SOUTHEAST ASIA'S FIRST ISOTOPICALLY DEFINED PREHISTORIC COPPER PRODUCTION SYSTEM: WHEN DID EXTRACTIVE METALLURGY BEGIN IN THE KHAO WONG PRACHAN VALLEY OF CENTRAL THAILAND?

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Abstract

Southeast Asian metallurgical developments have been a focus of international academic interest since Solheim (1968) and Bayard (1972) first published bronze artefacts in claimed early/middle third millennium bce contexts from northeastern Thailand, igniting a regional ‘origins’ of metallurgy debate that has smouldered for 40 years (e.g., White and Hamilton 2009, Higham in press). In this paper, we present the results of a lead isotope pilot study centred on the Khao Wong Prachan Valley of central Thailand—currently Southeast Asia's only documented prehistoric copper smelting locale. These preliminary data indicate that our ongoing regional metal exchange research programme may be able to elucidate interaction networks between copper-producing and -consuming societies within and beyond Southeast Asia from c. 2000 bce to c. 500 ce. Furthermore, we are able to offer tentative evidence relevant to White and Hamilton's (2009) ‘Rapid Eurasian Technological Expansion Model’ for the Sino-Siberian derivation of regional metal technologies around the turn of the third/second millennium bce.

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