The neolithic period in Thailand
There are two principal models that purport to interpret the evidence for the origins of the Neolithic period in Thailand. Both stress the importance of rice cultivation and the domestication of a range of animals. One incorporates archaeological and linguistic evidence in identifying the origins as the result of the diffusion of farming communities into Southeast Asia and India from a source in the Yangtze River valley. The alternative stresses a local evolutionary pathway whereby indigenous hunter-gatherers began to cultivate rice within Thailand. This dissertation is centred on the results of the excavation of Ban Non Wat, in the Upper Mun Valley of Northeast Thailand. This has provided one of the largest, best dated and provenanced samples of occupation and mortuary remains of a Neolithic community so far available in Southeast Asia. Its principal objective is to define the motifs incised, impressed and painted onto the surface of ceramic mortuary vessels, in order to permit a comparison with other assemblages first in Thailand, then in Southeast Asia north into China. It is held that if there are close parallels over a wide geographic area, in these motifs, then it would support a model of diffusion. If there are not, then the alternative of local origins would need to be examined closely. It is argued that the similarity in motifs, particularly a stylised human figure, between Thai and Vietnamese sites lends support to a common origin for these groups. The motifs are not so obvious when examining the southern Chinese data, although the mode of decoration by painting, incising and impressing recur there. This, in conjunction with mortuary rituals, weaving technology, the domestic dog, and the linguistic evidence, sustains a model for demic diffusion. However, the presence of ceramic vessels also decorated with impressed/incised techniques in maritime hunter-gatherer contexts stresses that the actual Neolithic settlement may have been more complex.
Advisor: Higham, Charles
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis