With support from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Vincent Pigott and his colleagues will conduct three seasons of archaeological excavation at sites in the Khao Wong Prachan Valley in central Thailand. Preliminary work by Dr. Pigott and his Thai collaborator in this valley has shown that it contains an unusual group of culturally and technologically related copper production and habitation sites ranging in date from the mid-third millennium B.C. to the early first millennium A.D. Among the largest prehistoric metal production sites known in Asia, they offer a unique opportunity to study the technology and organization of large-scale copper production -- as a continuum from mine to finished product -- within its sociocultural context. During each year of the project one site will be excavated. The data thus collected will permit the team to establish a relative chronology which will then be fixed with radiocarbon dates. They will also allow explication of the local settlement pattern as it developed over time. Finally, excavation and laboratory analysis will permit reconstruction of the local processes of copper production. This will be achieved in part through metallurgical analysis and process replication in the laboratory. The central Thailand sites are of archaeological interest because they are so unusual. Over the last two decades considerable scholarly attention has focussed on the origins and development of metallurgy across the Old World. This has indicated that the introduction of bronze metallurgy is associated with a complex of social, political, and economic developments which mark the rise of the state. In Southeast Asia, however, the sociocultural context in which early copper and bronze metallurgy developed does not appear to include evidence for urban centers or a state- like political structure. It is in this light that Dr. Pigott's research assumes its primary significance. This research is important for several reasons. First, it will provide information on the interaction between technology and the development of social complexity. It challenges traditional ideas about the association between these variables. Secondly, it will increase our knowledge about a part of the world which, from an archaeological perspective, is relatively unknown.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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John E. Yellen
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University of Pennsylvania
United States
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