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Ref ID: 28317
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Bellina, Bérénice
Glover, Ian C.
Title: The earliest iconographic and archaeological evidence for animal and cultural transfers between South and Southeast Asia
Date: 2009
Source: Bibliothèque de l'école des hautes études. Sciences historiques et philologiques
Place of Publication: Paris
Publisher: Champion
Notes: Penser, dire et représenter l'animal dans le monde indien Proceedings of a conference organized by l'université Paris-3 and CNRS
Abstract: At Ban Don Ta Phet, four seasons of excavations were undertaken
two by the Thai Fine Arts Department and two jointly by the F.A.D. and the Institute of Archaeology, University of London. Together these excavations unearthed about one hundred richly furnished burials containing finely produced bronze and iron artefacts demonstrating high levels of craftsmanship, as well as glass and semiprecious stone jewelry much of which has different and exotic origins. Although little investigated in comparison with the central and north-eastern regions, West-Central Thailand is very rich in archaeological sites especially of the late prehistoric and protohistoric periods containing evidence for metallurgical activities, especially iron making, tin mining, and smelting (Bennett and Glover 1992: 187-189). This region, which is accessible by river, clearly played a significant role in early exchanges with Burma and South Asia. It is also situated along major land trade routes across the Tenasserim mountains from Burma, especially through the Three Pagoda Pass. Secondly, it lies close to the rich tin belt which extends from North Burma through western Malaysia to Bangka and Billiton, the tin islands of Indonesia, covering a distance of more than 3000 km. Although South Asia has its own small deposits of tin, we know it is deficient. Even at such an early date, it is likely that tin was one of the major South Asia imports from Southeast Asia as it has been in historical periods. This mineral wealth and geographical location might help to explain the richness of burials at Ban Don Ta Phet which contained many exotic goods that were interpreted as status markers (Figure 2). Indeed it is worth mentioning here that in the course of the last millennium B.C., many societies in Mainland Southeast Asia underwent major social restructuring that partly can be related to the increasing levels of exchange in valuable products and the control of these by certain communities or lineages. Although intra-regional exchange networks are already in evidence in the Southeast Asian Bronze Age, they really expanded through the Iron Age (Higham 2002). By the end of this period, regional East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian exchange networks interconnected (Glover 1996
Bellina and Glover 2004). For those Southeast Asian societies involved in these trade networks, the increasing demands and contacts they generated appear to have been a catalyst for inner social restructuring. Exotic goods or technologies now came from various horizons of Asia such as Dong Son drums from South China and northern Vietnam, ornaments made of nephrite of possible Taiwanese origin (Hung et al. 2006) and some glass and semiprecious stone ornaments whose raw materials and/or technologies came from India (Bellina 2003, 2007). These exotic goods could have been used to mark salient identities, affiliations or connections inside social groups or between them (Figure 3). The Ban Don Ta Phet burials reflect these changes. They yielded evidence for regional contacts as well as the first reliable and clearly identifiable evidence so far excavated of cultural interactions with South Asia. In this respect Ban Don Ta Phet is typical of the social processes occurring in the Iron Age. In this paper, firstly it is shown how the earliest artistic representations of animals are related to the earliest evidence of cultural interactions with South Asia
secondly, it is argued that these representations might have been a means to define status in those restructuring societies involved in exchange. The growth of regional exchange mentioned above is shown in the Ban Don Ta Phet burials by artefacts from different Southeast Asian origins such as the bicephalous Sa Huynh ornament (Figure 4) and nephrite slotted earrings, probably also from Viet Nam which most probably marked the status of their wearers. These ornaments link Thailand with the Sa Huynh trading communities of Central and Southern coastal Vietnam, with northern Vietnam and China. Interactions with South Asia are demonstrated in the Ban Don Ta Phet burials by two types of evidence
these are firstly artefacts made in India and directly imported, mainly glass and stone ornaments and, secondly, indianised items, in which Indian elements were locally reinterpreted. These consist of locally made artefacts which have been inspired by, or copied from Indian models. At Ban Don Ta Phet these are represented by bronze vessels, some of the glass ornaments and probably some of the iron tools
especially a distinctive type of socketed billhook commonly found in Bengal but unknown elsewhere in Southeast Asia (Glover 1990a: 160-165).
Date Created: 11/19/2013
Editors: Balbir, Nalini
Pinault, Geoge-Jean
Volume: 345
Page Start: 383
Page End: 401
Series Title: Bibliothèque de l'école des hautes études. Sciences historiques et philologiques