. Chapter three describes the procedures employed in this research and chapter four presents the results obtained. A synthesis of the whole study with a discussion of its application to South-east Asian prehistory, and to prehistory in general, will be outlined in the final chapter.
Advisor: Bayard, Donn
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
vi, 62, , 10,  leaves ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. University of Otago department: Anthropology