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Ref ID: 37206
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Higham, C. F. W.
Cawte, H.
Title: Bronze metallurgy in Southeast Asia with particular reference to Northeast Thailand
Date: 2021
Source: Journal of World Prehistory
Abstract: The long-awaited definitive chronology for the period from the initial use of bronze metallurgy to the end of the Iron Age on the Khorat Plateau of Northeast Thailand has received near universal acceptance. In this review, we trace how bronze was deployed, and assess its social impact from the late Neolithic communities that first encountered metal to the civilization of Angkor. We identify eight phases that, for the prehistoric period, centred on the anchor site of Ban Non Wat, beginning in the eleventh century BC with imported copper axes and the opening of the first mines and associated smelting sites. This was followed in the second and third phases of the Bronze Age by a dramatic increase in mortuary wealth in the graves of social aggrandizers. After about eight generations, bronzes were locally cast in bivalve moulds. However, no further elite burials were found and bronze mortuary offerings were very rare. From about 400 BC, the opening of seaborne exchange networks, the establishment of dynastic China and climatic change then stimulated marked regionality. On the Khorat Plateau, many more bronzes were interred with the dead, but casting activity in the consumer sites declined. In the early centuries AD, increased aridity stimulated an agricultural revolution as sites were ringed by reservoirs and wet rice was grown in ploughed fields. This was accompanied by a surge in the range and number of bronzes with the new social elite that within a century led to the formation of early states. The new royalty now sponsored bronze statues, leading directly on to the dynastic foundries of Angkor, when massive bronzes reflected royal divinity.
Volume: 34
Page Start: 1
Page End: 46