Prehistoric Thailand

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Part of a series on the
History of Thailand
1686 Map of Siam.
Sukhothai Kingdom
Ayutthaya Kingdom
Thonburi Kingdom
Rattanakosin Kingdom
Military period
Democratic period
Thailand portal

Prehistoric Thailand may be traced back as far as 2 years ago from the fossils and stone tools found in northern and western Thailand, an archaeological site in Lampang, northern Thailand. Homo erectus fossils, Lampang Man, dating back to between 1,000,000 – 500,000 years, have been discovered. Stone tools have been widely found in Kanchanaburi, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Lopburi etc. Many prehistoric cave-paintings have also been found in these regions, dating back 10,000 years.

2,500,000 - 10,000 years ago: Palaeolithic[edit]

Early Stone Age[edit]

The Lower Palaeolithic is the earliest subdivision of the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago, when the first craft and use of stone tools by hominids appears in the archaeological record, until around 120,000 years ago when important evolutionary and technological changes ushered in the Middle Palaeolithic.

Early species[edit]

The earliest hominids, known as Homo erectus and recognisable as human, appear in the archaeological record between 1,000,000 - 500,000 years ago. Locally typified by the fossil, Lampang Man.[citation needed]

About 1,000,000 years ago, Homo erectus moved on to Asia from Africa, where it had originated. Its use and control of fire was very important tool in its hunter-gatherer method of subsistence. Homo erectus's skull was smaller and thicker than that of modern human beings. It lived in the mouth of caves near streams or other water supplies. Its main natural enemies included the giant hyena Hyaena senesis, the sabre-toothed tiger, the orang-utan, and the giant panda.[citation needed][clarification needed]

In 1999, skull fragments of Homo erectus were found by Somsak Pramankit in Ko Kha, Lampang.[citation needed] It was comparable to the skull fossils of Sangiran II Man found in Java, (Java man), which is 400,000 - 800,000 years old, as well as Peking Man.[citation needed] Stone artefacts dating to 40,000 years ago have been found at Tham Lod Rockshelter in Mae Hong Son.[citation needed]

Relation to modern Thai people[edit]

Modern Thais are not descendants of Lampang Man. Genetic research supports this assertion. Geneticists have proved that there was no inter-breeding between modern human immigrants to Southeast Asia and Homo erectus,[1] affirming that the Thai descended from Africans in accordance with the Recent single-origin hypothesis.[2]

10,000 - 4,000 years ago: Neolithic[edit]

New Stone Age[edit]

The Neolithic or "New" Stone Age was a period in the development of human technology that is traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic era follows the terminal Holocene Epipalaeolithic periods, beginning with the rise of farming, which produced the "Neolithic Revolution" and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on geographical region.

Recent archaeological excavations suggests that domesticated rice was introduced to central Thailand by immigrating rice farming societies about 4000 B.P.[3]


Neolithic culture appeared in many parts of Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani and about 9000 BC. People pioneered wild cereal use, which then evolved into true farming. For peninsular Thailand evidence of rice agriculture exists from 2500 - 2200 B.P.[4] However, the possibility of an early presence of rice agriculture in southern-peninsular Thailand has recently been discussed by scholars [5]

Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of crops, both wild and domesticated, which included betel, bean, pea, nut, pepper, cucumber[6] and domesticated cattle and pigs. The establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.
In Southeast Asia, the independent domestication events led to their own regionally-distinctive Neolithic cultures which arose completely independent of those in other parts of the world.

Neolithic settlements in Thailand[edit]

View of the Khwae Noi River.
  • Spirit Cave

Spirit Cave (Thai: ถ้ำผีแมน) is an archaeological site in Pang Mapha district, Mae Hong Son Province, north-western Thailand. It was occupied from 9000 till 5500 BC by Hoabinhian hunter-gatherers from North Vietnam. The site is located at an elevation of 650 m. above sea level on a hillside overlooking the Salween River.

  • Lang Kamnan Cave

Lang Kamnan Cave is an archaeological site in Muang district, Kanchanaburi province, and is situated in a limestone upland, facing northeast and 110 m above sea level. the cave is about 4 km away from the Khwae Noi River. By analyzing the faunal remains in the cave, the cave is believed to be one of the many temporary camps of the seasonally mobile hunter-gatherers. And it was occupied from Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene.[7]

  • Wang Bhodi

Wang Bhodi (Thai: วังโพธิ) is an archaeological site in Saiyok district, Kanchanaburi Province, western Thailand. Dating from 4500 to 3000 BC. Since World War II, many stone tools have been found in the caves and along the rivers in this region.

  • Ban Chiang

Ban Chiang (Thai: บ้านเชียง) is an archaeological site located in Nong Han district, Udon Thani Province, Thailand. The dating of the artefacts using the thermoluminescence technique resulted in 4420 - 3400 BC. dates. The oldest graves found contain no bronze and are therefore from a Neolithic culture, the most recent ones are from the Iron Age.[8]

  • Khok Phanom Di

Khok Phanom Di. situated in southeast Thailand, which is near the flood plain of the Bang Pakong River in Chonburi Province. This site spanned from 2000-1500 BC. Seven mortuary phases were identified in the excavation, including 154 graves, yielding abundant archaeological remains, such as fish, crab, hearths, post holes,and the burials of adults and infants.[9] By analyzing the change in mortuary practices and the isotopes of strontium, carbon, and oxygen found within dental remains, archaeologists have examined the possibility of integration between an inland agriculture with the coastal hunter-gathers of Khok Phanom Di.[10] The isotopic studies showed that in earlier phases, the female inhabitants in the site were immigrants from both inland and coastal areas. While males were relatively raised locally. The immigrants might bring in new technologies along with them and became advanced potters that weighted a lot in the society. The localization of the immigrants occurred during phase 4 and later, with rice growing increased in the same period.[11]

  • Khao Rakian

Khao Rakian is located in Rhattaphum district, Songkhla Province, peninsular Thailand. The cave was excavated in 1986 by the Fine Arts Department and revealed Neolithic ceramics, stone tools and vast amounts of human skeletal remains.[5]

2,500 years ago: Bronze Age[edit]

Ban Chiang pottery in the Museum für Indische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem
An earthenware water buffalo from Lopburi, 2300 B.C.

Copper and Bronze Age[edit]

The Bronze Age was a period in the civilization's development when the most advanced metalworking consisted of techniques for smelting copper and tin from naturally occurring outcroppings of ore, and then alloying those metals in order to cast bronze. There are claims of an earlier appearance of tin bronze in Thailand in the 5th millennium BC.

The Bronze Age settlements in Thailand[edit]

  • Ban Chiang

In Ban Chiang, bronze artifacts have been discovered dating to 2100 BC. The earliest grave was about 2100 BC, the most recent about AD 200. The evidence of crucibles and bronze fragments have been found in this area. The bronze objects include ornaments, spearheads, axes and adzes, hooks, blades, and little bells.[8]

1,700 years ago: Iron Age[edit]

The Iron Age was the stage in the development of any people in which tools and weapons whose main ingredient was iron were prominent. People made tools from bronze before they figured out how to make them from iron because iron's melting point is higher than that of bronze or its components. The adoption of this material coincided with other changes in some past societies, often including differing agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles, although this was not always the case.
Archaeological sites in Thailand, such as None Nok Tha, Lopburi Artillery center, Ong Ba Cave and Ban Don Ta Phet show iron implements in the period between 3,400 - 1,700 years ago

The Iron Age settlements in Thailand[edit]

  • None Nok Tha

None Nok Tha (Thai: โนนนกทา) is an archaeological site in Phu Wiang district, Khon Kaen Province, northeastern Thailand. Dating from 1420 till 50 BC.

  • Lopburi Artillery center

Lopburi Artillery center (Thai: ศูนย์กลางทหารปืนใหญ่) is an archaeological site in Mueang district, Lopburi Province, northeastern Thailand. Dating from 1225 till 700 BC.

  • Ong Ba Cave

Ong Ba Cave (Thai: องบะ) is an archaeological site in Sri Sawat district, Kanchanaburi Province, western Thailand. Dating from 310 till 150 BC.

  • Ban Don Ta Phet

Ban Don Ta Phet (Thai: บ้านดอนตาเพชร) is an archaeological site in Phanom Thuan district, Kanchanaburi Province, western Thailand. Dating from 24 BC till 276 AD. Many artifacts found in a 4th-century cemetery provide evidence of trade relations with India, Vietnam and the Philippines. Such artifacts include flat hexagonal shaped carnelians, small stone figurines of lions and tigers, and various metallic vessels.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mapping human history p.130-131.
  2. ^ Multiregional or single origin.
  3. ^ Higham, C.F.W. and T. Higham. 2009. A New chronological framework for prehistoric Southeast Asia based on a Bayesian model from Ban Non Wat. Antiquity 83: 125-144.
  4. ^ Stargardt, J. 1983. Satingpra I: The Environmental and Economic Archaeology of South Thailand. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (BAR) in association with ISEAS, Singapore
  5. ^ a b Lekenvall, Henrik. "Late Stone Age Communities in the Thai-Malay Peninsula." Journal of Indo-Pacific Archaeology 32 (2012): 78-86.
  6. ^ Gorman C. (1971) The Hoabinhian and After: Subsistence Patterns in Southeast Asia during the Late Pleistocene and Early Recent Periods. World Archaeology 2: 300-320
  7. ^ Shoocongdej, R. 2010. Subsistence-Settlement Organisation During the Late Pleistocene - Early Holocene: the Case of Lang Kamnan Cave, Western Thailand. In: B Bellina, EA Bacus and TO Pryce (eds). 50 Years of Archaeology in South East Asia: Essays in Honour of Ian Glover. River Book, Bankok. pp.51-66.
  8. ^ a b Charles Higham (archaeologist)|Higham, Charles, Prehistoric Thailand, ISBN 974-8225-30-5, pp.84-88.
  9. ^ Halcrow, S., Tayles, N., Inglis, R., Higham, C., & Carver, M. (2012). Newborn twins from prehistoric mainland Southeast Asia: birth, death and personhood.Antiquity, 86(333).
  10. ^ Bentley RA, Tayles N, Higham C, Macpherson C and Atkinson TC 2007. Shifting Gender Relations at Khok Phanom Di, Thailand. Current Anthropology 48(2)
  11. ^ Bentley, R. A., Tayles, N., Higham, C., Macpherson, C., & Atkinson, T. C. (2007). Shifting gender relations at Khok Phanom Di, Thailand. Current Anthropology, 48(2), 301-314.
  12. ^ Glover, I. C., & Bellina, B. (2011). Ban Don Ta Phet and Khao Sam Kaeo: The Earliest Indian Contacts Re-assessed. Early Interactions Between South and Southeast Asia: Reflections on Cross-cultural Exchange, 2, 17.

9.Halcrow, S., Tayles, N., Inglis, R., Higham, C., & Carver, M. (2012). Newborn twins from prehistoric mainland Southeast Asia: birth, death and personhood.Antiquity, 86(333).

External links[edit]