- Ban Chiang, Northeast Thailand, vol. 2C: The Metal Remains in Regional Context ed. by Joyce C. White and Elizabeth G. Hamilton
The third volume of the Thai Archaeology Monograph (TAM) Series on the metal remains at Ban Chiang provides important interpretations of the metal evidence within a regional social context. This edited volume presents substantive contributions from multiple scholars on copper mining and smelting from Thailand and Laos, provenance research on artifacts from the sites of Ban Chiang and Dan Klang, and a thorough regional synthesis of metal technology systems in Northeast and Central Thailand. This corpus of work presented by the authors supports the theory that there was a maintenance of regional economic networks with communit-based, nonhierarchical, social organization of production in these metal age societies.
The introduction (chapter 1) by Joyce White succinctly describes the outcomes of this research showcasing a regional, culturally specific view of metal production, distribution, and consumption. Chapter 2 by Vincent Piggott reviews prehistoric copper mining and smelting in Southeast Asia using evidence from Thailand and Laos. This contribution provides a comprehensive review of the evidence for early copper mining and smelting in Northeast (Phu Lon complex in the greater Loei region) and Central (Khao Wong Prachan Valley) Thailand and Sepon in Lao [End Page 462] PDR. Given the extensive nature of these sites, it is concluded that they were the likely ore sources for these basins, if not for the entirety of Southeast Asia during the late second to first millennia b.c. Using the model suggested by Tucci and colleagues (2014) for the relationship between socio-political power and mining activity, Pigott argues that mining was conducted in these areas following the community-based consumption model within heterarchical contexts, although Sepon mining may have been influenced by dynastic China from as early as the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, throughout the Qin and Han dynasties, and into the remainder of the first millennium a.d.
In chapter 3, T. O. Pryce presents sourcing data from copper-based artifacts from Ban Chiang and Don Klang. Here, provenance information concerning production and consumption is investigated through the geochemical characterization of the metals, using elemental compositional data and lead isotopic analyses for the regions and a range of archaeological artifact types. The results show that prehistoric sites obtained their metals from a number of different networks that are inconsistent with the Phu Lon production signature, as previously thought by White and Pigott (1996). These production and consumption network findings are nevertheless consistent with the proposed general model of riverine metal supply networks in the region (White and Pigott 1996). Sepon is the only identified source of copper used to produce the artifacts at Ban Chiang during its early period, perhaps as early as 1000 b.c. The results of further metalwork sourcing research (currently underway) will help tease out answers to questions about metal consumption across the region.
In chapter 4, Elizabeth Hamilton and Joyce White provide an extensive compilation and synthesis of English language publications on metal production and consumption in prehistoric northern Northeast Thailand. This chapter fully contextualizes this work within the wider regional context of southern Northeast and Central Thailand to assess regional patterns of social growth and interaction. Metal analyses of artifacts from these excavations have revealed that, although the products are different between the Upper Mun River Valley and northern Northeast Thailand, there are similarities in the casting tradition. For example, the finds of lagged spouted crucible pieces and several metalworking hearths show that such final metal products were cast locally. Although there is little published literature on the topic of metalwork in Central Thailand, the reviewed data suggest there were variable forms and metal compositions, with copper appearing to be the focus of metal production in Central Thailand compared with tin bronze in Northeast Thailand throughout the sequence; the authors argue that this...