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  • Hill of Prosperity: Excavations at Khok Charoen, Thailand: A Burial Site at the Stone-Metal Junction by Helmut Loofs-Wissowa, and: The Pottery of Khok Charoen, Thailand: An Illustrated, Structured Catalogue of Prehistoric Ceramic Finds from the Site by Helmut Loofs-Wissowa
  • Joyce White
Hill of Prosperity: Excavations at Khok Charoen, Thailand: A Burial Site at the Stone-Metal Junction. Helmut Loofs-Wissowa. BAR International Series 2844. Oxford: BAR Publishing, 2017. 486 pp. Paperback £88, ISBN: 9781407315065.
The Pottery of Khok Charoen, Thailand: An Illustrated, Structured Catalogue of Prehistoric Ceramic Finds from the Site. Helmut Loofs-Wissowa. BAR International Series 2918. Oxford: BAR Publishing, 2019. 197 pp., 44 tables, 18 b&w illustrations, 3 photographs, 3 maps, 3 diagrams. Paperback £47.00, ISBN: 9781407316796

This is the belated final report of excavations carried out almost fifty years ago at the site of Khok Charoen ("Hill of Prosperity") in the northeastern corner of Central Thailand. These excavations were done in a pioneering spirit, with considerable enthusiasm, by a small team with a modest budget, little field experience in Southeast Asian conditions and using methods and techniques adequate at the time but now perhaps seen as somewhat antiquated.

—Helmut Loofs-Wissowa (2017, p. xxviii)

These two BAR International Series volumes (2844 and 2918) constitute the final report for one of a handful of seminal collaborative international excavations undertaken in Thailand in the 1960s. The site of Khok Charoen in Lopburi Province was one focus of what started as a Thai-British research project that morphed into a Thai-British-Australian program as the lead players shifted over time. That program, along with Thai collaborations with the Danish in Kanchanaburi Province, with the University of Pennsylvania in Nakhon Sawan Province, and with the University of Hawai'i in the Khon Kaen and Maehongson provinces, set a course for investigating Thai and even Southeast Asian prehistoric archaeology that still reverberates among the region's archaeological investigations of today. Loofs-Wissowa passed away before the pottery volume (2019) was quite complete, so John Crocker finished the manuscript. The field must feel deep gratitude toward Loofs-Wissowa for having seen through a rich publication of this important site during his lifetime.

Even though data quality and presentation in these volumes will strike readers as some combination of quaint, reflexive, and not up to today's standards, these are nevertheless important volumes for archaeologists who seek an in-depth understanding of Thailand's prehistory and for historians of culture heritage studies who strive to grasp the historiography of mainland Southeast Asia. The thinking and methodologies of these early archaeological programs, which sought to fill in an almost completely unknown prehistoric picture for a not-insignificant but little studied part of the world, are fascinating in their own right as they document an intellectual legacy and foundation upon which current archaeological research still stands. In addition, the volumes present a wealth of detail, including hundreds of artifactual and contextual illustrations and descriptions, plus many photographs of burials and finds, that will facilitate the study of central Thailand's prehistoric record in comparative perspective for years to come.

The site itself is an example of mixed mortuary-occupation sites that characterize the premetal agrarian and metal age period of Thailand. For reasons of preservation and expediency, the attention of most excavators of these sites has usually focused on human burials and their grave goods. However, like other reports of so-called cemetery sites, the report also mentions occupation evidence such as postholes, sherds, fauna, and other finds not associated with burials.

These volumes give a clearer sense of the cultural sequence and taphonomic conditions of Khok Charoen than has hitherto been available. The subtitle of the main volume, [End Page 459] "A Burial Site at the Stone-Metal Junction" (2017), is in my view an accurate characterization of the bulk of the period represented in the burial evidence. Four seasons of excavation in different parts of the site resulted in four units named Khok Charoen (KC) I to IV. However, analysis has placed KC III as the oldest unit, KC II at the end of the sequence, and KC I was combined with KC IV in the...


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