A 4 metre by 20 metre trench was excavated as well as 4 by 4 metre test pit. The stratigraphic record revealed by these excavations is one of the most spectacular and important in the upper Mun Valley.
The uppermost layer in the sequence is dominated by historic occupation. Ceramics from the Khmer and Sukhothai periods, as well as Chinese trade wares, were found in association with the remains of wooden and clay structures.
Below the historic period deposits we found a long and unparalled prehistoric sequence. Our test pit revealed strong evidence for Iron Age domestic and industrial structures, while our main excavation unit was dominated in this period by votive and mortuary activity, including a series of infant jar burials.
Below the Iron Age deposit we revealed a Bronze Age cemetery with significant parallels to nearby Ban Lum Khao. While the analysis is still in a preliminary stage, it appears that there were several phases of Bronze Age mortuary activity, denoted by the distinctive Prasat Phase mortuary ceramics. At a depth of over 4 metres below the surface of the mound we found one of the largest burials ever seen in Southeast Asia. Over five metres in length, and containing nearly 30 pots, the complete exposure of this incredible interment remains a priority for the next excavation season.
We also found strong evidence for Bronze Age industry, including a clear living surface associated with artefacts and a number of bronze furnaces. Evidence for bronze production is very strong at this site, and will form a focus of our continiung investigations. Directly beneath the Prasat Phase interments, an intruiging phase of very early Bronze Age occupation and mortuary activity was revealed. These burials were found with globular painted pots quite different from the 'Prasat' vessels, and many were associated with large bivalve shells. This evidence for a distinctive early Bronze Age culture is extremely important, as it may yield crucial data regarding the emergence of the Bronze Age in the upper Mun Valley.
The Neolithic period in the upper Mun Valley is extremely rare. Previously, it was known only from 2 sites; Ban Tamyae and Ban Lum Khao. It both cases, the Neolithic remains were restricted to pits filled with distinctive black incised Tamyae Phase ceramics. At Ban Non Wat, beneath the Bronze Age deposit, we revealed terminal Neolithic burials and structural remains. One of these burials (b28) stands as one of the most spectacular mortuary contexts known from prehistoric Thailand. This interment comprises an adult human being, holding a miniature pot in his hand, placed within a gigantic upright pottery vessel. The analysis of this material has not yet been completed, but it does promise an entirely new understanding of the Neolithic occupation of this area.
It is our intention to return to Ban Non Wat in late 2002 or early 2003. This site has furnished one of the most complete and lengthy prehistoric records in Thailand yet we have only barely begun to scratch the surface. Further investigations will focus on a number of crucial factors; the detailed Iron Age domestic record, the Neolithic occupation, and an assessment of intrasite variation and micro-level settlement patterns through time.
This research was partially funded by Earthwatch and its Research Corps, by the Marsden Fund and by the University of Otago Asian Studies Emerging Research Theme.
Ban Non Wat Burial 28, an adult jar burial of terminal Neolithic/ early
Bronze Age date.
Earthwatch volunteer Gita Menon and a reconstructed Prasat Phase burial
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