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Discovery of Ramanya Desa: History, Identity, Culture, Language and Performing Arts 10-13 October 2007, Chulalongkorn University

Bangkok Thailand Session 10 Day 2, October 11 2007: Reinvestigating Ramanya Desa: Pre-Modern State and Cities in Lower Burma and Siam (Symposium)

Topic: Trade, Culture and Society amongst the early Mon polities, 200AD-800AD Helen James

Abstract: Archaeological discoveries over the past few decades attest to the presence of social complexity and early urban formations along the river banks and in the floodplains of the Chao Phraya, Tha Chin, and Pasak river basins since at least the later iron age. Cultural artifacts, many of Buddhist or international origin testify to their intra-regional, inter-regional and international linkages. Their socio-economic networks suggest that early Thailand hosted a series of incipient city states rather than one over-arching polity known as Dvaravati. This paper examines the evidence for this view and the linkages of Funan-era and post-Funan era city states both intraregionally and internationally between 200AD and 800AD. I suggest that as Funan began to disintegrate in the sixth century, the emerging Dvaravati polity in early Thailand, on the evidence of the archaeological remains, may have been one based on Theravada Buddhist cultural and economic affinities, rather than territorial control. ______________________________________________________________________ Introduction Extensive archaeological research in the past few decades has established that the geographical area now known as Thailand hosted hierarchic patterns of settlement reflecting early state formation in the millennia preceding emergence of the classical empires of mainland Southeast Asia in the ninth and tenth centuries AD. These hierarchic patterns of early settlements occur across wide areas of the Mun and Chi river basins on the Korat Plateau and around Maharsarakham in northeast Thailand; and in central, southern, and western Thailand. They preceded Funan and survived its

disintegration in the 6th century AD. Some of them from the 6th to 9th centuries AD formed a loose cultural federation based on Buddhist cultural practices known from the Chinese dynastic records as To-lo-po-ti or Dvaravati; others exhibited Hinduised cultural traits. Altogether, the sum of these researches demonstrates that the area was populated by various peoples and cultures since pre-historic times; and that the Tai-Lao peoples were probably inhabiting the regions north of the Mun-Chi basin since at least early proto-historic times, whilst the Mon-Khmer peoples were settled in the areas south of the Mun-Chi basin, on the Korat Plateau and around the head of the Gulf of Siam. The transformation of these sub-urban regional traditions into urbanized 'states' or 'city states' was once thought to have been a result of external forces such as 'Indianization' - the transfer of Indian cultural influences either through immigrants/colonizers or traders in the second century AD - or passively received stimuli from overseas trade networks. In correcting this extreme view, scholars then adopted the position that the rise of social complexity among the iron age muang came about as a result of both internal dynamics and external cultural contacts. Both Vallibhotama ( 1984;1992 ) and Dhida Saraya (1989; 1992) argue that this view fails to give adequate recognition to the system of interdependent linkages underpinning the social, cultural, economic and political interactions of the pre- and proto-historic settlements. Thus Dhida Saraya (1992) argues that these pre-urban centres did not develop in isolation from each other; and that the strength of their internal relationships not only conditioned their interactions with the external influences, India and China, as well as the Middle East and the Austronesian world, but also with the new political entities, Funan and Chenla in the Mekong Basin,

Lin-yi and Champa in central Vietnam, and the early city states of the Irrawaddy and Chao Phraya basins.

In the first part of this paper I discuss the evidence for the patterns of early hierarchic settlements in the Mun-Chi river basin and on the Korat Plateau. In the second part I discuss the emergent city states of U-Thong, Sri Thep and Sri Chanasa; and in the final section the Funan-Dvaravati dynamic as it interacted with the city states of the Peninsula world, a world that belonged to both mainland and island Southeast Asia.

In taking this approach I am responding to the detailed examination of the concept of an early Mon kingdom, Ramannyadesa, in Lower Burma by my colleague, Professor Michael Aung-Thwin; and his finely argued thesis that this was a fifteenth century construct; that the alleged conquest of a Mon kingdom at Thaton in 1057 by Aniruddha of Pagan is legend and allegory; and that the conquest was an imagined event (AungThwin, 2005) which should be interpreted allegorically rather than literally. Approaching the subject from the other end of the spectrum, I have examined the evidence for Mon settlements, incipient states and city states, in a broad spectrum from the North East of modern day Thailand to the western regions close to the present day Myanmar border. This evidence seems consistent with Professor Aung-Thwins research that Lower Burma in the proto-historic period, was not a significant locus of Mon settlement. Accordingly, in this paper I refer to what Pamela Gutman has called the westward drift of Mon culture from NE to SW in the period under examination. Moreover, I would like to suggest the possibility that such westward drift should

perhaps not be seen in a linear mode; but in a circular one, that is, as the patterns of settlement changed and economic interactions impacted on the sites in the central Chao Phraya basin, there may have been a converse or return movement of cultural influences and perhaps people as well from some of the central settlements towards those of the northeast on the Korat Plateau.

PART 1 The early Moated Settlements in the Mun and Chi River Basins during the protohistoric period

Here, I want to focus on the work of Elizabeth Moore, Srisak Vallibhotama and Dhida Saraya. Elizabeth Moore (1990) identified more than 100 moated settlements in the Mun and Chi River basins in Northeast Thailand using the collection of aerial photographs in the Williams-Hunt collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. 1 She distinguished these sites from the rectangular temple enceintes and reservoirs of the later Korat Khmer period of the 9th - 13th century AD which are considered to have a primarily ceremonial purpose. On the contrary, the moated settlements of the Mun and Chi River basins feature a moat-round-moat sectional profile, the base of each mound being surrounded by a moat, and each moat bounded by one or two earthworks. Vegetation grows around the crests of the earthworks which follow the natural contours of the mound. Each moated site thus seems an integral and natural part of the local topography. Far from having a ceremonial purpose, these moated earthworks appear to be intended for the very utilitarian purpose of conserving water during the four month hot dry season in the northeast (Moore, 1990: 201).

These are some 5000 prints taken at the end of World War II of an area covering Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Malaya and the Nicobar Islands and the Angkorian culture of Cambodia. Since they were taken before the inroads of urban development disturbed the archaeological remains during the past decades, they provide valuable evidence of a culturally cohesive complex in the area from present day Nakorn Ratchasima to Sisaket during the period 1000BC - 1000AD.

Using both nearest neighbour and rank-size analysis on a core group of 80, Moore concluded that the Mun Basin moated sites were chosen for their proximity to local hydrology and terrain, and not by the constraints of internal political networks, or external strategic or trade considerations. She suggests that they could be the result of a long period of evolution in a well-populated region of relatively uniform natural resources. The culture appears to have developed laterally rather than vertically with new elements incorporated in, and co-existing with the old (Moore, 1986: 204). The sites appear to be distributed at random and clustered on the Roi-Et soil group on land moderately suited for wet rice cultivation. They range in area from one to sixty eight hectares.

Based on a ground survey, Moore calculated that each moat had a minimum depth of two metres of water when fully operational. She considers this estimate

consistent with evidence from inscriptions and Tai legends which record that the moats were dug to the depth of an elephant. If a minimum of half of the available water were sluiced into the surrounding fields, Moore calculated that each surface hectare of moat area could provide one hectare metre - 10,000 cubic metres - of irrigation water. Thus an average site with a 23 hectare mound surrounded by a 40 metre wide moat could provide seven hectare metres or 70,000 cubic metres of irrigation water. If a minimum of 1.5 hectare metres of water is required for a dry-season crop, and the average yield per hectare of broadcast rice is 1333.8 kg, assuming that average consumption is 179kg per person per year, then Moore calculates that the average moat could produce 6,135 kilograms of rice, or sufficient for 34 adults for a year. Given the size and distribution of the moated settlements, Moore suggests that the moats were used to irrigate rice fields and that the increased water supply, even if not available throughout the entire year, could have fostered agricultural development, new rice strains and occupational differentiation. She notes that four occupational zones similar to those identified by Adams (1966) in Mesopotamia, are identifiable in the area bounded by the Mun River basin moated settlements. Thus the location of the moated sites in the midst of rice fields suggests that the contiguous areas were habitually used for rice cultivation; the elevated parts of the mound were used to support upland crops such as corn and tapioca

including the millet mentioned by Ma Tuan-lin. Fruit orchards, bananas and bamboo for house and tool construction also probably grew on these earthwork areas. Thirdly, the encircling moats provided protected areas for animal husbandry - cattle and pigs. Fourthly within the moats varieties of fish, molluscs, frogs and prawns, plant and animal food were harvested. Whilst Moore acknowledges that the moats could have served in a defensive capacity, their vulnerability during the extended dry season would preclude defense being their primary purpose.

These naturally moated sites are usually located on the floodplain flanked by a permanent river on one side, with marshes or seasonal rivers on the other, leading to waterpooling in the marshy area forming a moat to supply domestic and agricultural requirements. One such site is at Ban Prasat in Nakorn Ratchasima province. Over time, the earthworks on some of the mounds increased leading Moore to distinguish three types - minimally (<50%), partly (50-80%) and fully (>80%) architectured sites. Significantly, she correlates this growth in architectural complexity with a locational shift from the floodplain to low and upper riverine terraces. This shift was also marked by a growth in the number of additions, reaching eight, made to the earthworks encircling the moat. Based on an analysis of the distribution of the more complexly architectured sites, she suggests that the group on the Lam Plai Mat represents the developmental apex of a culture which responded to population pressures by moving onto the river terraces where the more complex moated settlements could take advantage of the greater protection from flood damage. Here on the river terraces, new

opportunities presented themselves for exploitation of additional resources in the shape of salt, wood, laterite and water.

From evidence of slag found in many of the Mun and Chi basin sites surveyed in 1983 by Srisakra Vallibhotama, it is believed that the moated settlements on the terrace sites were part of the iron age developments in this area. The people here used the laterite for construction purposes, built semas, traded the salt, and smelted iron. Tools, resins and building materials came from the trees; and the socio-cultural complex made extensive use of the water resources for domestic purposes, for agriculture, harvesting of

flora and fauna, and defence. Moore acknowledges that further identification of social structures needs to await excavation of specific artefacts from the larger moated sites which range up to 25 hectares; nevertheless it could be surmised that the construction of the complex multi-tiered moats required a certain amount of cooperative labour organisation, if not a definite form of social hierarchy. The extent and contiguity of the moated sites in three groups in the Mun and Chi River basins - the Phimai group, the Nakorn Ratchasima group and the Lam Plai Mat group - suggest the presence of chiefdoms (Bayard, 1984: 163, Wheatley, 1983: 90) among these wet rice, metal making socio-cultural complexes.

In a similar study of moated settlements on the floodplain of the lower Mun and Chi River basins, Srisakra Vallibhotama identified 36 sites where iron smelting was an integral part of the technocomplex. At a large moated settlement in Amphoe Chumpon Buri, Surin province, an iron smelting site on the same mound as a burial ground was found enabling stratigraphic excavation in which iron slag was found associated with burial pots of a tradition dating back to about 1000BC. Vallibhotama is of the view that iron-smelting here played a significant role in the evolution of socio-cultural specialization among these settlements. Since the amount of iron smelting seems to exceed local need, it has been suggested that it may have either been stimulated by, or been part of, an economic network in which iron implements were traded to other regions. Vallibhotama linked the development of the moated settlements in this area with the rise of iron smelting technocomplexes (Vallibhotama, 1984: 125). In terms of increasing social complexity, Vallibhotama further linked those moated settlements which have double or triple moats with those of larger size fortified by moats and earthworks such as the ones on the southern bank of the Mun river - Ban Pakiam, Ban Dong Phong, Ban Khok Muang and Ban Thung Wang. In the Lam Phang Su area west of Lam Phlapphla, he identifies another group of moated settlements, considered to exhibit elements of sophisticated planning and structures, as fortified settlements of a larger size indicating a greater concentration of population. These settlements are Ban Muang Su, Ban Saen Si, Ban Yawuk, Ban Han Hai, Ban Muang Kwang and Muang Phutthai Song. This group of settlements appears to be closely linked by a network of

roads and canals - transport and communication facilities - which he believes suggest an economic and political relationship amongst the group of settlements. Vallibhotama therefore suggests that one of the settlements may have been the centre exercising a degree of organizational control and perhaps political centralization across the group (1984: 126). From his analysis of several groups of both moated and unmoated

settlements, their varying sizes, locations, and developmental complexity which gave rise to fortified settlements in the low terraces of the Korat basin, Vallibhotama considers that communities organized as chiefdoms were present in the floodplain of the Mun and Chi river basins during the proto-historic period coinciding with the exploitation of iron smelting technology. Analysis of settlement patterns of this socio-cultural complex by David Welch (1984) also favours the evolution of

around the Phimai region

chiefdoms and the development of economic and political hierarchies in this region based on wet rice agriculture during the late prehistoric period. The findings of Moore and Vallibhothama are consistent with that of Kijngam and Higham (1980) who showed that the larger moated settlements ranged from 20 to over 35 hectares in size, and were characterised by iron working, an expanding population, plough cultivation of permanent fields, and participation in interregional and international exchange networks characterized by the importation of exotic glass and stone beads. Both Kennedy (1977)

and Wheatley (1983) argued for an integrated development of later and earlier sociocultural structures rather than displacement of the earlier by the later. The overall pattern of increasing diversity in the late prehistoric and early proto-historic eras led to a variety of societies and cultures each in their own environmental eco-niches, but interdependent and interacting with each other in a series of reciprocal exchange networks.

The Iron Age Muang As suggested by White (1986: 127), iron was probably present in the Ban Chiang complex from 500BC, a dating with which Bronson (1992) and Higham (1998) concur. Although the exact date for commencement of the iron age in Southeast Asia is still debated, there is archaeological evidence from a number of sites in northeast Thailand in the Songkhram, Mun and Chi River Basins, the Korat Plateau, and in the lower Chao Phraya valley that iron smelting was carried on here from at least the middle of the first

millennium BC.

Higham (1989) has shown that iron and lead sources are very

widespread in mainland Southeast Asia particularly in these river basins; laterite is also widespread in northeast Thailand. Whilst iron-working was taking place in both China and India from about 600BC and iron-casting had developed in China by 300BC, it is not clear whether iron smelting in early Thailand was a local development, or in response to earlier contacts. As Higham (1989) has asked, the question is whether the iron-using centres in Southeast Asia had already developed skill in iron metallurgy before the first Indian and Chinese contacts, or whether such initial contacts stimulated their development. It is generally agreed, that whatever the details of the process, the iron age muang of northeast Thailand, and the basins of the Chao Phraya and Ban Pakong rivers give evidence of increasing socio-cultural complexity and possibly of a move to centralization in adoption of an element of structured political organization. Moore (1986) in her examination of the moated settlements in the Mun and Chi river valleys considered that the larger moated sites such as that at Muang Fa Daed have ceremonial and defensive functions quite distinct from that of the much smaller hydraulically derived moated settlements of the earlier Bronze Age. It is clear that by at least 500BC and possibly earlier, the pattern of life in the Bronze Age ban was being substantially altered. Whether these far reaching changes to the social and cultural context of prehistoric Thailand arose from increasing population pressures, doubted by Bronson (1992); or from environmental changes requiring diversification in the way resources were used; or from the need to organize and control labour resources rather than land, it is certain that the end result was greater socio-political complexity leading, by the first years of the Christian era, to the emergence of states and city states participating in the east-west international and inter-regional trade networks.

Evidence of participation in such trade networks by the people of an iron age muang comes from Ban Don Ta Phet in Kanchanaburi Provice, western Thailand where a carnelian statuette of a leaping lion was among the grave goods and iron implements unearthed by Ian Glover and Pisit Charoenwongsa during excavations undertaken in 1981 and 1984. The leaping carnelian lion is said to be evidence of exchange contact with India, since the statuette was used to represent the Buddha at this time. Here in

1975 schoolchildren found a cache of potsherds and beads which under the direction of Chin You-di of the Thai Fine Arts Department revealed a rich iron age site. Inhumations on an east-west orientation similar to those at Nong Nor and Khok Phanom Di revealed an extensive array of grave goods including pottery, bronzes, iron objects, spindles, whorls and glass beads. The Glover-Charoenwongsa research identified five different fabric types in a woven textile complex at Ban Don Ta Phet - hemp, the most common material used; wild silk on a fragment of woven textile adhering to a bronze vessel; cotton on a bone fragment. Whilst Kijngam and Higham (1980) had identified silk at Ban Na Di, the identification of cotton at Ban Don Ta Phet is said, by Glover, to be the earliest at a prehistoric site in this area. In his view, it reinforces his argument set out in another context (Glover, 1989) for very early links with India, where cotton was domesticated. Ban Don Ta Phet may have been a centre for textile craft weaving. In the late period of Ban Chiang, contemporary with Ban Don Ta Phet, spindle whorls for weaving appear, and again at Non Pa Kluay in northeast Thailand (Wilen 1989) in a sequence spanning the Ban Don Ta Phet finds.

Together with the iron objects designed for agriculture, hunting and fishing - the socketed tip for a hoe or spade, billhooks, spears and arrowheads (destroyed or bent when interred with the dead) - were many decorative bronzes, bracelets, rings and bells, bowls cast in the cire perdue method, none of which were connected with war or conflict. The bronze industry was indicative of a people who enjoyed personal

decoration and had an artistic flair as demonstrated in the engraving of an elegant coiffured woman on a bronze bowl from Ban Don Ta Phet.

The variety of beads - translucent with prismatic shapes, monochrome in a range of colours - has led Glover to call this cache the largest corpus of antique glass beads in Thailand. Over 3,000 were found mostly of glass, whilst some 600 were of carnelian, agate, jade and rock crystal. He states that such beads were first made at a number of sites on the southeastern coast of India, such as Arikamedu. By the beginning of the Christian era they were also being made at sites in Southeast Asia. One of these at Khuan Lukpad in Krabi Province on the west coast of southern Thailand has been dated


by Bennet Bronson to at least 500AD. He identifies it as an industrial centre specialised in the working of tin, semi-precious stones and glass. Bronson (1990) states that the glass working techniques here in a sparsely populated and isolated area, are the earliest examples of this particular type of technology yet found in Southeast Asia. The site is abundant in industrial refuse, but not rich in trade goods indicating perhaps that it serviced domestic or interregional requirements; it was a manufacturing centre, not a trade entrepot. Bronson (1990: 213) considers the Khuan Lukpad industrial complex arose to meet the needs of the rapid population expansion and economic growth which occurred across the region in the early Christian era.

The Khuan Lukpad site revealed much metallurgical slag from tin smelting together with pieces of jewellery, rolled tin strips and flat cake-shaped ingots. Bronson states that it is probably the earliest tin smelting site yet discovered in Southeast Asia. It was also a centre for stone bead manufacture. Here were found large quantities of unshaped carnelian, onyx and quartz fragments, carnelian bead blanks, cylinders of a brown resin-like substance used by jewellers to hold gems while grinding and polishing. Carnelian was popular for the making of beads and personal ornaments only from the time of the High Metal Age (600 BC - 200BC) according to Ho Chui-Mei (1992), suggesting that it represented a technological advance beyond the capacity of the craftsmen of the Early Metal Age (1,500BC - 600BC). Lapidary methods were used to work both glass and stone. Stone seals, oval-shaped and made of carnelian were found engraved with motifs of Indian-Pallava (6th to 9th centuries AD) and Classical Mediterranean origin. Those engraved with the Greek and Roman goddesses, Tyche and Perseus, may have been part of a replication industry in which gem-cutters copied the Mediterranean originals for some time after the decline of Roman seal production in the 4th to 5th centuries AD. Whilst it is possible that they represent earlier 1st to 2nd century AD direct contact with the Graeco-Roman world, Bronson cautions against such an early date since they resided with artefacts of a much younger date. Compared with the very rich array of imported artefacts of Chinese porcelain and stonewares, Middle Eastern, Indian glassware and Persian earthenwares found further up the coast at Ko Kho Khao, such imported artefacts are rare at Khuan Lukpad. Bronson is therefore


inclined to think this industrial complex was one engaged in import-substitution to meet the requirements of the domestic economy. He suggests that the craftsmen at this site knew how to melt glass as attested by the remains of glass-melting pots, but did they also know how to make glass? Glass sand of moderate quality occurs nearby in Phuket and Krabi provinces; glass slag found at the site may be the debris of glass making rather than just glass working. Such a centre could have imported some of its glass in bulk or scrap form, and could have manufactured other items (Bronson,1986: 219). Most glass beads appear to have been made by the drawn method, not wound, but there is a notable absence of glass working blowpipes from this era in Southeast Asia. Bronson states that glass moulding was not known at Khuan Lukpad, but that the simpler hotworking techniques - the use of tools to press or cut a bead into shape while the glass is still soft - were used to shape the larger beads. He has identified beads of 13 different colours ranging from the blue/blue greens to orange/reds and monochrome. While some beads were clearly imported, others were made locally, the result of a process of technology transfer possibly from an earlier complex elsewhere in Southeast Asia, such as Oc-Eo.

The beadmakers of this isolated industrial complex at Khuan Lukpad had access to a limited range of techniques and material; they did not have access to non-lead glasses in the manganese violet and cobalt blue range; nor did they make multi-coloured beads. Nevertheless, their skills went well beyond that of village level craft production. The industrial techniques used produced beads in quantity were divided into specialised tasks. The diversity of the raw materials required for the production suggests a highly organised supply system. Bronson notes that the isolation of the site, the number of industries centred there, the distant location of potential customers also indicate a complex marketing system for these products. In terms of the rise of social complexity in the last centuries of the first millenium BC and the first centuries of the Christian era, Khuan Lukpad raises some interesting issues. Given that its location may have been to take advantage of a ready supply of raw materials, why did such an industrial complex not become the centre of an urban civilization? As Bronson asks, why are there no monuments or fortifications here? There were clearly other industrial complexes around


based on metallurgy such as those in the Lopburi area and at Phu Lon in the northeast; these also did not seem to become the centres of complex urbanized states at this time. Were the factors stimulating the rise of social complexity distinct from those of industrial development? In an illuminating essay on this issue Donn Bayard (1992) stated that whilst everyone would agree on the importance of trade as one factor in the rise of complex societies, it is obviously not the key factor. The extensive trade

networks in northeast Thailand some 2000 years prior to the beginnings of centralization, as evidenced by the material culture of Non Nok Tha, Ban Na Di and Ban Chiang, in themselves apparently did not create an urban tradition. From Ban Don Ta Phet to Ongbah on the River Khwae Yai and a series of sites in the Chao Phraya and Pasak Valleys archaeologists have unearthed evidence of this High Metal Age culture in Thailand. Contemporaneous with Ban Don Ta Phet, the society of Ongbah had two groups one, called the Iron Age aristocrats (Higham, 1998), were accorded boat shaped coffins - the others, buried with head to the east or northeast, had no such coffins. Interred with them were iron hoes, knives, spear blade, arrowheads and chisels, suggesting the tools of the workmen as compared with the glass and stone beads, bronze ornaments and iron weapons and tools in the boat shaped coffins. Higham has proposed that the boat shaped coffins represent clear social and economic distinctions in the community. Five bronze drums of the Dongson culture of Vietnam found with these burials indicate participation in the regional Southeast Asian exchange network, but they also show that the elite of Ongbah had the means to purchase them and to be able to have them interred with their other possessions in death. Sorensen's (1990) investigation of the decorative motifs on these drums and particularly the steering devices on boats shown on the Vietnamese drums concluded that the boats were craft suitable for river transport of men and goods, possibly used for inshore navigation, but less suitable for seagoing expeditions. However, the boat depicted on the Ongbah 89 drum is significantly different, for a fixed rudder is attached to a circle at the rear end of a short keel. Sorenson claims that this is not only the earliest evidence of such a technological innovation, but that it suggests the


possibility of deep sea navigation (1990: 196). He compares it with similar boats depicted on the drums from Huu Chung province in Vietnam indicating that the similarities suggest they are contemporary and date to about the 4th century BC. Overall Sorensen concluded that the various types of Heger I drums of the Dongson culture show that boats suitable for river transport did carry kettledrums and that boats with fixed rudders existed which were able to transport the kettledrums abroad, perhaps even as far as eastern Indonesia (Heine-Geldern, 1947: 167 - 179).

Sorensen also makes some interesting observations on other aspects of the material culture drawn from the Dongson drums at Ongbah. The houses depicted on the drum named Makalamau, found with four other drums in 1937 on Gunung Api, eastern Indonesia, stand on piles, have saddle-shaped roofs lower in the middle than at the projecting ends, and without poles supporting the projecting roof ends. Whilst such houses are also shown on the drum from Quang Xuong province and are known in Indonesia, Sorensen states that they are exactly the same as those on drum 86 from Ongbah, possibly indicating they were made at some centre on mainland Southeast Asia. The house shown is not therefore essentially an Indonesian house; more likely it depicts a reception or assembly hall in its culture of origin, possibly Thanh Hoa province (Sorensen 1990: 197).

From the sites of Tha Muang in central Thailand, Noen Ma Kok north of the Khao Wong Prachan Valley, Ban Wang Hai south of Lamphun, Ban Yang Thong Tai east of Chiang Mai, Ban Wang Hat in the Yom River Valley, Ban Bung Ya in Khamphaeng Phet, Chansen, Sri Thep in the Pasak River Valley, Ban Nong Daeng, and the extensive moated site of U-Tapao, the Iron Age culture of Thailand is manifest in a series of agate, carnelian and glass bead oranaments, iron tools and spearheads, pottery vessels, bronze bangles and an ivory comb at Chansen which was decorated with geese, horses and Buddhist symbols. Some of the carnelian and exotic glass beads indicate participation in regional exchange networks (Higham, 1998: 144). Whilst such communications had a part to play in


strengthening the links between communities in the prelude to the rise of more complex societies, it is in the northeast of Thailand and on the Korat Plateau that the clearest evidence for increasing social complexity occurs around 400BC, approximately 400 years later than a corresponding development in the Dongson culture of the Red River Delta in Vietnam. Thus an Iron Age culture was

widespread in Thailand and in Vietnam well before the southward expansion of the Han Dynasty in the second century BC.

The transition from the autonomous ban of the Sakhon Nakhon Basin to the more complex social organizations evident in the muang of the Korat Plateau has been investigated by many archaeologists, both Thai and foreign, since the 1970's. They have built up a picture of rapid demographic change in this area of northeast Thailand in the period 500BC - 500AD as the number and size of settlements increased accompanied by technological, social and economic developments. In his investigations into the moated settlements on the low

terraces and floodplains of the Sakhon Nakhon Basin and the Korat Plateau, Srisakra Vallibhotama (1984) distinguished those early settlements in the Sakhon Nakhon Basin built on the low terrace of the upper Nam Songkhram valley from those in the Korat basin on the floodplain of the Mun and Chi river system. The former, he concludes, show no sign of development beyond that of the village, ban, community. The latter, on the other hand exhibit staged development from unmoated settlements to moated and fortified settlements. According to

Vallibhotama, these fortified settlements are the towns and cities which became the seats of the chiefdoms (Wheatley, 1983; Bellwood, 1985; Higham, 1989) in the proto-historic period and which are found scattered around the floodplain. He hypothesizes that they then spread to the low terrace areas of the Korat basin where they encountered the rituals of Indianized culture through contact with the Chenla sovereignty from the Mekong basin in the sixth century AD, and then the Buddhist culture of the Dvaravati polity as it spread through the Chao Phraya basin in the 7th century AD (1984: 128). These are the chiefdoms which


developed independently in Thailand from their own socio-cultural dynamics prior to their transformation through cultural contacts with India.

Thus of the 172 settlements excavated in the Sakhon Nakhon basin, 84 were unmoated prehistoric sites of the Ban Chiang culture. Of the remainder, only three moated sites were revealed: at Ban Don Ko in Nong Han Kumphawapi Lake, and two others at Amphoe Nong Han, Udon Thani, and Sakhon Nakhon city. Apart from Ban Don Ko which has some remains of upright stones

(megaliths) inscribed with Buddhist symbols of the Dvaravati style and a pillar inscribed in the Mon script of the 7th century AD, Vallibhotama states that there is no evidence of development here before the 9th century AD. By contrast, on the floodplain of the lower Mun-Chi valley, over 36 sites were revealed associated with iron smelting and moated settlement patterns of occupation.

In the lower Mun-Chi valley the chronological development of human settlements from pre-historic to proto-historic may be seen in the contrast between the unmoated or single-moated settlements in Surin and Roi Et provinces with the double or triple moated settlements and the large settlements fortified by moats and earth walls on the southern bank of the Mun river at Ban Pakiam, Ban Dong Phong, Ban Khok Muang and Ban Thung Wang. Vallibhotama identifies a group of moated settlements with highly developed planning and structural elements in the Lam Phang Su area west of Lam Phlapphla at Ban Muang Su, Ban Saen Si, Ban Yawuk, Ban Han Hai, Ban Muang Kwang and Muang Phutthai Song.

Whilst the latter two are fortified settlements, the larger size of Muang Phutthai Song indicates a greater concentration of population. He traces a similar pattern of development from simple unmoated or single moated settlements to double or triple moated settlements in the Rasi Salai Plain, Sisaket Province where the more complex settlements were established on the borders of the area near the bank of the Mun River (such as Ban Lup Mok) and on the northern bank of the Chi River. Bayard has also noted the presence of these centralizing trends in northeast Thailand from about 400BC (1992: 25). There seems to be a pattern of


development from the early sedentary settlements in the middle of the floodplain where the use of the single moat was associated with water storage during the long dry season, to the establishment of the double and triple moated settlements geared to agricultural purposes amongst which the few with fortified earthworks, moats and earthwalls indicate a defensive function for a centre providing protection to the group of settlements in the area.

Thus, on the low terraces of the Korat Plateau the evidence for human occupation over long periods of time in both unmoated and moated settlements is extensive. The moated fortified settlements are of two types: one built on the site of an older unmoated settlement; and the other on a new, previously unoccupied site. The latter type is marked by the absence of potsherds, which are abundant in the case of the former type, and represents a new urban centre built after the selection of a suitable site. Vallibhotama therefore suggests that the sequence from unmoated to moated fortified settlement represents a chronological development from ban to muang - from village culture to urban centre. Across the region are many settlements exhibiting traces of complex social and cultural structures such as those at Ban Tat Thong, Yasothon Provice; Muang Talung, Buriram, Muang Aem, Udon Thani, Muang Fa Daed, Yasothon Province; and Muang Nakhon Champasi, Maha Sarakham. Within these fortified settlements, an inner moat and clay wall separate the habitation zone from the cultivation zone. Potsherds abound in the habitation zone. Further subdivision of these zones is marked by various smaller moats and earth dykes. Such partitioned settlements are considered to represent the most sophisticated form of human settlement in the Korat basin in pre-Khmer, pre-Angkorian times (Vallibhotama, 1984: 127).

In similar vein, Welch has investigated the Phimai region of the Korat Plateau, in the upper Mun River valley around the present day town of Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. He posits that this area exhibits long term

continuity of settlement since late prehistoric times exploiting wet rice


agricultural production and the need for protection against the annual floods. During what he calls the Phimai period (500BC - 500AD), he states that

communities here developed a complex system of socio-political organization involving control of regional and long distance trade-exchange networks. Such complex political organization he defines as having at least two levels of community decision making authority with the highest level integrating the lower level communities into a single political unit, either as a chiefdom or a state. The Korat Plateau exhibits just that cluster pattern of village settlements which could lend itself to this two-tiered form of early political organization. The few larger political centres are distinguished from the cluster of smaller villages in terms of size, economic, administrative or religious role through which political power may be exercised. Below the eleventh century Khmer temple complex at Phimai the excavations of Solheim, Parker and Ayres revealed evidence of continual human occupation from about 165BC across a settlement size of 30 to 40 hectares. Phimai seems to have been one of these significant political centres even before it became a regional Khmer capital (Welch, 1990: 130). Between Korat and Phimai, there seems to have been fourteen other similar centres larger, and with more sophisticated socio-political organizational structures than the autonomous village complex.

The northeast region is fortunate in being able to benefit from the broad flood plain of the Mun River, 15km to 20 km wide, which has produced large continuous stretches of land suitable for wet rice cultivation. Welch's excavations revealed four cultural sequences here of which the earliest or Tamyae period falls 1000BC - 500BC; the second or Phimai period 500BC - 500AD; the third or early historic period 500AD - 1300AD including the Khmer period 1000AD - 1300AD, then the fourth or recent historic period, 1300AD to the present. Fifteen of seventeen habitation sites belonged to the Phimai period. Phimai Black ceramics were common to all these sites on an axis 25km to the northeast - 50km to the southwest. Rice chaff found as a temper in pottery of the early Tamyae period and the Phimai period is seen as evidence that rice was being harvested in these


sequences and that the commitment to wet rice agriculture increased the need to establish settlements on the higher ground secure from flooding, thus contributing to the pattern of long term occupation. The higher population densities which

could be supported by this type of ecosystem, Welch suggests, could have encouraged the trend to economic and political integration. Its location on major trade routes close to the seasonally navigable Mun River system would have also contributed to the development of regional and long distance trade. Bronson (1976) has shown for example that the Phimai Black ceramics were traded as far as Chansen in central Thailand and that bronze, beads, stone and some ceramics were imported from outside the region. Such evidence however is still quite limited. There is nevertheless evidence of rapid and widespread expansion of complex socio-political settlements across the Korat Plateau in the Iron Age prior to the development of states influenced by Indian and Chinese culture.

From the preceding discussion it will be seen that most of our evidence for the prehistoric societies in Thailand comes from the material cultures. There is little evidence of the scale of spiritual values which may have conditioned their relationships to each other, and to the earth and sky. It is thought that the

megalithic spiritual culture which dominated much of Austronesia in the prehistoric period may not have been widespread in Thailand. Whilst most agricultural societies of the Neolithic, bronze and iron age cultures expressed their spirituality through animism or acknowledgement of the beneficial interaction with spirits of the forest, earth and sky, there is as yet tantalisingly little evidence apart from what is identified as the 'shaman's grave' at Ban Kao in west Thailand (Sorensen 1973, 86). Quaritch Wales on the other hand in a series of books has written extensively on the cult of earth' and the 'cult of sky' purportedly present amongst these pre- and proto-historic cultures. In the solar designs of the Dong Son drums he suggests evidence of a spirituality focussing on a cult of the sky; in the animal figurines found amongst the grave goods there may be evidence of a cult of the earth which acknowledged the life-giving forces of the seasonal cycle important to the sustenance regimes of the Neolithic communities. In the patterns


of inhumation, whether in the 90 'boat burials' at Ban Kao and Ongbah, or infant jar burials, or layered patterns suggesting groups of one family interred contiguous to each other, there may be both elements of ancestor worship and respect for familial kinship systems. Whilst the evidence from Egypt and

Mesopotamia on these issues is extensive and allows scholars to reconstruct a convincing picture of the spiritual systems of these ancient civilizations, that from the pre- and proto-historic communities of Thailand is yet scanty and does not allow us to do more than make comparative inferences. As Sorensen has written, following the earlier investigations of Quaritch Wales, the solar motif on the tympanum of Heger I type Dong Son drums suggests that these probably served religious purposes and were utilised in funerary rites in a cult of the dead.' In a study undertaken by Vietnamese scholars, it has been suggested that the Dong Son drums were primarily rain drums and thus part of the cults of earth and sky fundamental to people who were agriculturalists body and soul. (Pham 1990: 271).

Another tantalising aspect of the spiritual life of prehistoric Thailand occurs in the range of cave art occurring from the west in Kanchanaburi Province to the northeast in Loei and Ubon Ratchathani, and south to Krabi Province. In some of this cave art human figures are associated with fish and dolphins, elephants and huge catfish. At Pha Taem, a series of friezes on the walls of caves along the Mekong in Ubon Ratchathani province, shows figures of bulls, hand impressions and huge catfish. Similar paintings occur at Khong Jiam and at Khao Plara in Uthai Thani province, also in northeast Thailand, with etchings of the bull, catfish and elephant again prominent. The cave art from Tham Pha Daeng on the Mae Lamun Stream, Kanchanaburi province includes a sketch of a bull together with figures apparently wearing feathered headdresses. In view of

Quartich Wales' and Basham's writings on the cult of the bull amongst early animistic communities in prehistoric times in the Indus River valley of northwest India, we might ask whether these items of cave art testify to its presence across the prehistoric communities of Thailand in a similar timespan. Perhaps the


lacunae in our knowledge only emphasize how much more research is needed to substantiate what in essence is often only a theoretical framework. A fully

developed spiritual system with its attendant buildings, monuments, writing system, inscriptions, rituals, administrative bureaucracy and literary heritage was an inherent part of the transition from iron age muang to statehood.

Penny (1984: 156 -157) is surely enlightening in his view that the expansion of relations with neighbouring states amongst the iron age muang in Thailand reflects the basic stability and continuity of the village based culture. Penny argues that there was no need to employ the elements of coercion or exploitation, since both land and water resources were adequate for the needs of the village based culture. Cautioning against drawing invalid comparisons with the emergence of states in other parts of the world, Penny takes the view that cultural development amongst the iron age chiefdoms of Thailand should be seen on its own merits as a reflection of the underlying prosperity and rich subsistence resources of the region. It could be said that it was the very prosperity of the area which provided the confidence to interact with external networks and which in turn attracted those external influences to interact with the iron age muang. Such interaction is usually inspired by need, or the urge to acquire items not readily available locally, both exotic items which may be classed as luxury items desired by emerging elite groups, and utilitarian items for household use, and raw materials for manufacture. As shown by the archaeological evidence of the moated sites of the Mun and Chi River valleys in northeast Thailand, spatial expansion in response to population growth, and central place organisation across the Korat Plateau was occurring throughout the first millennium BC, pre-dating evidence in the archaeological record of Indianized heirarchical socio-political structures. Thus development of, or participation in, interregional and international exchange networks should be seen as a consequence of increasing socio-cultural complexity rather than an originating stimulus to such structural changes. Long-distance exchange networks, after all, can exist without giving rise to urbanized states with monumental superstructure, for example the Lapita cultural complex of Melanesia, across which obsidian was transported at least as early as 5000BC (Kirch, 1990: 26).


PART II Early State Formation in the proto-historic period: the cases of U-thong, Sri Mahasod, Sri Thep and Sri Chanasa

The conference on Early Southeast Asia held in London in 1974 (Smith and Watson, 1979) focussed on the value of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches in enriching our understanding of the processes of socio-cultural change during the pre- and proto-historic periods of Southeast Asian history. Archaeological research since that time has contributed stimulating new perspectives on the developments in agriculture, metallurgy and social complexity in the region. The approaches taken by social and cultural anthropologists have led to re-examination and re-interpretation of the few extant written sources and particularly of the concept of 'Indianization' of Southeast Asia and the role played by the ancient maritime and overland trade networks in the transition from 'chiefdoms' to sophisticated, urbanized 'states.' While the early polities of mainland Southeast Asia may be seen as links in the series of international and interregional exchange networks stretching from the Mediterranean world to Han China (Glover, 1989) concern has been to challenge the view that the region was merely a trans-shipment point for foreign merchants (Wang Gungwu, 1989:xvi). A closely related line of scholarly research has focussed on the nature of indigenous states, how they evolved from the prehistoric socio-cultural complexes of the region, and how different their political and social dynamics were from the picture presented in the Chinese dynastic histories which described these polities in terms of the Chinese structural experience. As Wang Gungwu has stated, no Southeast Asian polity, statue or monument is unmistakably Indian (1989, xvi). Greater recognition is now given to local, indigenous, political and cultural dynamics. Similarly, the role of early maritime trade is weighed against the cultural exchanges effected across the ancient overland trade routes. The overland Silk Route and the maritime Spice and Silk Route were the

communications and transportation networks across which flowed the new ideas, technologies, soldiers, sailors, merchants, craftsmen and tradesmen, politicians and religious missionaries as well as the luxury products of forest, field and mine between


east and west. Nor were these luxury goods the only items of trade; there is clear evidence that much of the ancient trade across the early maritime networks was in bulk goods - grains, teak, and minerals (Asthana, 1947; Adams, 1974; Ratnagar, 1981; Casson, 1984; Edens, 1992).

Above all, these famous trading networks came into being and were maintained in response to the requirements of the indigenous polities, both east and west, which formed the markets and production points giving the networks their justification for being. Without such polities the networks would have ceased to function as happened during periods of political upheaval. The sum of the results of this scholarly research

has underpinned the recognition that Southeast Asia has an historical unity of its own, distinct from both Indianization and Sinicization. More importantly, it has shown that

Southeast Asia has always been part of the continuum of communications east and west, pre-dating Augustan Rome and Han China, and in its linkages hearkening back to the early empires of Sumeria, Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt and the Anatolian Plateau, Persia, the Hittites and Phoenicians, the Minoan, Mycenaean and Dorian cultures of Ancient Greece, the Indus Valley civilization of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, and the early Empires of Central Asia. The research of scholars in many disciplines has conclusively shown that just as there was probably no one moment when agriculture was invented, so too the initiative to interact with neighbouring groups and to exchange commodities, ideas, and technologies over both water and land routes was not delineated by any one moment in time. There is ample evidence that by the third millennium BC, there were well-established trading networks, both interregional and international, operating within and across the expanding centres of civilization from the Mediterranean-Middle East world, to the Southeast Asian-Chinese-Austronesian-Pacific world. These built on much older interaction networks both by land and sea developed since man learnt to move his wares by donkey overland, or across water on hollowed out logs or reed boats (Casson, 1971: 3 10). It would be inaccurate therefore to consider the world system

interlinkages of Augustan Rome and Han China in the first century AD as having suddenly originated at that time. They followed long-established, pre-existing patterns of intercultural communication, what some scholars have argued was an interconnecting


series of trading and exchange networks forming a bronze age world system observable in the archaeological record since at least the fourth millennium BC amongst the city states of ancient Sumeria (Adams, 1974; Lamberg-Karlovsky, 1975, 1989; Johnson, 1975; Schneider, 1977; Kohl, 1989; Edens, 1992; Abu-Lughod, 1993; Amin, 1993; Gills and Frank, 1991, 1993; Wilkinson, 1993; Potts, 1993; Chew, 1999).

What evidence is there for participation in the international and interregional trading networks by the iron age muang in Thailand? Seeking answers to some of the questions surrounding the rise of social complexity in the ancient settlements of the Chao Phraya basin of Central Thailand, Srisakra Vallibhotama (1984 : 123-128 ) believes that the people of the iron age muang moved down into the various river basins of the deltaic area probably in pursuit of wet-padi agriculture in the late metal age ie around 500BC, the time when contact with other cultures becomes evident. This is shown by the

presence of artefacts from the Dongson culture, by metal work displaying advanced technology, ornaments of precious stones such as jade, carnelian and agate imported from elsewhere. Carnelian objects, a reddish variety of chalcedony, were imported from the west, from Arabia and India (Schafer, 1963: 228, Beale, 1973:137) and used to make ornaments, small utensils, bowls and jars.

Examining these ancient settlements along the river banks and in the floodplains of the Chao Phraya basin of Central Thailand, Vallibhotama notes that those in the same river basin practised the same burial tradition and had similar types of grave goods, although in each burial ground of the same community differences in individual wealth were marked, reflecting a degree of social stratification beyond that of the egalitarian village or ban level social structure. Cultural differences between settlements of different river basins were evident. Those in the upper part of the Chao Phraya valley exhibited spindle whorls around the waists of the dead, suggesting their craft affiliation during life. Did the products of their looms find their way into the international textile trade? Based on the increasing numbers of burial mounds shared by the same community, there was evidently an increasing population, as more settlements developed at the beginning of the Christian era along the river basins in the west, north and east of the delta, and near the


Gulf of Siam, in an area exposed to economic and cultural contact with external influences by sea. Evidence for participation in interregional and international exchange networks is shown by the foreign cultural elements mixed in with artefacts of local origin. Thus Vallibhotama notes, amongst these foreign elements, cult objects, coins, beads, earrings, combs and seals bearing symbolic designs. Amongst the locally made objects were images of the Buddha and deities, coins and seals based on Indian designs, fragments of terracotta and stucco decorations for long vanished religious structures.

Analysing these finds, Vallibhotama suggests that two localities amongst these ancient settlements may have functioned as chief ports for contact with the international exchange networks and as re-distribution centres to other settlements within the deltaic regions. They are U Thong in the Tha Chin river basin in the west delta region, and Sri Mahosod in the Bang Pakong river basin to the east. In addition to the presence of foreign cultural objects indicating participation in the long distance trade network, east and west, both sites are said to exhibit distinct characteristics of urbanization showing development from the pre-historic chiefdom status. These traits are the number of

religious monuments and buildings, irrigation and transportation networks, fortifications, and satellite communities within a 5 - 10 kilometre radius from the centre, thus suggesting a substantial population deployed around the main centre. Vallibhotama believes that most of the finds are contemporaneous with those at Oc Eo in Vietnam and Beikthano in Myanmar, thus dating them to between the second and sixth century AD and that these centres represent the earliest 'states' that ever developed in Central Thailand (Vallibhotama,1984 : 123 - 128). They exhibited the proliferation of symbolic, ritualized objects of individual social position and power which DeMarrais et als identify as the materialized ideology of emerging state level society (DeMarrais et als, 1996: 17 23).

In addition to U Thong and Sri Mahasod, Vallibhotama has identified another four large moated settlements in the major river basins of Thailand. They are Nakhon Chaisri in the lower Tha Chin, Kubua in the Mae Klong, Lavo or Lopburi on the eastern bank of the Lop Buri River, and Sri Thep in the upper Pasak Valley. The first three had


access to the sea by means of large waterways connected to the Gulf of Thailand, while Sri Thep on the overland route connecting the Central Plain with the Korat Plateau in northeast Thailand may have been the inland junction for the network. Vallibhotama (1989, 1992) has noted the cultural differences in these centres: those in the west show signs of having embraced Buddhism whilst those in the east exhibit Hindu cultural remains. The difference in belief systems is equated with a difference in political entity. Thus Vallibhotama (and also Dhida Saraya, see below) rejects the hypothesis that Central Thailand's earliest political centre was at Nathon Pathom and later at Lop Buri. By studying the cultural evidence such as burial mounds, Buddhist monuments and artefacts, Vallibhotama concluded that a socio-economic network existed amongst the settlements in the same river basins and that larger centres were able to extend their cultural network far beyond their own river basins to other regions. Thus in separating art style from political entity and surveying the size and distribution of ancient settlements in the Chao Phraya delta of Central Thailand at the beginning of the Christian Era, Vallibhotama (1989) discounts the view that there was a single integrated state called Dvaravati. Rather there were at least two rival city states identified as U Thong in the west, a centre which embraced Buddhism, and Sri Mahosod in the east, a centre which embraced Hinduism. These were formed from heirarchies of village, town and

city grouped together in their own river basins with the largest settlement as the centre.

Evidence of the participation of mainland Southeast Asian polities in the long distance international exchange network first came from the work of Louis Malleret who, in 1942 - 44, unearthed archaeological remains at another delta port site at Oc-eo in the lower Mekong River basin. Here Malleret uncovered two Roman medallions, one minted during the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138 - 152), and another in the reign one of his successors, Marcus Aurelius ( AD 161 - 180), as well as a Chinese mirror of the Later Han dynasty of the same vintage, Iranian coinage, Indian inspired jewellery, gold rings and merchant seals, and tin amulets with symbols of Vishnu and Siva. Amongst a

wealth of material culture, the finds led scholars to conclude that Oc-eo was a major entrepot in an international trading network which linked Ancient Rome and India with Han China. Oc-eo was well placed to function as a gateway for goods traded up and


down the Mekong basin ( Higham, 1989: 254).

In this way it would have been linked

with the interregional networks across the Korat Plateau of northeast Thailand and through them to Sri Thep in the Pasak River basin, and thence to the emerging

contemporaneous polities of the Central Chao Phraya basin investigated by Vallibhotama, U Thong and Sri Mahosod.

Vallibhotama made a significant distinction between these two centres.


suggests that U Thong emerged from an outcrop of earlier settlements dating from the second half of the first millenium BC, the archaeological remains of which testify to cultural influence from overseas at this time during a notably pre-Buddhist phase of its cultural development. Upstream from U Thong, the number of pre- and proto-historic settlements in the Tha Chin valley increases as far as Suphanburi, Singburi and Chainat in the upper reaches of the valley. The archaeological remains indicated that U Thong was the most densely populated of the settlements. It may have been the distribution centre for goods of economic and ritualistic, religious and symbolic value to the centres upstream (Vallibhotama, 1992). Sri Mahasod, on the other hand, appears to have been a newer centre having no prehistoric base. Situated in the Bang Pakong River valley to the east, the intermediary role it played in trans-shipment of goods, trade and communications with the hinterland centres towards the Cambodian lowlands in the east allowed it to develop rapidly into an important urbanized centre in the region. It quickly surpassed the inland regional prehistoric centres around Amphoe Phanat Nikom, Chonburi, which appear not to have engaged in overseas economic and cultural contacts. The distribution of imported cultural artifacts associated with U Thong and Sri Mahosod - the beads, ear-rings, armlets, precious stones, jade, carnelian and coloured glass - and the religious objects, terracotta and metal seals showing Hindu and Buddhist sacred symbols indicate that by at least the first half of the first millennium AD these settlements in the Chao Phraya valley were participating in the international and interregional exchange networks linking them to the Middle East and India, Vietnam and China. The Tha Chin and Bang Pakong rivers played a crucial distribution and

transportation role between the coastal regions and the upper riverine settlements coordinating the interregional trading networks.


Support for this view is also provided by Glover (1989) who has argued that such cultural finds, like that of the famous Roman lamp found at Pong Tuk on the bank of the Meklong River in west Thailand, are not the result of 'drift' or intermittent transportation through reciprocal exchange networks over short distances as postulated by Wheeler (1954: 206 - 7), but are evidence of participation in a system of regular exchange links between Southeast Asia and India in this era. Glover cites the evidence from excavations at Ban Don Ta Phet in Thailand in support of his views. Ban Don Ta Phet, he states, provides the earliest and most extensive evidence of trading and cultural links between this part of Southeast Asia and India. Such evidence includes a copper coin of the Western Roman Emperor Victorinus (AD 268 - 70) which was minted at Cologne and found at U-Thong in western Thailand, and which now resides in the Thai National Museum; an Indian ivory comb from the moated settlement at Chansen in Central Thailand excavated by Bronson and Dales and dated to between 1st and 3rd centuries AD, now also in the Thai National Museum; Roman carnelian intaglio seals from Khlong Thom, Krabi Province southern Thailand dated to 2nd century AD, one of which portrays the Goddess Tyche (Fortuna), the other a pair of fighting cockerels; some 600 (out of 3,000) beads of semi-precious stones such as agate, carnelian, rock crystal and jade found at Ban Don Ta Phet; a carved carnelian leaping lion pendant from Ban Don Ta Phet which Glover (1989:28) considers a first century AD representation of the Buddha, thus being one of the earliest Buddhist artefacts in this region. Taking into

account the evidence of all the material culture, Glover therefore agrees with Vallibhotama and Saraya that by the first century AD this region was already part of the ancient prehistoric international exchange networks linking east and west which extended from the Mediterranean Sea to South China.

Wheatley drew attention to the fact that the great maritime trade route should be seen more accurately as a series of trade routes across which no one group of merchants operated from end to end, nor one class of merchandise was transported. On the western end of the route, the bronze age merchants of the Indus Valley civilization and those of Sumeria gave way to the iron age Arab, Greek and Egyptian merchants. Indian Tamil


merchants also travelled eastwards. After the withdrawal of the Greco-Roman merchants around the end of the second century AD, these Indian Tamil seafarers continued to ply their trade from the ports on the Coromandel coast of India across the Bay of Bengal to the ports on the Thai/Malay Peninsula. On the eastern end of the route, the trade of the Austronesian world and the South China seas at the beginning of the Christian era was largely in the hands of various sea-faring peoples collectively known in the Chinese records as the K`uen-luen (Wheatley, 1975: 231). These same people had plied the sealanes of the Austronesian world since the Holocene and had ventured to as far away as Madagascar. On the Coromandel coast of southeastern India, excavations in 1945 at Arikamedu, Ptolemy's Podouke, (also known as Virampatnam) by Sir Mortimer Wheeler showed that it too was an emporium similar to Barygaza (Pattabiramin, 1946: 9-13). The archaeological remains of merchant residences, warehouses and harbor provide mute testimony to the part it played in the east-west trade of the first century of the Christian era. Here, between 23 96AD the merchants known as yavana, Greeks, in Indian literature, gathered to meet the traders from Southeast Asia from whom they purchased the cargoes of pepper, pearls, gems, muslins, tortoise shell, ivory and silk to ship back to the Roman Orient. In return, the yavana merchants provided glass, vases, lamps, wine and coined money. Pliny the Elder ( 23 79AD) laments the drain on Roman specie of this trade. Amongst some 68 hoards of Roman coins found in India, some 57 occur in south India, the majority of them from the time of Augustus (27BC 14AD) and Tiberius (14 37AD). They were apparently used as bullion rather than currency, being weighed out in exchange for goods (Hall 1985: 34). As long ago as 1885, Walter Elliot had

commented on the large number of Roman coins found with Chinese and Arab coins at various places on the Coromandel Coast after every high wind, which he thought indicated extensive commerce between China and the Red Sea (Pattabiramin, 1946: 42). Greek was, in the first and second centuries AD, the language of commerce, in the emporia on the east-west trade routes. Begley has re-assessed all the evidence and

concluded that Arikamedu was a significant commercial centre linking the coastal/inland trade with the long distance international trade long before the Greco-Roman sailors


appeared around the tip of Cape Cormorin. Moreover, it was not alone. Along the eastern seaboard of India, facing the Bay of Bengal, further port sites have been identified in association with river estuaries at Korkai, Kaveripattinam, Karaikadu, Vasavasamudram. On the basis of the distribution of the distinctive ceramic Rouletted Ware first found at Arikamedu, Begley suggests that there was a well-established trading and communication network linking the entire east coast of India (Begley, 1983: 462) in the few centuries prior to the Christian era.

Begley highlights the unique position of Arikamedu as a trading centre on the southeast coast of India first settled during the Mauryan period of contact with South India, which coordinated systematic trade between the ports on the Coromandel coast and the West prior to the beginning of Indo-Roman trade in the first centuries AD. In a key position along both the coastal trading network of the Coromandel coast, and the international route linking the eastern seaboard of India, northwestern Sri Lanka, the Malay Peninsula/southern Thailand and the Mediterranean world, Arikamedu experienced an intensification of trade in the first centuries of the Christian era. Some 75 coin hoards of Roman denarii and aurei each of several hundred coins minted in the reigns from Augustus to Nero were found in the Coimbatore region on the main inland communication route linking the eastern and western coasts via the Ponnani valley. Analysis of their spatial distribution led Begley to suggest that, contra Wheeler, there was direct overseas trade from the Mediterranean world with Arikamedu even before the main period of Roman commerce evident in Phases D, E, F and G. In agreement with

Wheeler,however, Begley believes that Arikamedu may have been a supply/redistribution centre for other settlements on the eastern littoral and hinterland (Begley, 1983: 479 480).

From the various excavations, remains of this trade are evident in the 50 or so sherds of Roman Arretine ware, fragments of Roman lamps, a crystal gem and perhaps a stylus. Exports probably included semi-precious stones, shell bangles, worked ivories, textiles, leather goods, spices, incense and other perishables. Did Arikamedu, even prior


to the Christian era, have trading links eastward across the Bay of Bengal, to the ports on the Malay Peninsula and China? Did the Tamil sailors make port in Takkola as indicated by a Tamil inscription found by Lajonquiere (Pattabiramin, 1946: 43)? Was Arikamedus demise caused by withdrawal of the overseas trade consequent on political upheavals in the Roman-Mediterranean world, or fall in sea-levels affecting the harbors as happened to Sating Pra and other ports on the Malay Peninsula, or both? Perhaps it is time to follow up more closely on the observation of Sir Walter Elliot in 1885 that together with the Roman coins there were many Chinese and Arabian pieces found along the Coromandel coast at frequent intervals after every high wind (Pattabiramin, 1946: 42). It seems certain for instance that much of Han Chinas silk trade with Imperial Rome was conducted across the sea route via Kancipura (Conjeveram) in southeastern India. In terms of the focus of this conference, it is important to note the celebrated passage in the Han Shu, during the Yuan-shih period of Emperor Ping (1 6AD) when Wang Mang was in power, the Chief Interpreter was sent on an Imperial trade mission along the searoute to places identified as Sumatra, Thatung in lower Burma, Pagan, Ceylon, Pulau Pisan on the southwestern end of the Malay Peninsula, taking gold and silk to exchange for pearls, beryl, curious stones and foreign exotic items. We are told that the trading boats of the barbarians which carried them from one place to another were also engaged in trade as well as in rapacity making the venture very dangerous. It took several years to return to China. They brought back large pearls almost two inches in circumference. The inclusion of Thatung is significant in view of Professor Aung-Thwins research that no Chinese source includes reference to an independent kingdom or polity in Lower Burma before the very late thirteenth century (Aung-Thwin 2005: 52). It is not certain


of course that the Thatung mentioned is the Thaton of the Rammanyadesa legend; nor is it identified as a kingdom; merely as another port of call of interest to the Chief Interpreter on his perilous trade mission. As far as I know, it is the earliest reference in the Chinese sources to a centre which may be Thaton in the location where we might expect it to be. It is significant also that it is identified separately from Pegu. The commercial interaction by sea between China during the Later Han dynasty and Imperial Rome is supported by the record of the 166AD visit to the Han court by an alleged Roman mission, and the 226AD visit by a Roman merchant called Chin Lun. He arrived in south China by sea from Annam (Jih-nan) and Tongkin (Chiao-chih). Chinese sources state that Roman merchants frequently visited Funan, Jih-nan and Chiao-chih, corroborating the statements in the Periplus that Roman merchants were trading in Southeast Asia during the first century AD. They stopped over in Canton (Pan-yu), already a flourishing centre for the overseas trade in pearls, tortoise shells, fruits and textiles (Ying-Shih Yu, 1967: 172-179). Indias role as intermediary in this China-Rome maritime silk trade is said to be reflected in a dialogue between the monk, Nagasena, and King Menandros (c. 125- 95BC) in the ancient Indian Pali text, the Milindapanha, wherein Nagasena refers to Indian ships carrying cargo to China (Yu, 1967: 176).

Key indicators of Arikamedus eastward trading links are found in the bead making industry, specifically what Francis designates, the Indo-Pacific beads, glass beads made by the drawn and wound methods (Francis, 1990(a): 1,1991: 34). The art of glassmaking was practiced in China and India by 1100BC, having spread from the Middle East where glass samples were found at Tel Asmar, Mesopotamia, in a context dating around 2500BC (Dikshit, 1969: 1; Francis, 1990:1). At Arikamedu, all stages of

beadmaking by the lada process have been found, including slag, the wastage from the


process, thus proving that the bead industry was local, and not imported from the West. The fragments of glass uncovered even in Casals excavation suggest that the lada process was used throughout the occupation of Arikamedu. Different chemical additives were used to produce various colours. Thus soda was used at Arikamedu in making the red glass beads; potash for other colours (Francis, 1990: 6). The most common

Arikamedu bead was a monochrome drawn bead less than 6mm in diameter. Some glass beads were made by the minor technique of being ground and perforated, unfinished examples of which have been found at Arikamedu indicating local production. Significantly, such beads are known from Ban Don Ta Phet, Thailand with a date of early fourth century BC, Mantai, Sri Lanka in the late first millennium AD, Nishapur, Iran in the early Islamic period and Uyaw Cave in The Philippines which is about the same period as Arikamedu (Francis, 1991: 33). Such a distribution, particularly those from Ban Don Ta Phet and Uyaw Cave, would suggest trading linkages eastwards of these beads. Indo-Pacific beads have been found at seven sites in Southeast Asia where they were manufactured as proven by the evidence of diagnostic wasters. These sites are Mantai, Sri Lanka, Oc-eo, Vietnam, Klong Thom, Sating Pra and Takua Pa, southern Thailand, and Kuala Selingsing and Sungai Mas, Malaysia. Of these, Klong Thom, Oceo and Mantai had links with Arikamedu (Francis, 1991: 34), and may all have been established in the first to second century AD. Francis suggests that Tamil bead makers from Arikamedu may have settled at these sites after Arikamedu itself was abandoned. Not only did they trade with each other, but also each was among the first urban centres in their region; each was a major port having Roman, Persian and Chinese imports. Each is identified with Roman emporia in Ptolemys Geographia: Arikamedu with Poduke; Mantai with Modutti; Oc-eo with Kattigara, and Klong Thom with Takkola (Gerinis identification of Takkola with Takua Pa is no longer considered valid). Francis considers that as each site was abandoned, the beadmakers moved on, those from Oc-eo to Sating Pra then to Takua Pa, those of Klong Thom to Kuala Selingsing then to Sungai Mas (Francis, 1991:34 - 35). By the tenth century when the Cholas overran Mantai, the beadmaking industry was in difficulties, and if the descendants of the beadmakers moved back to India, possibly to Nagapattinam, there is as yet no confirmed archaeological evidence.


There is another interesting link between Arikamedu and Ban Don Ta Phet in that Arikamedu is among the earliest sites where the use of double tipped diamond drills is recorded for use in perforating stone beads, whilst this practice is also documented for Ban Don Ta Phet dating from the fourth century BC (Glover, 1989:21). Francis has pointed out that all stone beads manufactured at Arikamedu were bored with this type of drill, except those bored from only one side. Diamonds from India were sent to Rome and China during the heyday of Arikamedu (Francis, 1991: 38). Thus it is believed that

Arikamedu was a major lapidary centre exporting its products east as well as west. Amongst its products were the sought after onyx, used to make cameos at this period in Rome, red glass, collar beads, and folded beads. Possibly different guilds or social groups specialized in different types of beads. Francis concludes that it is no longer

valid to consider Arikamedu merely an Indo-Roman trading station, or to assess its contribution to the world system merely in terms of its linkages to the Mediterranean world. Its pioneering beadmaking production techniques lived on at other sites in

Southeast Asia long after Arikamedu itself had been abandoned, which strongly suggests that Arikamedu looked east far more than it looked west (Francis, 1991: 40).

The part Arikamedu played in the process of state formation in Southeast Asia is only just coming to light as research on the Indo-Pacific beads is able to provide new insights into the socio-economic relations of those early urban centres engaged in this industry. Indo-Pacific beads were made for some two thousand years. The two types the drawn bead cut from glass tubes and the wound bead made by twirling hot glass around a mandrel are widespread throughout Southeast Asia, southern China, Korea, Japan, southern India and Sri Lanka, but are less common in the Persian Gulf and northern India (Francis, 1990(a): 1). First made at Arikamedu, some 50,000 beads and wasters now in the Pondicherry museum testify to the importance of this industry for Arikamedu (250BC 200AD) which was making beads at least two hundred years before the first Greco-Roman traders appeared, and continued to do so for more than a century after their departure. This was a century or more before the invention of the blow-pipe Thus it is important to keep the

in the western Mediterranean (Francis, 1990(a): 3).


notion of the Roman emporium in perspective. The group of Mediterranean merchants trading to Arikamedu, were engaged in personal entrepreneurial activities; they were not the spearhead of empire. They were essentially more important to themselves than to the locals on whose tolerance they relied for continuance of their activities. In such Treaty Ports as Charlesworth suggested they were, the Yavana (Greek) merchants were allowed to reside and transact business (Charlesworth, 1951: 142). When civil strife in Rome during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161 180AD) led to reduced capacity to undertake eastern trading ventures, most of the emporia were abandoned. Of greater importance and longer lived, were Arikamedus trading relations eastward with Oc-eo, Mantai, and Klong Thom. Not only were these early urban centres in their respective regions from the first to at least the sixth centuries AD, but also each was the site of a Greco-Roman emporium. At Mantai, Ptolemys Modutti emporium, Arab and Persian merchants from the west could meet those of the east, each brought by the opposite monsoon winds, and relying on the monsoon reversal to guide their homeward journeys. Here beads made in Arikamedu have been found, as they have in Klong Thom, Krabi Province, southern Thailand, and at Oc-eo, the port of Funan, which was occupied in the second to sixth centuries AD. Klong Thom would have been a centre for the trans-isthmus trade,

comparable to Mantai, whilst Oc-eo, Ptolemys Kattigara, has been called the chief relay port in the Malay-Chinese trade (Francis, 1990(a): 5). The four ports shared a common technology in the art of Indo-Pacific beadmaking, a technology which continued at the Southeast Asian centres for some centuries after Arikamedu was abandoned.

Thus it could be said the interregional, and indeed intraregional, trading networks arose from, and continued to meet, the needs of emerging urbanized states both long before the Pax Romana intensified commercial activity across the sealanes from the Mediterranean to the China sea, and long after political crises in Rome saw the withdrawal of the Greco-Roman merchants from the trading entrepots of Southeast Asia. Their withdrawal did not mean that the world trading system ceased. Their withdrawal may have been barely a minor ripple across the system as the Arab, Middle Eastern, Indian, Kuen Lun and Chinese merchants continued their ancient seafaring commerce.


PART III The Funan, Chen-la, Lin-yi, Dvaravati Dynamic

Chinese interest in the southern sea route to the west increased during times when hostile activity in Central Asia cut their access to goods coming across the overland Silk Routes. From the mission of Kang Tai and Zhu Ying, sent by the Wu Emperor in

about AD 245 250 to investigate the possible opening of a maritime silk route between China and Rome (Higham, 2001: 24) has come a description of a state of Funan located in the Mekong Delta whose port was Oc-Eo and whose capital, it was once thought was Vyadhapura, the City of the Hunter (Siva) just south of present day Phnom Penh (Ferrand, 1904: 153, Rogers, 1996:63, Higham, 1989: 247), which is derived linguistically from the old Khmer word, bnam or mountain. The kings of Funan, took as their royal title King of the Mountain. (Coedes, 1975: 36). However, Vickery (1998: 18) supported by Higham (2001) has disputed this view, and considers that Angkor Borei, linked by canal to Oc Eo, has stronger claims to being the central place of Funan. Here the remains of an iron age cemetery underlying habitation sites which utilized an orange pottery, indicate that the site was occupied from at least the fourth century BC up until the sixth century AD of the Funan polity (and even into the later Angkor period). Other archaeological remains indicate that there was a series of trading communities, such as those at Go Hang and Noen U-Loke, in the hinterland and Mekong Delta, which engaged in international trade towards the end of the first millennium BC. Their

interconnection by means of a network of canals providing the transportation system for the trading goods may be a sign that Funan was one political entity (Higham, 2001: 34).

The geographical extent of the maritime trading polity, Funan, is thought to have reached the lower Chao Phraya valley to U-thong, the Malay Peninsula and perhaps even to lower Burma, based on a mainly Mon-Khmer population. How far into the valleys of the Mun-Chi rivers of northeast Thailand did it extend? Was Funans military activity responsible for the termination of the 4,000 year old Ban Chiang culture in northeast Thailand, perhaps deporting the population to other centres in Funan itself? Kang Tai describes a polity whose maritime commerce was backed by military conquest, whose


people engaged in agriculture and paid taxes in gold, silver, pearls and perfumes. He tells us that the people of Funan had walled villages, palaces, went about naked and barefoot, sowed for one year and harvested for three. They had silver utensils. They apparently had a script and administrative records for, according to Kang Tai, There are books and depositories of archives and other things. Their characters for writing resemble those of the Hu. They were evidently distinct from the Ban Chiang people who appear not to have had a script, or left any such archival remains. It is possible as Vallibhotama has suggested, that the Tai-Lao peoples inhabited the region up to the Mun River, whilst the southern part of the northeast Korat plateau was occupied by the Mon-Khmer peoples. Both Chamberlain (1975; 1991, 1998) and Hoshino (1992) support this view. Indeed, Chamberlain (1998: 37-41) emphasises that Lao in the Chinese dynastic chronicles is the oldest surviving term for the Tai-Kadai speaking peoples whose habitational locus prior to the fifth century AD may have been the Phong area of the Black and Red rivers in north Vietnam. Whilst we can make certain allowances in Kang Tais description for his imposing on his experience his Chinese expectations of how a state operated, yet his noting the presence of walled central places seems to accord with the archaeological findings of Vallibhotama et als in the valleys of the Mun and Chi Rivers, that different types of moated settlements indicated a heirarchical pattern of social and political organization. It is at such sites as Noen U-Loke that the pattern of increasing social complexity can be traced, as participation in the international trade networks provided local chiefs with the luxury goods and wealth which enhanced their status.

The archaeological discoveries of both Malleret and Pelliot in the lower Mekong Valley around Oc-Eo (occupied c. 2 6th centuries AD) revealed an interlocking network of irrigation canals linking it with Ta Kev which supported this agricultural society. The canals linked the port to Angkor Borei, some 90 km away, now believed to be the preeminent centre (Higham, 1989: 252). It was located some 500 li from the sea according to the Chinese records. It is possible the canals were used to transport goods across the delta as well as support their primary agricultural purpose. The research of Malleret and Pelliot is consistent with the description of Kang Tai of the emergence of this first state extending east-west from the lower Mekong Delta to the Menam Chao


Phraya and the Andaman Sea. In the anthropological approach of Johnson and Earle on the evolution of human societies, in Funan cultural identification and economic interdependence superseded biological bonding to dramatically change the fiber of social cohesion. Whilst at the geographical periphery of the state actual control would be dubious given the difficulties of travel and communication, yet at the centre, the emergence of special interest groups, different occupational classes, engaged in the ceremonial legitimizing of social inequality supported the growth of a state religion, state bureaucracy and military force (Johnson and Earle, 1987). By the early seventh century, according to the Sui Shu the state of Funan had some 30 ceremonial and administrative centres whose names ended with pura (city) with populations of around 3,000 adults (Wheatley, 1983: 126 127).

Funans ceremonial legitimizing is evident in its origin myth identifying a certain Kaundinya, an Indian, who around the end of the 1st century AD allegedly married a local princess to establish a ruling elite. The Chinese records of the Liang dynasty (written in the 7th century AD) state that Kaundinya gave his male descendants control of seven dependent settlements, perhaps indicating development of the concept of a centralized authority structure in the bureaucratic record. George Coedes has pointed out that the mythical event onto which the first century AD historical events were grafted is identical with that of the Pallava kings of Kanchi in southern India (Coedes, 1975: 38). Further Chinese missions took place in 285 287AD suggesting that Funan was a place of interest to the Chinese rulers. Funan is said to have sent an embassy to China itself following the visit of Kang Tai and Zhu Ying. From the Chinese records we also gain a picture of dynastic friction, assassinations, takeovers and military expeditions. One Funanese leader known to the Chinese as Fan Shih-man mounted raids against his neighbours, then undertook a waterborne expedition to subdue some ten chiefs along the shores of the Gulf of Siam. Fan Shih-mans son in turn was displaced by another successful military leader, Fan Chun, the son of his fathers sister. It is likely, as Vickery (1998) has suggested, that here we see an example of the older matrilineal inheritance structure asserting itself against an attempt to impose patrilineal descent in accordance with the new Hinduistic legitimising rituals. The records state that the last king of Funan,


known as Rudravarman, had to flee his capital after its investment by neighbouring Chenla. Briggs considers that Funan may have lingered on from another site in the south of the delta, possibly Oc-Eo, until 627AD, although this view is not widely held.

This loosely knit empire as Quaritch Wales (1965: 10) envisaged Funan to be, benefitted economically from its position on the international trade routes, and fostered good international relations with both India and China. Thus in 240AD an embassy is said to have been sent to a king in the Ganges valley in India who responded with an embassy bringing four horses from the Indo-Scythian region. A Chinese embassy in Funan at the time confirms the gift of the horses from Central Asia, discusses Funans trade and states that oar-propelled boats were built in Funan for the inland river trade. In 268AD Funan and Lin-yi, a forerunner of Champa on the coast of Vietnam, sent tribute missions to negotiate with the Chin Emperor (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 34) and were able to take advantage of the resurgent seatrade after 280AD to send further missions to meet the Chinese demand for luxury goods, kingfisher feathers, tortoise shells, corals and pearls in the northern cities of the empire. In 284 287AD they joined with some twenty other polities of the Nanhai to send tribute and resume normal trade relations with China (Wang Gungwu,1998: 34). They benefited economically from this resurgent trade which continued until 300AD when renewed turmoil in northern China lost the Empire its wealthiest cities in the northern territories. Turmoil in southern China after 322AD coincided with a significant reduction in trade missions from the Nanhai, only three being recorded between 300 and 400AD, all from Lin-yi.

Wang Gungwu suggests that the ships used for these missions may have been Funanese ships, described by Kang Tai as eight Chinese feet long and six feet broad, with bows and stern like fish, the large ones able to carry one hundred men with each man carrying a long or short oar or a boat pole. However, Fan Chans envoy to Bengal, sailed in an Indian ship up the Ganges. A Chinese record from the end of the third century AD describes the ships of men from foreign lands as being over 200 feet long, twenty to thirty feet high above the water level and holding 600 to 700 men with cargo capacity of 10,000 ho (about 10 pecks by the Chinese measure). The same source states


that the men from beyond our frontiers use four sails for their ships, connected to each other from bow to stern; . . . when they sail, they do not avoid strong winds and violent waves, and therefore can travel very swiftly. Wang Gungwu considers that these were probably Indian ships sailing directly between China and India, or Indian-built ships of the archipelago trading with China. Their performance was contrasted with the slower and smaller Yueh and Chinese ships (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 38-39).

Kang Tais book mentions some ten states in Siam, Burma, the Peninsula and other islands in the Archipelago with which trade was maintained until early Chin times. In Funan he had met Chen Sung, from North India, on his mission to Funan. Whilst at this time, China had direct trade with Ta-chin through South India, Ceylon, the Peninsula states and Funan, in Kang Tais time that there was no direct trade with North India (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 39). Wolters suggested that the real reason the Wu

government sent Kang Tai and Chu Ying to Funan was to learn more of Funans trade with India and western Asia, that it was Funans links with the west, rather than Funan itself, that interested the Chinese (Wolters, 1967: 38). Wolters notes the few references in the Chinese texts of the third century AD to the products of Southeast Asia. He considers that it was the luxury goods from western Asia available in Funans ports which the Wu emperor wanted to secure for trans-shipment to the ports of southern China. In the wake of the partition of Han China in the early third century, the northern Wei dynasty had control of the overland trade route through Turkestan, thus denying the Wu access to the normal supplies of these luxury items (Wolters, 1967: 39 40). In 226 and 284AD, Ta-chin sent missions to China, the first to the newly established kingdom of Wu, the second after the reunfication of China under the Chin emperor. The timing implies that the missions were seeking assurance from the new authorities of the continuance of trade and protection of merchants at Chinese ports (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 40). However, the trade with Ta-chin was smaller than that with Funan and Lin-yi

whose ruler, Fan Wen, travelled with a merchant mission to China in 313 316AD and brought back to Lin-yi knowledge of Chinese court architecture, fort building, town planning and manufacture of tools and weapons. In the fourth century, Lin-yi is said to have brought valuable goods to China by sea, a situation which continued until 347AD,


when Fan Wens conquest of Jih-nan initiated a period of fourteen years of warfare. The sea trade from Tongking was disrupted, and merchants passed directly to Canton instead. During Wu times, Funan was the most important state between China and India, master of the Gulf of Siam and all the lands of Cochin China to the Peninsula.

The entrepots on the Peninsula, Funanese dependencies, grew wealthy and important on the basis of their location on the international trade route. Whether

traversing the Isthmian states such as Tien-sun (Tenasserim) which came under Funan hegemony in the second century AD, or sailing directly to India through the Straits of Malacca after calling into the Funanese port of Chu-li at the southern end of the Peninsula, the east-west trade passed through Funanese territory. Funans importance to the Chinese was undoubted. At the Chinese capital at Chien-yeh an office of Funanese music was established in 244AD; its musicians were valued and songs were written celebrating this kingdom. The relationship was strengthened by Funans missions sent in 285, 286 and 287AD, until disorder in Funan itself in the following century led to fewer missions. The centres of interest for the Nanhai traders thereafter shifted further south to the Funanese dependencies on the Peninsula.

In the third century, the Nanhai trade had developed considerably based on the provision of luxury products to the Chinese capitals and wealthy cities, products which included gharuwoods, perfumes, coral , ivory, rhinoceros horn, pearls, glass, jewels and rare stones, and an incipient slave trade in the peoples of the Kuen-luen. The merchants engaged in this trade were Funanese, Malays, Indians, Ceylonese and Chams, together with the Hu from Ta-chin. A new group of merchants soon joined them, the Po-sse from the Malay Peninsula or Sumatra. In the fourth century, with disorder in Funan and Lin-yi, Canton replaced Hanoi as the favorite destination for these traders. When the Buddhist pilgrim, Fa-hsien, returned to China in 414AD, he sailed directly to Canton from Yeh-po-ti, a port either on the tip of the Peninsula or on the east coast of Sumatra (or even identified with the west coast of Borneo). As the international trade routes bypassed Funan, it is thought that the wealth it derived from this trade diminished and it had to seek alternative sources of state revenue from its agrarian hinterland (Vickery,


1998:20-21). In the fifth century, the nature of international trade also changed. A mission from Ceylon to the Chin in 405AD heralded this change in the nature of the merchandise, as the trade in the holy things of the Buddhist faith replaced the forest products of the earlier era. In the wider context, during the fifth and sixth centuries, the products of the Nanhai trade extended to meeting the needs of the consumer markets of the wealthier Chinese cities, not just the demands of the court.

By the time the last ruler of Funan, Rudravarman, died in about 550AD following a successful raid by another upcoming centre, Chenla, a former vassal of Funan, it is evident that both Indian and Chinese cultural influences had been present in Funan for some centuries. The names of the rulers and cities, the adoption of the Hinduistic cults of Siva and Vishnu as well as that of Mahayana Buddhism by Funans rulers, the architectural style of the brick sanctuaries and palaces erected as part of the process of the ceremonial legitimizing of statehood, all confirm the presence of Indian cultural influences at the elite level of the social structure. Beyond the elite level flourished the local culture of the ordinary people who continued to live in houses on stilts built to survive the seasonal floods and who sought relief from their labors in the traditional agricultural festivals and communal amusements. Such indigenous patterns are likely to have continued an eclectic, relatively self-sufficient mode of existence in the early stages of so-called Indianization with little impact on the village cultures of Funan (Mabbett, 1977: 2; Vickery, 2001). Mabbetts timely reminder that India and Southeast Asia were not two distinct cultural units separated by the Bay of Bengal, correctly emphasises the ongoing complex pattern of cultural linkages in the region since the Hoabinhian Epoch. Indian visitors to the Funanese socio-cultural polity were not foreigners so much as familiar neighbours with whose homeland there had long been interaction (Mabbett, 1977: 10). Whilst the port cities of Funan may have thronged with international visitors, the hinterland continued the broad-spectrum subsistence patterns of the folk communities.

In the mid sixth century AD when the thirteenth king of Funan, Rudravarman, yielded power to his former vassal, Chenla, the focal point of the new polity moved north


to the middle reaches of the Mekong River near Bassac, close to the confluence with the Mun River. Funan may have bequeathed to Chenla the same legitimizing myths of the legend of the marriage of a brahman, Kaundinya, with a local princess, Soma, together with the cult of the sacred mountain and the naga motif. At the end of the century, we find a Chenla ruler, Chitrasena-Mahendravarman of Sambor Prei Kuk in Kompong Thom, brother of Bhavavarman of Bhavapura, extending his power by conquest north and south of the Dangraek mountain range, along the valley of the Mun River across the lower northeast of Thailand (or Isan as it is known) to Surin and Buriram. His conquests included Kratie in the east to Ta Phraya in the west. Soon the Hinduised Chenla polity would come into contact with the spreading Buddhistic culture of the city states centred in the western part of the former Funan, which came to be known as the Dvaravati culture. It is wise to be cautious, as Claude Jacques has pointed out, about drawing a

monolithic picture of these early states based on the descriptions in the Chinese historical records (Jacques, 1979: 375) for there were doubtless many others (Wolters, 1979:287). Certainly, as Higham (2001:84) and Vickery (1998) suggest, there is no evidence of Angkorian political control from central Cambodia to the ricelands of the Mun Valley or the Chao Phraya river further west at this time, and probably not until the reign of Suryavarman in the early eleventh century.

From Sanskrit inscriptions and archaeological finds come further evidence of the early proto-historic move to more complex societies and eventually the development of urbanism in the region. Wheatley looks to the Chinese pattern in Vietnam in the Jih-nan commandery as a possible genesis. One of these is the tribal confederacy of Lin-yi, on the central coast of Vietnam, which, from around the second century AD was an autonomous polity, confident enough to send a mission in 433 AD to the Chinese Emperor seeking the governorship of Giao-chi. Wheatley considers that the development of urbanism in Lin-yi, initially imposed by the Chinese, from the third century AD developed its own independent cultural direction. Lin-yis principles of urban design were among the earliest cultural borrowings from south China (Wheatley, 1979: 295). Apart from these sinicized Lin-yi of the Jih-nan commandery, by the beginning of the fifth century AD there was also a Hinduized group on the central Vietnamese coast


around Quang-nam which became the kingdom of Champa.

Wheatley sees a similar

urbanism developing in the former Funan city-states of the northern Malay Peninsula around the third century AD. Perhaps the surge to urbanism was the real legacy of OcEo, whose rectilinear design is distinctive in early Southeast Asia. Whether it is

Ptolemys Kattigara, or not, it presents documentary evidence of the transformation from folk to urban society (Wheatley, 1979: 298), a process which appears to have been happening at several sites across the region in the period 200AD 500AD.

Relations with the early muang of the Peninsula

Of the four ports linked in the east-west trade during this proto-historic era Arikamedu (south-eastern India), Mantai (Ceylon), Klong Thom (in Krabi province on the west coast of the Peninsula in southern Thailand), and Oc-Eo (Mekong Delta, Funan) it is perhaps Klong Thom which marks the enduring importance of the trans-Isthmian route in the commercial, cultural and political fortunes of the region. Its importance was not lost on Fan Shih-Man of Funan who undertook his expedition to subdue 10 chiefdoms along the coast of the Gulf of Siam and exacted recognition of his suzerainty over those on the Peninsula. Klong Thoms strategic position for the control of international trade was perhaps even more important than that of Oc-Eo. Certainly, as Wheatley pointed out, the trans-peninsular route linking the western and eastern ends of the international trading routes, was known and used in pre-historic times, long before Fan Shih-Man set out on his victorious expedition (Wheatley, 1961: 288).

From a commemorative tablet of the fifth century AD, erected by a certain merchant captain named Buddhagupta, we have evidence of a Buddhist community in present day Kedah which was trading with India. The researches of Wheatley, Wang

Gungwu, Janice Stargardt and others have identified several other states or early kingdoms whose commercially advantageous locations along the Isthmian trade routes linking west and east made them sufficiently wealthy to attract the attention of the Chinese dynastic chroniclers. These early Peninsular states were recorded by the Chinese historians as Pan-pan which sent its first recorded missions to China in 424 453AD;


Chih-tu which reached its peak in the early 7th century; Tan-tan which sent its first recorded embassy to China in 530AD; Ko-lo (near present day Mergui, famous in later Siamese-Burmese history); Langkasuka and Chieh-chia (Kedah) which were ports of call for Buddhist pilgrims going to India across the Bay of Bengal. Their accounts show a considerable degree of regularity in these sailings. Clearly these ports and states were well-known and frequented by a cosmopolitan set of travellers, pilgrims and merchants.

The loosening of the bonds of suzerainty following Funans demise gave the opportunity to these early trade-oriented states on the Peninsula to grow independently. Chenla did not follow Funans policy of establishing control over the Peninsula. Its failure to consolidate its power here spurred the development of autonomous states who sent their own missions to China. Indeed sending a mission to China became the mark of an independent polity. To the Chinese, the Peninsular states were known as a source of perfumes (Wheatley, 1961: 288) and precious items used in the temples, especially during the reign of the devout Chinese Buddhist ruler, Liang Wu-ti 502 549AD. Two states, Pan-pan and Tan-tan are known to have provided the Chinese with Buddhist relics, leaves of the Bo tree, ivory and miniature painted stupas, sandalwood and incense as part of the trade in religious wares. Such products would have travelled across the

Peninsula by one of several routes: down the Trang River valley, used as a transPeninsular gateway, or along the trade route from Takua Pa across the Isthmus through Wieng Sra to Tambralinga, possibly part of Pan-pan (Wheatley, 1961: 291). In the following period, jungle products replaced these sacred objects as the main items for the Chinese market. By the early seventh century, the Peninsular city states had established their economic well-being on the basis of this international trade.

Wheatleys and Wang Gungwus analyses of the evidence on these city states during what the former has termed the Isthmian Age suggests that they clustered around the coastal plains and river estuaries in the north of the Peninsula. Administration is thought to have been theocratic, imbued with Indian notions of kingship and ritual in support of a court, but hardly touching the lives of the people at large, the majority of whom were fishermen, rice farmers and collectors of jungle produce. The west coast


settlements supported mining communities and cosmopolitan merchant enclaves. Tunsun is thought to have been a federation of five chiefdoms; others such as Kedah (Kalah), Takola and Langkasuka built their wealth from control of the sea, but did not extend their suzerainty over all their neighbours.

Founded early in the second century AD according to the Chinese Liang History, Langkasuka has been located, by Wheatley on the east coast of the Peninsula near modern Pattani in southern Thailand. For Buddhist pilgrims it was clearly a port of call on the sea route to India. Its resurgence in the fifth century as an independent polity following a period of incorporation into Funan saw an intensification of Indian influence in the court culture and practices (Wheatley, 1961: 264). A description of Langkasuka, known in the 7th century Chinese records of the Liang dynasty as Lang-ya-hsiu, says it was situated in the Southern Sea, twenty-four thousand li from Canton. Its climate and products were similar to those of Funan aloeswood and camphor were very plentiful. Men and women went about with the upper part of the body naked and their hair hanging dishevelled down their back. They wore cotton sarongs, but the king and his high officials had special cloths to cover their shoulders and wore golden cords as girdles with gold rings in their ears. Women wrapped cotton cloth around themselves and wore coiled, jewelled cinctures around their bodies. Langkasuka was a city surrounded by walls with double gates, towers and pavilions. The king rode an elephant, accompanied by banners, flywhisks, flags and drums; he was protected by a white parasol. The soldiers guarding him were well equipped. In a story reflecting on the tenuous nature of kingship, during an earlier time of troubles a virtuous man exiled by the ruler of the day went to India, where he married the daughter of a king, and later was welcomed back to Langkasuka by the chief ministers after the death of the previous ruler. Twenty years later his son succeeded him, and in the fourteenth year of the Tien-chien period ie 515AD sent a mission to China (Wheatley, 1961: 254). Further embassies were sent in 523 and 568AD..

North of Langkasuka was Pan Pan from which the second Kaundinya had sought to usurp the throne of Funan in the fourth century, whilst to the northwest was


Ptolemys port city of Takkola, now identified with Klong Thom. Between 424 and 464AD, Pan-pan sent a number of embassies independently to China indicating a confidence and prosperity outside Funanese control. Other states mentioned by the

Chinese annals and identified by Wheatley are Tun-sun, possibly a Mon kingdom around Pong-Tuk or Pra Pathom with access to the sea on both sides of its territory which made it the most important of the Peninsular states; Chu-li, Pan-tou, Pi-sung and Ko-lo near Mergui. Tan-tan sent an embassy to China in 530AD. The Chinese annals of the Sui dynasty record that another of these Peninsular states, Chih-tu, the Red Earth kingdom, was honoured with an embassy from the Imperial Chinese court in 607AD. At this time according to the Sui-shu, in the period 605 616AD more than ten kingdoms from the southern frontiers sent tribute to the Son of Heaven. chronicled in the histories of the Tang dynasty. Some of these continued to be

However, no further tribute missions

are recorded for Chih-tu after 610AD. Its capital, the Lion City on the Kelantan River, had boasted a court imbued with Indian rituals as seen by Chang-chun when he came to purchase luxuries, gold, camphor, and other local products, for his imperial master.

Archaeological finds in Kedah have provided further evidence of Indian cultural influences on these city states. Seven pieces of a Sanskrit inscription dated to the 4th

century AD found in Cherok Tekun in Province Wellesley, and two Buddhist verses in Sanskrit found at Bukit Meriam in Kedah written in the oldest Pallava alphabet ascribed to the 4th or 5th century AD testify to their presence. Together with the slab Sanskrit prayer of the merchant, Buddhagupta, written in 5th century AD Pallava script, which was found by Captain James Low at Guak Kepah, such finds suggest that the west coast was frequented by Indian merchants during the 5th century AD. Further excavations in Kedah by I H N Evans and H G Quaritch Wales yielded some thirty sites with the remains of sanctuaries, palace halls, two forts, a 4th century stupa base at Bukit Choras, two stupas of the 5th and 6th centuries AD, and a further ten Saivite shrines in the Bujang Valley. Whilst Buddhism was clearly well established here in the 5th century, evidence of Saivism occurs also in the shape of the line of Saivite temples along the Bujang River. Wheatley notes that these shrines were built with their entrances to the east in the mode of the linga shrines of South India (Wheatley, 1961: 275).


Thus from at least the third century AD there is evidence of further development of social and political complexity in the Peninsula beyond that of the chiefdom. Wang Gungwu has noted that from the end of the Later Han dynasty (ie 220AD) the sea trade around the Indian Ocean became increasingly important for the economic well-being of the kingdoms on the Gulf of Siam and the Peninsula, yet for the Chinese themselves it was comparatively small in relation to that around the South China Sea. This situation would change in the following period when political turmoil cut Chinas access to the west across the overland Silk Routes. At such times, Chinas interest in the Nanhai trade with the southern kingdoms increased, stimulated initially during the Han Dynasty, by the demand for pearls, the best of which came from India (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 21). The new court in southern China at Chien-yeh (Nanking) during the Three Kingdoms period required the luxury products of the ten city states in the Golden Khersonese. Perhaps

this demand coupled with the changing political situation after the demise of Funan, and the adaptation of some Indian cultural influences at the elite level of the social structure, encouraged the development of socio-cultural complexity among the muang of the Peninsula. However, turmoil in China in the 4th century AD coincided with few

missions from the southern kingdoms. With the establishment of the Liang dynasty in south China in the sixth century, profitable trading resumed with the Buddhist kingdoms of the Nanhai and Southeast Asia from the ports of Canton and Hanoi to which foreign merchants again came to trade. (Wang Gung-wu, 1998:49)

Buddhism with its institutional links to the state, its location of key centres on trade routes and close association with urban centres, wealth-controlling and literate elites, its inspiration to erecting complex architectural features and encouragement of craft specialization in the production of cotton cloths, beads, moulds, polishers, ceramics, terracottas, artefacts in shell, stones and ivory to serve in the worship of holy things, provided a sigificant structural element in the emergence of socio-political complexity. As consumers, monks required vast quantities of donated food, cloths and ceremonial items. Monasteries needed to be near the sources of such items, both the people and the towns, the production centres, and along the highways of transportation. Institutional


Buddhism played a key role in the expansion of trade in the period 200AD 500AD, and had a close association with urbanism and complex state polities. Long distance exchange alone is insufficient to account for the proliferation of city states in this protohistoric period; other elements including the economic and religious restructuring had significant impact on the emerging polities (Morrison, 1995: 216-218) as cities became sacred centres. The Pre-Khmer Buddhist Culture of northeast Thailand

In 1957, Quaritch Wales announced the finding of an early, Pre-Khmer, Mon Buddhist civilization in northeast Thailand with affinities to the Dvaravati culture found at sites around the Gulf of Siam, at Nakhon Pathom, Lopburi and north to Haripunchai (Lamphun). Using the aerial photographs taken by Williams-Hunt of a series of

circular sites with multiple earth ramparts on the Korat Plateau and the finds of sema (boundary) stones used in Buddhist temples, together with a Buddha image six inches high seated in the virasana fashion with right hand in vitarka mudra, Quaritch Wales identified this early Buddhist civilization in the Mun River basin as having the same artistic features as the Dvaravati culture of the Menam Basin. The sema stones occurred near the present day village of Kasetr Sombun, not far from the provincial capital of Chaiyaphum on a tributary of the Nam Si, north of Korat. The inscription on the sema stones was identified by George Coedes as an archaic form of Sanskrit from the sixth century AD. Quaritch Wales reasoned that it was improbable that the Khmers of Chenla had reached this far in the sixth century AD and that since all their insciptions at that time were Hindu, the inscription on the sema stone belonged to an early Buddhist civilization similar to that of the Dvaravati culture of central Thailand.


Further evidence of such a civilization came from similar sema stones found at Kanok Nakhon , Kalasin province and photographed in 1938 by Phra Phahirath Phibun. Having examined the photographs, Quaritch Wales considered that they belonged to the same culture as those found in Chaiyaphum province. Together with the remains of a stone Buddha image found by Nai Charoen at Kanok Nakhon and a small bronze Buddha from Thamen Chai, these sema stones constitute the relicts of a possible pre-Khmer Buddhist civilization on the Korat plateau with affinities to the Dvaravati culture prior to the sixth century AD. Quaritch Wales goes further and identifies it with the state of Chu-chiang, the Red River country, which, according to Ma Tuan-lin, bordered the Khmer state of Chenla, until it was absorbed by Isanavarman I of Chenla around 630AD (Quaritch Wales, 1957: 58 59). He suggests that Aranyprathet was the most easterly extent of the Mon Buddhist culture spreading from the Chao Phraya river basin which had provided the colonists to establish on the Korat Plateau this early Buddhist civilization. It is possible, however, given the wide dispersal of the iron age muang as discussed in Part I of this paper, that the movement was in the alternative direction ie from the Korat Plateau to the centres in the Chao Phraya river basin.

More recent research by the late M C Subhadradis Diskul and Srisaka Vallibhotama has confirmed the early intuitive suggestions of Quaritch Wales. The small stone standing Buddha with hands in the Indian Amaravati style was dated by Prince Diskul to the fifth or sixth century AD. Another stone Buddha

seated under the Naga figure discovered at Muang Fai, Buriram province, northeastern Thailand, is also said to be in the Amaravati Indian style with legs


loosely crossed, no flap of cloth on the left shoulder of the Buddha, and the three coils of the snake of equal width. It is said to be of a very early age, possibly around the seventh century. Prince Diskuls work on the Buddhist silver plaques and other Buddhist remains from northeast Thailand led him to support the earlier suggestion of Quaritch Wales that the Dvaravati art style probably spread with Theravada Buddhism from central Thailand in the early proto-historic period, and continued there into the late Dvaravati period around the tenth to eleventh centuries AD, even as the Khmer power spread over the northeast from the eleventh century onwards. Prince Diskul also agreed that the culture probably

belonged to people of the Mon race as inscriptions in the Mon language have been found on four terracotta Buddhist votive tablets discovered at Muang Fa Daed Sung Yang in Kalasin province (Diskul, 1979: 369). It is this Mon Buddhist culture on the Korat plateau which the pre-Angkorian Chenla polity encountered as their military expeditions crossed the Dangraek mountains.

In the mid sixth century AD the expansionist policies of Bhavavarman of Chenla and his brother, Chitrasena-Mahendravarman, initiated the

dismemberment of the early state of Funan.

Chenlas conquests up the Mekong

River basin to Kratie and westwards to Buriram on the Mun River were commemorated in inscriptions and the erection of Sivaite lingas. Bhavavarman,

son of Viravarman, and grandson of Sarvabhauma, seems to have made his centre in the Sen River northeast of the Cambodian Great Lake. He was reigning in 598AD, and was suceeded by Chitrasena, under the regnal name of


Mahendravarman in 600AD. His brief Sanscript inscriptions erected after raids up the Mekong and west along the Mun River show the westward and northward incursions of Chenla across the Korat plateau in the sixth century. Coedes was of the view that Chenlas influence extended to the valley of the Nam Sak at Sri Thep at this time (Coedes, 1975: 68 69). However, based on the distribution of inscriptions, Vickery believes that the heartland of Chenla in the sixth century was concentrated around Ba Phnom to Kompong Thom, while the area around Kratie in the northeast may have been a different polity since its inscriptions do not recognize the Chenla rulers and throughout the eighth century it had its own rulers (Vickery, 1998: 21). A polity based at Sambhupura, in the eighth century, had three queens, whilst five generations of kings ruled the Canasapura polity in the Mun river valley (Higham, 2001: 150). At least some of the claims of Bhavavarman and his brother, Mahendravarman, may exhibit more bravado than political reality. In the early period of state formation, small polities appeared and disappeared with the changing fortunes of their rulers.

A series of shrines and brick-walled enclosures mark the site of Ishanapura, capital of Ishanavarman, son of Mahendravarman. Ishanavarman seems to have enlarged the polity through military expeditions, receiving Tamrapura as vassal and having dependent centres. Under the reign of his greatgrandson, Jayavarman I, the local leaders or pon, were brought into a tighter administrative relationship between the centre and the outlying centres as their hereditary positions were replaced by mratan, appointed officials, including one


in charge of levying tax and another of the grain stores. The appearance of high state officials who enforced royal orders, carried out duties in the provinces and received status symbols such as the white parasol as rewards for loyal service, presaged the later creation of an agrarian state which controlled land and labour. During the dynasty of Bhavavarman, the kings acquired divine titles, waged warfare, and sought to bring outlying chieftains within their circle of influence through land grants and titles. Major industries included salt transportation,

regulated by royal decree, boatbuilding, weaving, commerce, mining, and pottery making such as that at the site of Ban Kruat in Thailand. As the state developed, so too did control of labour for the royal projects. From the network of state and family endowed temples came the wealth and goods which maintained the ritual superstructure. By the time Jayavarman II was ready to make Angkor his capital in the early ninth century, much warfare had accompanied the efforts of two or three dynasties to establish their primary centres between the Tonle Sap and the Kulen Plateau.

Mon City States - Sri Thep, Chansen, Sab Champa, U-Thong, and Nakorn Pathom, 500AD-800AD Bennet Bronson, discussing the first series of critical events leading towards state-like development in the region chose an arbitrary timespan of 1,500 years from 1,000BC to around 500AD to identify this structural movement towards socio-cultural complexity. Although some of the Ban of the Early

Metal Age exhibited in the archaeological record rich material cultures (eg Non Nok Tha, Ban Chiang) he considers that in Central Thailand evidence of specific


monarchical or governmental institutions only begins to appear in the sixth century AD. Chansen and Sri Thep in central Thailand provide the opportunity to study two emerging polities which span the pre- and proto- historic gap. From these sites of theFunan polity to those of the Dvaravati polity, it is possible to discern the emergence of state-like economic and political institutions. Chansen exhibits three evolutionary phases in the first half of the first millennium AD. Thus Bronsons levels II, III and IV at Chansen display a continuous record of state-like development from the first historically documentable contacts with Indian and Chinese cultures to the Dvaravati cultural sequence, all built on the earlier pre-historic levels of habitation.

Based on an analysis of the ceramic artefacts found in these levels, two of Chinese origin and one of Burmese provenance, together with eight metallic blackware bowls similar to the Hanbantota ware of Ceylon, Bronson suggests that Chansen phases III and IV show some sub-regional economic integration, evidence for a developing local elite, increase in local economic activity and large volume of long-distance trade. One of the key elements in the formative phase of political development of proto-states, such trade provided the revenue flow to sustain the erection of public works, temples, palaces and maintainence of a military and police establishment. State development provided the expansionist incentive to exert control over material and human resources, with which to fuel the trade and administer the bureaucracy required to reap economic benefits from the activity. But Chansen, like the Minangkabau and Makassarese states, and also


Funan, shows no evidence of the passion for construction of the large scale ceremonial state monuments which characterized Angkor. Perhaps the

expansionist impetus to control manpower and material resources is the basic characteristic of developing Southeast Asian polities (Bronson, 1979:324 334).

Another early city-state in central Thailand, near Chansen, is Sab Champa, excavated by Veerapan Maleipan, in Lopburi province. Buddhist images and fragments of a sandstone Wheel of the Law dated to the sixth-seventh century AD, span the proto-historic period. Veerapan identifies the culture as similar to Dvaravati and U-thong from the same period. A green sandstone inscription in Pali written in south Indian script describes the Buddhist Law of Dharma. In

size some 834metres long and 704metres broad, the city was surrounded by an earthen wall some 10 metres high with a moat cut into the limestone bed, possibly for defensive purposes. Terracotta plaques showing Gaja-Lakshami on one side and Kuvera on the other provide evidence of Indian influence in the citys international linkages similar to material in Chansen V, which dates to around the end of the sixth century AD. Built on an earlier Neolithic culture, Sab Champa appears to have been a Theravada Buddhist culture which existed from around 6th century to 10th century AD (Veerapan, 1979: 337-341).

Although the Dvaravati culture will be discussed more extensively in the next section, it is pertinent here to raise the issue of U-thong and Nakhon Pathom, both prehistoric sites which developed into city-states in the proto-historic era. Both


have been put forward at different times as the centres for the capital of Funan, yet the weight of scholarly opinion now gives the southern Mekong delta that honour. Nevertheless these two sites played a substantial role in the development of urbanized city-states in the region, and both were undoubtedly part of the Funan polity which had exerted suzerainty around the Gulf of Siam and down the Peninsula up to the mid sixth century AD.

Together with Bronson, Loofs and Lyons have commented on the gold jewellery and Buddhist religious artefacts found at U-thong and Nakhon Pathom,

contemporaneous with Chansen (at which the Indian ivory comb was found) and Pong Tuk, famous for its Roman lamp. All exhibit the cultural traits of the Dvaravati culture, yet they developed from earlier settlements and independently of each other. Much of the gold jewellery excavated at U-thong and Nakhon Pathom is similar to that found at Oc-Eo and is related to examples found at Taxila (Lyons, 1979: 355). Taking all the finds at these sites into account, Lyons suggests that Buddhism and Buddhist practices were probably widespread amongst the people long before it became the official state-sponsored religion which inspired the temple building programs of later times. In these developing polities, sculptures in the late Gupta and Pala styles of the seventh century are frequent. Buddha images found at Pong Tuk and Nakhon Pathom are unique to the Dvaravati culture and do not occur outside Thailand. Lyons believes that this group of images modelled on the Amaravati or early Gupta style, are locally made. They wear the heavy Gandhara type robe which moulds the legs and is


crossed by a symmetrical pattern folding around the body, with hands extended at waiste height (Lyons, 1979: 356). She suggests these are intended to be copies of the Sandalwood image ordered by King Udayana of Kosambi before the Buddhas death, and are connected with the Sarvastivadin sect which existed in Thailand in the early Dvaravati period. Such sculpture would fit in with one of the characteristics of emerging states the imperative to construct official statuary and establish a state religion which, through its rituals, can provide sacerdotal legitimizing of the ruler. Together with other Buddhist iconography the Wheel of the Law, the Buddha seated on the naga or framed in a niche such sculptures are the apurtenances of an official elite which had extensive international links, including with Champa and the Khmer kingdom of Chenla.

These sites U-thong, Nakhon Pathom, Kubua, Chansen and Sab Champa in central Thailand, are, for MC Subhadradis Diskul, the cradle of Dvaravati culture (Diskul, 1979: 364) which he considered spread north to Haripunchai, northeast along the Mun and Chi rivers of the Korat Plateau, east to Aranyaprathet, and south down the Malay Peninsula. The series of sixty-six

silver plaques found in 1972 in the ruins of a Buddhist ordination hall in the ancient town of Khantharawisai (Gandharavisaya), Mahasarakham province, the terracotta Buddhist votive tablets and seated Buddha images in the vitarka mudra posture (attitude of argumentation) taken in Thailand to be that of Buddha descending from Tavatimsa Heaven, show the level of sophistication reached by the Buddhist icononography of this stage (Diskul, 1979:365).


It is however at Sri Thep in the Pasak Valley on the route connecting the Chao Phraya river valley with the Mon centres in the Mun and Chi river valleys of the Korat Plateau that Dhida Saraya has found an extensive proto-historic state in north central Thailand existing from the 6th to around 11th centuries. Saraya shows that archaeological evidence from ancient settlements, religious monuments and secular artefacts indicate that communication with the Pasak valley in this period proceeded from the coastal area of the western Chao Phraya valley along the old waterways to Chainat and Nakhon Sawan then across the mountain range to Sri Thep in the Pasak valley, before going further east via the Don Phraya Klang pass to the upper valleys of the Mun and Chi river system. From the Chi river, the merchant and traveller could proceed to the Upper Mekong valley in Laos and the early state of Chenla. The Pasak valley may have been under Chenla influence for a short time during the sixth century , although there are no specific Chenla architectural remains at Sri Thep from this period. Inscriptions utilizing the Indian suffix, varman, and some Hindu images show Indian Brahmin culture reached the Sri Thep region (Saraya, 1984: 134). From aerial photographs we know that Sri Thep in the first phase of its history (6th 11th century AD) was oval in plan with an inner and outer section similar to Muang Bon in Nakhon Sawan, and is considered part of the Dvaravati culture. It has defensive moats and ramparts which were also used for water control and provided passage to the waterways outside the city. Monuments inside the city at Khlang Nai show similarities to the Wat Khlong at Kubua, Ratburi, also part of


the Dvaravati culture.

Saraya suggests that Sri Theps vitality resulted from its

location at the crossroads of economic and cultural influence between the Dvaravati culture of the Chao Phraya valley and the Indian-influenced preAngkorian culture of Laos and Cambodia (Saraya, 1992: 136). This hinterland state blended together early cultural traits of Chenla Hinduism with Dvaravati Theravada Buddhism. It may have played a key role in spreading Dvaravati culture to the towns of the Mun and Chi river valleys in northeast Thailand.

Saraya makes a case for Sri Theps independent history separate from that of Chenla, and Angkor. On the basis of her analysis of a further set of

inscriptions relating to a state existing in the 9th and 10th centuries in the northeast hinterland of the Chao Phraya valley called Sri Chanasa, Saraya believes that Sri Thep and Sri Chanasa are one and the same polity over which, in the sixth century according to the Sri Thep Inscription (K. 978) a ruler exercising leadership status compared himself to King Bhavavarman of Chenla. He commemorated in the Inscription his own rise to power (Saraya, 1992: 142 144). Along the same

lines, in 1951, Lawrence Palmer Briggs suggested that Sri Thep and a state represented in the Chinese annals as Chu-chiang, the Red River Country west of Chenla (Briggs, 1951:30) were the same state.

Citing the Bo Ika Inscription of the seventh/eighth century and the Hin Khon Inscriptions of the eighth century, Saraya indentifies the mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Khmer cultural influences present by this time. Sri Thep


appears to have developed its own style of classical art as shown by the Maitreya Boddhisatva statue found in the Thamorat Hill cave which evinces a blending of Mahayana and Theravada Buddism. Hindu images found at Sri Thep lead Saraya to suggest a Sri Thep School of religious art. Moreover, four inscriptions found at Sri Thep also suggest that it had its own literary tradition and independent history (Saraya, 1992: 136) and was able to establish itself as a political centre which acted as a transmitter of Theravada Buddhist culture through the Pasak and Mun river valleys (Saraya, 1992: 142). From the evidence of the seventh or eighth century Bo Ika Inscription commemorating donations to a Buddhist foundation, and the eighth century Hin Khon Inscriptions in Sanskrit and Khmer, also commemorating benefactors to Buddhism, Saraya concluded that Sri Thep and Sri Chanasa were the same early inland state. Flourishing from sixth to eleventh centuries, it drew its prosperity from its location linking the exchange network of towns on the northeast rim of the Chao Phraya basin and the Nakhon Sawan region. Contemporaneous with U-thong and Nakhon Chaisri in the western Chao Phraya valley, Sri Thep lost its socio-economic advantage when the hinterland trade route changed. It was superseded in the eleventh century by the Khmer administrative outpost at Lavo on the Lopburi river. Goods and merchants bypassed Sri Thep and moved directly from Lavo (Lopburi) to Nakhon Sawan, thence to the towns of the Korat Plateau. Overseas traders coming to Lavo soon made this state the centre for international communication in this part of the Chao Phraya valley.


Urbanism, the concept of life in a town or city-state had clearly made its appearance in Southeast Asia by the third century AD. Wheatleys explorations of urbanism at Oc-Eo and Lin-yi (1983), those of Vallibhotama and Saraya in northeast and central Thailand show that by the mid first millennium AD the transition had been made from village to walled town, or city centres which had religious, commercial, administrative or cultural importance to the population in the villages of the surrounding agricultural areas. If the urge to urbanism

amongst the cities of the Indus Valley was cut short in the second millennium BC, the concept of the city as locus of culture in the west had nevertheless spread from Sumer to the Middle East and become established in the Mediterranean by the beginning of the first millenium BC. After the sudden and catastropic end of the Mycenaen cities of the Aegaen, it was reborn in the Greek city states, until these in turn were incorporated in the new concept of territorial states encompassed by the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian era (Hammond, 1972: 358 360). In east Asia, the transition from the Lungshanoid village cultures to urban society had taken place during the Shang in the first half of the second millennium BC (Wheatley, 1970: 161). China thus had a long experience with urban culture before the Han expanded into Vietnam in 111BC, implanting their administrative, cultural and political structures. In Southeast Asia, the appearance of urbanism, at least in Annam, is seen in the context of the import of Chinese knowledge of urban planning to the Jih-nan commandery during the Chinese occupation of the first millennium AD (Wheatley, 1983). Funan, with its port at Oc-Eo which exhibited a unique urban design, seems to have been the progenitor, in the


Southeast Asian setting, of the territorial state, which sought to bring the individual muang of the Menam Valley and the Peninsula under its suzerainty in the period 200 500AD. The difficulties in maintaining control of far-flung territories, as in the Roman experience, soon resulted in the individual city states re-asserting their autonomous existence. As Funan began to disintegrate in the sixth century, the new Dvaravati polity in Thailand, on the evidence of the archaeological remains, seems to have been one based on Theravada Buddhist cultural and economic affinities, rather than territorial control.

The seventh and eighth centuries have been seen as a time of significant change and crisis in mainland Southeast Asia precipitated by the changing political fortunes of Funan, the territorial expansion of Chenla, the rise of Champa and Srivijaya, the advent of the Tang dynasty in China in 618AD, and the founding of Nan-chao by Pi-lo-ko in the 730s. Nan-chaos alliance with Tibet in the mid eighth century culminated in a resounding defeat for Tang China in 754 AD. Coming so soon after Tang Chinas defeat by the Arabs at Talas in 751AD, it ushered in a period of instability which saw the destruction of the capital, Chang-an, during the revolt of the Turkish Chinese general, An Lu-shan, in 755AD. The subsequent civil war in China lasted until 763AD with significant implications for its relationships with the developing polities of Southeast Asia. Not surprisingly, the pattern of missions from Southeast Asian countries to Tang China changed markedly from the beginning to the end of this period, reflecting the changing political fortunes in those states as well as in China itself. At the beginning


of the period, some twenty states are recorded as sending tribute ie trade missions, to Tang China at a time when that countrys prestige on the sealanes to India was very high, coinciding with intense Chinese interest in Indian Buddhism. The Chinese pilgrim, I-Ching, sailed in 671AD to India by way of Srivijaya. The importance of the international missions is shown by the Tang decree of 695AD which set out the amount of supplies to be given to envoys for their return voyages across the sealanes six months for the voyage to India; five months supplies for those returning to Srivijaya, Java and Chenla; three months for the voyage to Champa (Smith, 1979: 445). Many of the twenty Southeast Asian states which sent tribute to Tang China at the beginning of the seventh century did so only once, then disappeared from the records. Of the fourteen such states which sent tribute at the end of the seventh century, five thereafter ceased to figure in the Chinese records. In the first half of the eighth century, most missions to China originated from Java, Lin-yi, Champa, Chenla and Wen-Dan, a state identified by the Chinese records as Land Chenla whose main site may have been Muang Fa Daed. Hoshino (2002) believes that like other polities of the time, it had twin-centres and that the second or administrative centre was at Kanthara Wichai. The significance of this polity, if Hoshino is correct, is that it may provide substantial evidence of a Tai presence in northeast Thailand and in the Upper reaches of the Chao Phraya in the seventh and eighth centuries. He translates Wen-Dan as Siamese villages (Hoshino, 2002: 39). In his view, Sri Chanasa in the eighth century was also ethnically Tai, part of what he perceives as the Tai objective to gain access to the Gulf of Thailand by way of the Bang Pakong river. Since Mon Dvaravati controlled the headwaters along the Gulf, Hoshino believes that the Tai moved west into the Sak


River valley instead, north of coastal Dvaravati. His theory would support the linguistic observations of Chamberlain (1991). Wen Dan apparently had some tributary states, notably Sri Thep. By the ninth century, the administrative centre of Wen Dan may have moved to Suphanburi (Hoshino, 2002: 41-42). A late-comer to the tribute system, Wen Dan sent its first mission to Tang China around 656-661, its second in 717 , three more in the late eighth century and its last in 798AD to the Chinese court at Chang-an.

In addition, Hoshino has thrown substantial light on the trading connections of Tang China with its prefecture on the mid-Mekong river at this time, whose centre he believes may have been Sakon Nakhon, since it had a Chinese-type city plan (Hoshino, 2002: 49-50). His research suggests the presence of Tai city trading states along the Mekong and north of Dvaravati in the seventh and eighth centuries. He comments:
The Chinese text includes both a Chinese rendering of the title of Wen Dans king and a royal title that sounds entirely Tai. This evidence tends to support the hypothesis that Tai-speaking people inhabited the area and were migrating across it during the Tang era. In the down-river Khmer kingdom, which was in the territory that became the modern Kingdom of Champasak, the majority of the people were probably not yet Tai at this time. But Gan Bi (near Savannakhet Hoshino) with its military organization, could have been a Tai-dominated state like Sri Canasapura (in the Sak River Basin) and Xiu Luo Fen (a state west of Chen La), each of which had 20,000 warriors. The new Tang annals group these three political entities in a single category and indicate that the customs of each resembled those of the others. (Hoshino, 2002: 54).

By the second half of the eighth century, Tang China apparently wanted Tai warriors from these states to help in its fight in Yunnan against Nanchao. Clearly, the amount of interaction, tribute missions, and embassies between the city states of the mainland and Tang China appears to dispute Smiths earlier view that the Chinese in the


eighth century were not very interested in mainland Southeast Asia (Smith, 1979:446). More recent research indicates the contrary view, that the emerging city states of mainland Southeast Asia in the seventh to ninth centuries had close, strategic economic, and possibly military interactions with Tang China. Military upheavals changed the pattern of trading relations in the late eighth century. The advent of Arab (Ta-shih) and Persian (Po-ssu) traders in the Nanyang, the sack of Canton in 758AD by these traders, piracy and other disturbances in the South China Sea, together with the rebellion crisis in the north suggest that by 760AD Tang China was under severe internal pressures. Champa sent no missions after 749AD; only two or three further missions from Southeast Asia came in the latter half of the eighth century. Clearly a China in turmoil was not an attractive destination for trade missions disguised as tribute missions. And if the central imperial authority was in jeopardy, to which centre would it be appropriate for a Southeast Asian polity to send tribute? Better to wait until it was clear who wielded the power in China. By the early ninth century, missions to Tang China from the Pyu of Burma, from Chenla and Java are again recorded. Smith has suggested that the changing pattern of these missions from a smaller number of states is consistent with a tendency towards gradual political integration in the eastern part of the region along the Mekong river valley between the seventh and eighth centuries. Further west, away from the Khmer epicentre at Angkor Borei, the muang of the Dvaravati culture maintained their independence. In addition to the evidence of the tribute missions sent to China, archaeological evidence shows the emergence of large scale temple-building societies during this period in Cambodia and Java with significant implications for the centralized organization of


manpower and material resources.

Smith has pointed out that the building of single-

tower brick sanctuaries in pre-Angkorian Cambodia before the ninth century was followed by the appearance of towers at Sambor Prei Kuk (Isanapura) arranged so that one primary edifice dominated a square like construction. In the ninth century the pyramid-temple of Bakong at Roluos suggests the capacity to marshal a greater intensity of labour, technical skills and primary resources. More recently, Highams analysis of the inscriptions recording the rise of Jayavarman IIs dynasty (c770 1005AD) has highlighted the increasing control of labour and resources applied to the state temple and city building programs of these rulers (Higham, 2001: 65-69). Such temple building may have coincided with the discovery of essential minerals in areas across the northeast between the Ton-le Sap and the eastern part of the Dangraek Mountains where iron and copper deposits were already important materials for the expanding agricultural society (Smith, 1979: 452 453). It is perhaps the technological and administrative skills to exploit these resources, as well as the agricultural surpluses which underpinned the Khmer westward expansion in the eleventh century. They provided the necessary technical basis for the developing state-like administrative apparatus.

The Mon culture of Dvaravati Haripunchai After the breakup of Funan around the mid sixth century AD and its displacement in the middle and upper reaches of the Mekong basin by Chenla, the former Funanese dependencies around the Gulf of Siam at U-thong and Nakhon Pathom formed part of a newly independent state known as Dvaravati. Appearing in the Chinese records as To-ho-lo or Tou-ho-lo (transcribed by Hoshino as Duo He Luo in his analysis of the


Tang Dynasty records, 2002) it sent a mission to the Imperial Court in 608AD. During the years 627-649AD it sent further missions to the Imperial Court, accompanying those of Lin-yi. It is thought to have absorbed the Mon settlement at To-yuan, north of Chantaburi, about this time (Briggs, 1951/1999: 48). The Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang, in the seventh century recorded it as To-lo-po-ti, a state located west of Isanapura, capital of Isanavarman (son of Mahendravarman) of Chenla, and east of Srikshetra (Pyu centre in Burma). As Aung-Thwin (2005:53) points out, Hsuan Tsang makes no reference to either Thaton or Rammanyadesa in describing the location of To-lo-po-ti. Its rendition as the Sanskrit Dvaravati was confirmed in 1963 by the finding of two silver medallions at Nakhon Pathom. Identification with the Mon peoples followed the work of Paul Pelliot (1904) and George Coedes (1925) on the inscriptions of the area, which were recognized as being in the Mon language (Quaritch Wales, 1969: 16). Much further research since 1957 by archaeologists and art historians has shown that Dvaravati extended north and northeast, far beyond the purported original locus at the head of the Gulf of Siam. Hoshino notes that the new Tang annals, the Xin Tang Shu, treat Dvaravati, Duo He Luo, as a major country with vassal states. (Hoshino, 2002: 29).

Although Quaritch Wales speaks of Dvaravati as the first state in Siam, he acknowledged that little was known at that time of its political development or social structures. Even its ethnic composition was uncertain. It is now considered to be a shared culture based on Theravada Buddhism as shown by the artistic remains, rather than a monolithic, centralized state in the political sense. More likely, as Dhida Saraya and Srisak Vallibotama have shown, there was a series of city states which encompassed


Phetburi, Ratburi, Kubua, U-thong, Nakhon Pathom, Khampeng Sen, Pong Tuk, Lopburi, Sri Thep, Muang Bon and the urban centres in the Mun-Chi basins in northeast Thailand from Kalasin to Buriram and Aranyaprathet. One of these, Kanok Nakhon near Kamalasai in Kalasin province, was established by a Mon ruler in 621AD (Rogers, 1996: 71). The characteristic sema or boundary stones with Buddhist carvings in the Dvaravati style mark its moat and ramparts. Other points in the northeast considered to be part of the Dvaravati culture are Phra That Phanom, before its collapse in a 1975 rainstorm (Vallibhotama,1990: 233), and Phon Hong north of Vientiane (Wyatt, 1984: 22). Southwards, Dvaravati culture may have extended as far as Songkhla. Eastwards, sites in the Prachin valley at Don Lakon, Dong Si Maha Pot and Panat have been identified as belonging to the Dvaravati culture. The geographical extent of this shared culture is thus now recognized to have been much greater than was at first thought, encompassing over 20 urban centres from Muang Fa Daed in the northeast to Ku Bua near Ratburi, Sri Thep in the Pasak valley and Haripunchai (Lampun) in the north, which is reputed to have been established by a Mon Queen, Camadevi. She is said to have set out from Lopburi with her followers to escape a cholera epidemic. These city states or muang may have formed the mandala, or circle of power of the shared Dvaravati Theravada Buddhist culture. Although use of the term, Dvaravati, to describe this early socio-cultural complex in the central Chao Phraya valley has been challenged in view of the presence of numerous Mon city states in the region in this proto-historic period, the term has been retained as more inclusive of a widespread urban culture which produced a significant religious art and architecture (Van Beek, 1999: 63).


Early Dvaravati cultures distinctive Buddhist art styles in the Amaravati school of southern India indicated to Quaritch Wales its historical affinities with Funan (Quaritch Wales, 1969: 8), a view he shared with Dupont (1959:19), although some Gupta and post-Gupta styles of northern India have also been detected in the later phases. Nevertheless, given the east-west spread of the Mon people and culture, if there were Mon settlements in this period in Lower Burma around the Gulf of Mottama, it is possible that the shared Theravada Buddhist culture may have precipitated some interaction between them and Mon city states of Dvaravati via the Three Pagodas Pass. Quaritch Wales long ago pointed out (1969: 4, 23), that the use of this pass since at least Neolithic times, is likely to have facilitated trade and cultural interactions between the city states in the lower Chao Phraya basin and those on the Peninsula facing the international trade routes across the Indian Ocean. More recently, Michael Wright, along similar lines, believes that access to this ancient trade route may have been the reason behind Khmer expansion of power to the west as far as Muang Singh in the eleventh century (Wright,1992: 84), a view supported by Higham (2001: 129). Nevertheless I am mindful of Professor Aung-Thwins finding that no Mon inscription in Burma between 11th and 15th centuries attributes the orgins of the Burma Mon, either as allegory or history, to Dvaravati or Haripunjaya; neither place is even mentioned. This suggests that as early as the Pagan Dynasty the Mon of Burma had apparently already forgotten from whence they came, until colonial scholarship rediscovered that history and told them. (Aung-Thwin, 2005: 103-104). This of itself does not preclude the type of interactions envisaged by Quaritch Wales, Wright and Higham; such interactions in the proto-historic era between people of the same cultural background could have been considered so


ordinary, so normal as to be not worthy of being included in the high society inscriptions of the formal classical states of the later period. We note also, as stated above, that the seventh century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang, in recording the location of Dvaravati as being east of the Pyu centre, Srisketra, makes no mention of any large Mon centre in lower Burma at this time. In this post-Funan era, between the seventh and ninth centuries, were the people of the Dvaravati culture seeking to re-establish the Funanese hegemony? Indeed, Smith has identified a cultural continuum from at least the eighth century stretching from central Thailand to southern Sumatra linking Dvaravati and Srivijaya. Seventh century epigraphic references to this latter centre found in southern Sumatra and at Ligor (Nakhon Sri Thammarat) in 775AD in southern Thailand, together with the Dvaravati temple remains dating from the eighth to the eleventh centuries show that these two centres dominated the political and socio-cultural consciousness of the people of these times. Their social structures evolved from the single city state, muang, to the more complexly organized mandala (political circle) incorporating a much larger number of centres with a shared culture. One element of this shared culture which deserves highlighting is the issue of coins in the various urbanized centres at Oc-Eo, the Mon centres of Thailand, the Pyu cities of Beikthano, Halin and Sriksetra, the Arakanese cities of Khanyavati and Vaisali, and the Srivijayan centres of the Peninsula and the Archipelagian world. In the 8th century AD, Dvaravati is known to have cast silver coins, the minting of which appears to have been retained as a state monopoly. The Chinese records of Tu Yu note that if a person in this country ie Dvaravati, minted coins without permission, his arm would be


cut off. The coins of the six markets were described as small like elmseeds and about 14mm in diameter (Gutman, 1978: 9). One Dvaravati coin weighed 7.5g (Gutman, 1978: 11). In the mainland centres, where coinage was based on the Conch/Srivatsa model of Pegu, silver appears to have been the preferred metal for casting coins, while gold was preferred in the island regions (Wicks,1992: 313). Gutman has noted that most of the Dvaravati coins found in Thailand have a conch on the obverse indicating that this was perhaps a Mon emblem. The srivatsa motif on the reverse reflects the royal power and functions and is associated with Puranci and Buddhist cosmology, the microcosmic alliances of the king and his role in protecting the countrys prosperity. Fish, lotus, tortoise or wavy lines appear on some coins (Gutman, 1978: 13) such as that found at Uthong which has a large fish. On the Rising Sun coins from Oc-Eo, U-thong and Beikthano, a stylized human figure appears. Later Dvaravati coins had a bunch of three stalks tied in the centre. Each urban centre appears to have had its own stylistic motif on its coins. Thus the conch on the obverse is found on the coins of Nakhon Pathom and Prachin Buri and occurs around Pegu following what Gutman has called the westward drift of Mon culture. (Gutman, 1978: 17). Dhavalikar has shown that coinage was in use in India from prehistoric times and that the earliest coins of India were likewise minted mostly in silver with a few in copper (Dhavalikar, 1974: 332). Southeast Asian coins of this early period were based on the coinage of south India, particularly the early Pallavas, and minted to a similar technical standard (Gutman, 1978: 12). First appearing during the 4th to 6th centuries AD, these coins reflect the extensive trading, cultural and religious connections with south India from prehistoric times to the Satavahanas of the second century AD, and the succeeding


Pallava dynasty. The importance of seatrade to the Pallavas is depicted on their coins in the shape of a double masted ship, a device also used by the Satavahanas. A group of these coins showing the typicals motifs which occur in the Dvaravati coins conch, bull, sun and moon, fish, sun-wheel has been found at the Pallava port of Mamallapuram (Gutman, 1978: 19). When Dvaravati was overcome by the Khmer expansion in the eleventh century, the local casting of coins ceased and was replaced by barter, cowrie shells, or metal lumps and bars. It was not until the fourteenth century that the use of coins is again found, contemporaneous with the activities of European and Muslim traders. Controversy has raged concerning the likely centre of Dvaravati.- whether it was at Oc-Eo in the lower Mekong, or U-thong/Nakhon Pathom. The weight of evidence has now come down in favour of U-thong/Nakhon Pathom, this latter being Quaritch Wales seaside capital of Dvaravati (Quaritch Wales, 1969:51). Indeed the Dvaravati centres of central and northeast Thailand - of which Nakhon Pathom is known to have been the largest, measuring 3,700 x 2,000metres with a seventh century chedi, Chula Chedi Pathom, at its centre - all exhibit remains of fortified enclosures by which Smith distinguishes them from the temple building societies of lower Cambodia. Such fortified towns, in the Chao Phraya basin from Nakhon Pathom to Prachinburi, and in the northeast at Muang Fa Daed, may indicate the presence of an organized political life amongst relatively equal centres which may have engaged in intermittent warfare. The plans of these fortified towns given by Quaritch Wales (1969) and their comparative sizes as identified by Smith (Smith, 1979: 455) indicate habitation areas ranging from 700 x 700metres at Chansen, 775 x 730metres at Kampheng Sen, to 2,000


x 1,000metres at Muang Fa Daed, 1,690 x 840metres at U-thong, 2,010 x 800metres at Kubua, and 1,500 x 800metres at Dong Si Maha Pot (Prachinburi). These sizes compare favorably with those of Oc-Eo (3,000 x 1,500metres) Pagan (1,190metres square) and some of the Chinese cities of the Warring States period (Smith, 1979: 454). As Smith has suggested, the rise of such fortified centres in the Chao Phraya basin and in northeast Thailand represents significant socio-political development between the seventh and ninth centuries. At the beginning of the ninth century, the Dvaravati culture had probably reached its peak. Hoshino has shown that Dvaravati shared a common border on the east with another city state called Sri Chanasa (Jia Luo She Fu in the Tang dynasty records) whilst stretching around the Gulf of Thailand to the west (Hoshino, 2002: 27). In the northeast, it is thought to have dominated the areas north of the Mun river; south of this point, the Khmer culture was more prominent. As the ninth century opened, Jayavarman II (c770850AD) began to move the locus of Khmer power north and west from Kompong Cham province in the southeast to Bhavapura and Sambhupura, thence to Siemreap where Angkor would be established. The Hinduistic or Mahayana Buddhist Khmer culture and art style, by the time of Suryavarman (1002-1050) in the eleventh century, gradually replaced those of the Dvaravati Theravada Buddhist culture and art style in northeast and central Thailand. In the northern Chao Phraya valley, the Mon Dvaravati kingdom of Haripunchai may have survived until the late thirteenth century. Dvaravatis legacy is the magnificent Buddhist sculpture, terracotta votive tablets (south and central Thailand) and stucco reliefs evoking the Amaravati and post Gupta styles of India, yet incorporating those elements of local genius which represented the first flowering of indigenous


Buddhist culture in Thailand. Distinctive Dvaravati unglazed earthenwares from the seventh to tenth centuries have been found at a series of sites in Nakhon Sawan ( Chan Sen), Sing Buri (Ban Khu Muang), Ratburi (Ban Khu Bua) and Kanchanaburi, in styles quite different from that of the pre-historic Ban Chiang culture, but evocative of Indian metal forms (Honda, 1997: 9). Much Dvaravati architecture was constructed in laterite and stucco, materials which have not surived well the ravages of time and climate. On a square, round or octagonal laterite base a brick platform was erected and decorated with stucco figures. A Buddhist chedi built on top commemorated the doctrine. The remains of the most famous Dvaravati chedi lie at Nakhon Pathom where the bell shaped Phra Pathom Chedi was reconstructed in the reign of King Mongkut (1851-1868) on top of the original Dvaravati structure. Encasing an older structure in a newer has been a common practice in Thailand. Another example of Dvaravati Mon architecture is Wat Kukut (Wat Camadevi) at Haripunchai (Lampun) in northern Thailand. Dvaravati scluptors fared better. Their stone images depict asexual figures with wide, flat noses and thick lips in rounded faces, thickly ridged eyebrows meeting at the centre, and head covered in thick, heavy curls on top of which sits the usnisha, a cone or hemispherical shaped ornament. The right hand of the Dvaravati standing images gives the vitarka mudra sign. Sometimes the sign is given with both hands, said to be a Dvaravati innovation not found in Indian art of this period. Similar innovative measures are found in the stone seated Buddhas which leave several layers of the robes hem over the top of the left shoulder and draped down the chest. The doctrine of Buddha is symbolised everywhere by the large Wheel of the Law which Dvaravati stone sculptors often set on top of pillars so that they could be seen from a distance. At Ku Bua, south of Ratburi, are the most extensive


remains of Dvaravati terracotta figures. Other notable examples of Dvaravati Theravada Buddhist art are the bas reliefs at Muang Fa Daed and Ratburi, and at Kok Mai Den depicting figures from the Buddhist Tosachat (Van Beek, 1999: 64-70). Theravada Buddhism may be seen as the essential base to which Thailand returned after the Khmer period, when it became the official state religion of the Sukhothai culture.

The southern dynamic - The Peninsula, the Malays and Srivijaya

Although little is known of the details of daily life in the Dvaravati culture, the Chinese records of the Sui dynasty provide a description of life in one of these states contemporaneous with Dvaravati. In 607AD Chang-Chun,

Custodian of Military Property, and Wang Chun-cheng, Controller of Natural Resources, during the reign of the Chinese Emperor, Sui Yang-ti, volunteered for a mission to Chih-tu, the Red Earth land, located by Wheatley on the northern part of the Malay peninsula (1961: 32-33). Since, according to ChangChun, it took ten days to sail from Chih-tu to southeastern Champa, and Chihtu was close to Lang-ya-hsu, Wheatley suggests that the Red Earth land described by Chang-Chun was in the north of the Malay Peninsula. Other

Chinese sources, notably the Pei-shih and the Hsin Tang Shu, compare the culture of Chih-tu with those of Chenla and Dvaravati (Wheatley, 1961: 31). Thus Chang-Chun identifies Chih-tu as another part of Funan situated in the South Seas more than a hundred days from his departure point, Canton.


Why did Chang-Chun volunteer for this mission, the first sent by Imperial China since the third century? Under Sui Yang-tis father, Sui Wen-ti, China had been once more unified in 581AD with its capital at Chang-an at the entrance to the Jade Gate, and favourably situated for the merchants bringing luxury goods across the great central Asian land route. The sea route to the Kuen Lun had been less favoured owing to disturbances in southern China, Hanoi and Tongking between 590 and 603AD. New economic and political changes after 581AD and Sui Wen-tis deliberate strategy to curb the power and wealth of the south resulted in merchants being hesitant to continue their trade with southern China in the first two decades of the Sui dynasty (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 62). The fall in the supply of luxury goods to North China from the regions of Southeast Asia is thought to have motivated his successor, Sui Yang-ti, to send the mission to Chih Tu.

In 605AD Sui Yang-ti had moved his capital to Lo-yang together with ten thousand families of rich merchants, great traders, dragon ships and phoenix boats which brought timber from the lands south of the Yang-tse. The prefectures and subprefectures were ordered to deliver to the new capital all kinds of luxury goods elephant tusks, skins and hides, furs and feathers, utensils and any kind of decorations which might be used to adorn the new court and palaces (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 63). There was a shortage of the necessary luxury goods and prices in certain items rose rapidly. To meet the Emperors demands, a Chinese army was sent in 605AD under Liu Fang to sack and loot Lin-yis capital which,


the Emperor had been informed, was full of precious goods. Besides, Lin-yi had not presented tribute for ten years. The expedition took back to the Emperor eighteen gold statues and more than 1,350 volumes of Buddhist texts and Lin-yi was exploited to supply its luxury products to the Chinese Imperial court. It was to satisfy the Imperial demand for such products that Chang Chuns mission was sent to Chih-tu in 607AD. On board were 5,000 rolls of Chinese silk, premium trade currency, to be presented to the Chih-tu king (Wang Gungwu, 1998, 66). The searoute taken by Chang Chun was one of the regular trading lanes between China and the Nanhai. Thus the mission was part of Sui Yang-tis policy to reopen trading relations with the lands and peoples of the Nanhai, a policy which would make available their luxury products denied to North China for some three hundred years (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 62).

Chang Chuns account of Chih-tu describes it as a Buddhist country, with a king, Chu-tan, who had reigned for sixteen years, had three wives, the daughters of neighbouring kings, and whose Buddhist father abdicated in order to become a monk and preach the Law. It had Buddhist pagodas; statues of

Bodhisattvas; golden flowers and bells decorated the triple gates of the capital city which were more than a hundred paces apart. When Chang-Chun and Wang

Chun-cheng arrived, the king sent the Brahman, Chiu-mo-lo, with thirty ocean going ships to welcome them. The blowing of conches and the beating of drums greeted their arrival (Wheatley, 1961: 29). A metal cable was used as a hauser


for Chang-Chuns ship.

The mission travelled inland a month to reach the

capital, Lion City, on the Kelantan River.

Wheatleys translation of the Chinese record of this mission describes a fully-fledged polity with an heir apparent, the Na-ya-chia. Guards grasping

weapons of war stood on duty outside the royal palace which had multiple pavilions whose doors faced north, while the king was enthroned on a three tiered couch. At the welcome ceremony, the envoys were presented with a golden tray on which were flowers, mirrors, golden forceps, two containers of aromatic oil, eight of scented water, and four lengths of white cloth for their ablutions. In the afternoon, the heir apparent sent two elephants with canopies of peacock feathers, a golden tray bearing a decree, and two Brahmans to conduct them to the palace for their royal audience. The envoys credentials were presented in the council

chamber where those observing the ceremony were seated. Indian music was played. Afterwards, the envoys returned to their lodgings and the Brahmans brought them food on large leaves used as platters.

The record of this mission described the wooden shrine inlaid with gold, silver and perfumed woods standing behind the throne. A golden light is

suspended behind the shrine. A hundred soldiers guard the throne to the left of the king. Before a recumbent golden ox hangs a jewelled canopy flanked by precious fans. Mirrors, metal pitchers and a golden incense burner are arranged in front of the kings couch. Together with various officials sit a hundred


Brahmans in rows facing each other. Clearly, whilst the king and his father before him may have been Buddhist, the court ceremonials were Hindu and utilized the Brahman appurtenances of kingship.

This account of the seventh century state of Chih-tu is valuable evidence of the syncretic nature of the culture which assimilated Buddhist religious practice with Hindu ceremonials at court, and local custom. The

ceremony of prostration was not practised. Earpiercing of the lobes was common to all the people. Women wore their hair at the nape of the neck. Both men and women made clothes out of rose coloured and plain cloth. With royal approval, wealthy families wore gold lockets. Special ceremonies marked marriage and

death. When the king was cremated, his ashes were kept in a golden jar which was placed in the temple. Chang-Chuns account describes a state with clear

social divisions, pageantry, and sense of identity.

In this account, the Brahmans address Chang-Chun saying We are now citizens of the Great Central States; no longer do we belong to the state of Chihtu. This is a puzzling statement. It may have been inserted by the envoy

himself to indicate that the Brahmans recognized the overriding greatness of China and to suggest that the mission had re-inforced the international link with Imperial China. Or, it may indicate, if really stated by the Brahmans, that there was some overall federation in the region, such as Dvaravati or Srivijaya, and that Chih-tu was not a lone entity. Local products, a crown ornamented with


hibiscus design and Barus camphor, and a gold cast of a to-lo leaf inscribed and placed in a golden casket were offered to Chang-Chun as tribute for the Emperor (Wheatley, 1961: 30). This seventh century account clearly shows the cultural and political development of at least one of these states on the Peninsula as observed by the Chinese mission.

The long established international relations with China and India were a welcome and natural aspect of the ongoing world system for these early states. Thus in the following year, 608AD, Chih-tu, sent a return mission to Sui China, and again in 609AD. For a short time the relationship seems to have been

mutually satisfactory. In 610AD a prince of Chih-tu accompanied ChangChun on his return to China, bearing tribute for the Emperor which included gold, camphor, headgear ornamented with hibiscus and other local products (Wang Gungwu, 1998: 66). This was the last mission to Sui China from Chihtu. Its importance to the Chinese in filling a gap for the supply of luxury goods, forest products and Buddhist devotional objects between the end of Funan, of which it had been a part, and the rise of Chenla, Srivijaya, and Ho-ling (Java), undoubtedly lay in its position astride the Peninsula between Singora and Phathalung and north to Ligor, giving it control of one of the key ancient trade routes fronting the Indian Ocean.

Sui Yang-tis policy to reopen the trade across the sealanes of the Nanhai resulted in further expeditions to the peoples of the Kuen Luen in 610AD.


These had set out from Foo-chou and Chao-chou (Swatow) and included Kuen Luen peoples to assist the missions. Recognition that China was again a great, wealthy country providing a lucrative market for luxury goods may have stimulated other small states on the Peninsula, Pan-pan and Tan-tan, to send their own trade/tribute missions to China in 616 and 617AD. Missions were also sent from Chenla and Po-li (Bali or Sumatra). Although goods from the west were still coming across the great central Asian trade route to the capital at Loyang, the expansionist policy of the Sui paved the way for the revival of commercial activity in the Nanhai under the following Tang dynasty (618 906AD). In the seventh century, intensification of trade with the southern seas after the entry of Persian and Arab traders to the Nanhai re-oriented the trade to meet the needs of the new dynasty.

By 671AD there was present in the region another centre of international trade and Buddhist learning sufficiently renowned to attract the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, I Tsing, to stop for some six months on his way to India, to learn Sanskit. Appearing as Shi-li-fo-shih or San-fo-chi in the seventh and eight century diplomatic records, it is, as Bronson has observed, an acceptable transcription for the Srivijaya revealed by Coedes in 1918. In I Tsings account, seventh century Srivijaya appears more as a fortified city on a river, nowadays taken to be Palembang, than as a trading empire of far flung geographical extent. Wolters

notes that between 671 and 695AD when I Tsing was in Srivijaya on several occasions, the location of the rulers capital seems to have remained in the same


place, Palembang, where inscriptions dating from 682 686AD have been found (Wolters, 1967: 209). Examining the phenomenon of Srivijaya in 1979, Bronson observed that unlike the temple building, agrarian, population-controlling empires in Angkor or Java, Srivijaya left no distinct archaeological remains of vast cities, palaces or temple complexes; that it seems to have arrived, fully developed, in the historical record of the seventh century, with no preparatory phase (Bronson, 1979: 395 405). Six inscriptions found at Palembang identify Srivijaya by

name. All are written in Old Malay. However, from 775AD at Ligor (Nakhon Sri Thammarat) in southern Thailand comes another inscription which mentions Srivijaya by name (Bronson, 1979: 403). So far, no site similar to Oc-Eo has been found in connection with Srivijaya of the seventh and eighth centuries. Given the lack of historical and proto-historical remains, one theory has been that Srivijaya was founded by immigrants from elsewhere in the region.

Bronson has also suggested that whilst the seventh/eighth century Srivijaya was probably in the vicinity of Palembang, and lasted from 25 to 50 years, it is possible that there were several Srivijayas at various points in the region over the next five hundred years, until the name appears again on an inscription in Tanjore, southern India, in the context of the Cola expedition against the empire (Bronson, 1979: 403). The Srivijaya of the seventh

century, which was well known to Imperial China, may have been at this time, a shared culture like Dvaravati, rather than an imperial polity with bureaucratic traditions. Such a possibility may put the alleged statement of the Brahmans of


Chih-tu to Chang-Chun in a new light. Were these citizens of the great central states, not just Chih-tu alone, alluding to a loose trading federation throughout the region based on a shared Buddhist culture? I Tsing, describing the more than ten countries in the Southern Seas, stated that Buddhism is embraced in all these countries, and mostly the system of the Hinayana (the Smaller Vehicle) is adopted except in Malayu (=Sribhoga), where there are a few who belong to the Mahayana (the Larger Vehicle). (Takakusu, 1986: 10 11).

In Sumatra however, Buddhist art remains are few. Bronson has noted the existence of a Bodhisattva found at Palembang, now in a house called Sarang Waty in the east of the city, which shows some possible connections with the mitred Vishnus of southern Thailand; and the resemblance to the Dvaravati statuary of central Thailand shown by two of three standing Buddhas found at Geding Suro now in the Palembang Museum (Bronson, 1979: 401). It is

therefore even more perplexing that the bulk of so-called Srivijayan art should come from southern Thailand, or to put it another way, that Srivijayan influence should be attributed to the statuary of the southern Peninsular regions when, as Bronson says, the Srivijayan Sumatran homeland had no art which was distinctively its own (Bronson, 1979:403).

The controversy over Srivijaya can be seen in the stance of noted art historian, Piriya Krairiksh, who locates Srivijaya in the eighth century, on the Isthmus, as a state whose control of the east-west trade gave it the wealth to


become the most powerful polity in the region. Being on the sealanes in direct communication with India, Srivijaya, he asserts, became the centre for the spread of Mahayana Buddhism (Krairiksh, 1980: 4). Its rulers are said to have been related by marriage to the kings of Central Java and to have been patrons of the Mahayana Buddhist university at Nalanda in northeastern India. Krairiksh

locates the political hub of Srivijaya at Chaiya (Krairiksh, 1980: 56) which he calls the richest Buddhist site on the Peninsula (1980: 4). Both Vijaya (Sanskrit) and Chaiya (Thai) mean Victory. Other centres were at Satingpra and Takua Pa whose position facing the Andaman Sea made it a leading cosmopolitan commercial entrepot where, in the ninth century, an Indian mercantile entity called Manigramam, was engaged in international commerce (OConnor, 1986: 125). The inscription in Tamil dated to the reign of the Pallava King

Nandivarman III (826AD 849AD) attributes sponsorship of a water tank or pond to the company (Boeles, 1986: 118).

Srivijayas extensive economic and religious influences make it not impossible that this polity may have been a federation of city states with a shared Buddhist culture whose centre of gravity may have shifted over the perceived five hundred years ie seventh to early thirteenth centuries, of its existence. In any

case, the evidence of the inscriptions, the Chinese dynastic records, and art history shows that various centres on the Peninsula and southern Thailand played key roles in the political, religious, economic and cultural life of Srivijaya. The

Ligor (Nakhon Sri Thammarat) Sanskrit inscription dated 775AD contains two


faces, one of which depicts a King of Srivijaya, called Sri Maharaja Dharmasetu. The other face refers to one of the Sailendra kings who ruled in Java at the same period, Sangramadhananjaya (Diskul, 1980: 25). The Chinese dynastic histories testify to warlike relations between Srivijaya and Java during the ninth and tenth centuries when both polities were seeking to establish control of the sealanes of the Indonesian straits (Diskul, 1980: 5). Srivijaya sent no missions to China

between 742AD and 904AD; missions instead were sent from Java, 768AD to 873AD. However, Srivijaya then resumed sending missions to China, whilst none arrived from Java.

Despite the apparently ongoing struggle for supremacy during the latter part of this period in the Archipelagian world, on the Peninsula Srivijayas cultural and religious life is evidenced by the many Visnu images and other sculptural remains. The Amaravati and Gupta styles which dominated the 4th, 5th, and 6th century Dvaravati culture, now give way to the post-Gupta (6th to 8th centuries) art styles in southern Thailand. A small standing bronze Buddha found at Ligor (Nakhon Sri Thammarat) takes its place with another small sandstone Buddha found at Wieng Sa, Suratthani province in depicting the dress as thin, transparent and clinging to the body, the right hand in the attitude of blessing or dispelling fear, and the left hand holding the end of the robe. From the 7th to 9th centuries the Pallava style of southeast India becomes more dominant. It is shown in the four stone statues of Visnu wearing a cylindrical hat which S J OConnor considered were carved in southern Thailand between 650AD and 800AD. A


further three stone statues dated by OConnor to between 750AD and 850AD found at Takua Pa, have also been found to represent Visnu in cylindrical hat with two kneeling attendants, one female and one male. In similar vein, from late in the period (10th 11th century) come another three stone statues one of Visnu, another of Siva as Batuka Bhairava, both found at Wieng Sa, Suratthani the third of Surya found at Chaiya. OConnor has also suggested, from his analysis of the occurrence of the lingas of Siva found in the Peninsula region and around Nakhon Sri Thammarat, that Siva worship played a prominent role in the cultural life of the region from at least the early 6th century AD (OConnor, 1986: 162 163).

The location of these finds coincides with the trade routes between India and China across the Peninsula from Kedah to Songkhla (Singora); from Trang to Pattalung; from Kra to Chumphon; from Takua Pa to Chaiya; from Trang and Kedah to Nakhon Sri Thammarat or Chaiya on the Bay of Bandon. Most of the remains of Srivijayan art found in Peninsular Thailand dating from the 7th to 9th centuries are of Mahayana Buddhist provenance, with some Hinduised statuary such as the figures of Siva and Brahma found at Satingpra, and the anthropomorphised linga of Siva found at Chaiya (OConnor, 1986: 111). The inscription in the Nagari script on the back of one of these images demonstrates the continuing influence of northern India and the Gupta style of art on the region in the 9th century. Figures of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara abound. Many have a small figure of Amitabha in the chignon and a tiger skin draped across the


thighs which is considered a characteristic of Srivijayan art (Diskul, 1980: 26). Srivijayas cultural relationships evidently extended into Dvaravati central and northeast Thailand in the 8th and 9th centuries, as examples of Srivijaya sculptures have been found at several locations including Dong Si Mahapot in Prachinburi province and Ratburi. At Uthaithani in central Thailand a bronze image of the Mahayana Buddhist goddess, Tara, seated on an oval base decorated with two rows of lotus petals under stamen has been found dating from the 9th or 10th century. It shows the Pala influence of northeast India and probably reflects the popularity of Nalanda University, Bengal, as a centre of Buddhist learning during this period.

Srivijaya left few architectural remains either in Sumatra, or on the Peninsula. It is highly likely that structures were erected in perishable materials such as wood which have not withstood the ravages of time and climate. Dharmasetu, the Srivijayan king whose name appeared on the 775AD inscription found at Ligor, is said to have erected some edifices and a sanctuary dedicated to Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, Padmapani and Vajrapani. The Pra Borom That shrine at Wat Kaew, Chaiya, probably dating from the 9th century, is exceptional amongst Srivijayan architectural remains. Both are said to exhibit

characteristics of the central Javanese monuments from the same period (Diskul, 1980: 40). At Punpin, in Suratthani province, possibly an important town during the Srivijayan period (Diskul, 1980: 36), some remains of brick architecture have also been found. Whilst Srivijaya in the 7th century when I Tsing stopped


at Palembang for six months to learn Sanskrit and later take back monks from Sri Lanka to translate Mahayana Buddhist treatises, was a center for pilgrims and Buddhist learning, it clearly was not a temple building culture. One final element of Srivijayan Mahayana Buddhist culture is worth noting: at Nakhon Sri Thammarat, famous in 13th century Thai Buddhist legend, is a small stupa similar to Pra Borom That at Chaiya. Originally a Mahayana Buddhist monument, in the 12th century the people of the area enclosed it within a Singhalese style stupa when they changed their faith to Theravada Buddhism (Diskul, 1980: 41). It is likely that Nakhon Sri Thammarat also had links with Negapatinam, one of the last surviving Buddhist centres in India (OConnor, 1972: 22) which, since the early Christian era at least, had been part of the trading network between India and China.

During the 7th to 9th centuries when all this Buddhist intellectual and cultural energy is evident in Srivijaya, whether at Palembang in Sumatra or Chaiya, Nakhon Sri Thammarat and the other centres on the Peninsula in southern Thailand, Buddhism (and also Jainism) in India was under threat from a rising tide of Hinduism and Devotionalism tied to the resurgence of Hindu dynasties in India (Spencer, 1969: 47). Srivijayas significant contribution to the cultural developments of the time lay in its efforts to sustain Buddhism in south India, despite the increasingly antagonistic environment for Buddhism in the land of its birth. It is one of the anomalies of history that Srivijayan monks, with the support of the Sailendra kings of Java and the early Cola monarchs of India, should have


built at least two temples in Negapatinam in the early 11th century. A 12th century inscription at Polonnaruva, Sri Lanka, mentions a monk, Buddhapiya, from Nakhon Sri Thammarat who was involved in the attempt to sustain Buddhism in southern India (OConnor, 1979: 22) It is possible that as Buddhism lost its hold in India, its adherents moved further east to the Srivijayan world, which had an international reputation as a stronghold of Buddhism.

Buddhisms long standing connections with trade and trade routes are reinforced in the coinage minted by Srivijaya in a manner similar to that of the Dvaravati culture. Diskul refers to a type of Srivijayan gold coin found in

southern Thailand (although some are in silver also) which bears a square star called a Sandalwood flower. Only 10.9 to 8.7mm in diameter, these

Sandalwood flower gold coins were also minted in Java from the 8th century AD. They appear on both sides of the Peninsula at Nakhon Sri Thammarat and Krabi. From this region also comes the largest find of Rising Sun coins yet discovered in mainland Southeast Asia. At Ban Moklaan, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, local villagers digging a well in 1975 found several hundred full-unit Rising Sun coins, and a considerable number of segments cut from the larger coins. Located far from the core areas where such coins were minted in central Burma and Thailand, this find is thought to indicate the presence of a significant trading centre such as those mentioned in the Chinese dynastic histories, important enough to warrant the continued attention of the Sui and the Tang authorities (Wicks, 1992: 211).


It is possible that the Rising Sun denominations were used exclusively for commerce, whilst the gold Sandalwood Flower coinage was applied to religious and administrative transactions (Wicks,1992: 241). According to the Chinese Tang Shu in 8th century Keluo/Geluo (Kalah to the Arab writer Abu Dulaf) said to be part of the Dvaravati federation, tax was paid in silver (Wicks,1992: 221). Yet silver Sandalwood Flower coins also occur on the Peninsula and in Sumatra, perhaps indicating a bi-metallic monetary system in practice at the time. Around Nakhon Sri Thammarat there appears to coalesce a series of cultural, economic, religious and political synergies related to both the Dvaravati and Srivijayan federations. Perhaps Smith is correct is identifying a cultural continuum linking these two nodes of political, commercial, religious and cultural development in the 6th to 9th centuries. This cultural continuum linked Nakhon Sri Thammarat to the revered Buddhist past in Sri Lanka, and the Buddhist religious heartland of North India. It conferred a prestige on Nakhon Sri Thammarat which attracted the attention of the 13th century King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and linked the city into the subsequent Buddhist cultural history of Thailand. Phimai, Mon and Khmer on the Korat Plateau In the 9th century, on the Korat Plateau the Mon Dvaravati culture was beginning to experience the first inroads of Khmer expansionism. Increasing Khmer presence is shown by the inscriptions and the architectural remains. Of some 125 pre-Angkorian inscriptions in Khmer examined by J M Jacob from the corpus of material published by G Coedes (1924, 1936, 1937 66), two are confidently assigned to the Korat area of northeast Thailand (Jacob, 1979: 413, 425). The earliest is that found north of Ta Muen


dated to the end of the 6th century (Siribhadra, 1992: 25). These inscriptions show the state of society and culture in the 6th to 9th centuries before the major expansion of the Khmer north and west.

Correlating the information across these inscriptions, Jacob has outlined some of the key features of life in this pre-Angkorian society. Thus humble peasants, craftsmen and traders, religious mendicants, families of officials appear in the ranks of the free citizens distinct from the elite ruling classes and royalty on the one hand, and from the slave class on the others. Humble people were able to own land; were subject to civil punishments for transgressions; owned cattle, carts, used temple slaves, had one personal name and no family name, but took care to identify kinship and family lineage. Slaves were divided into categories according to the duties performed, age and sex. They worked the ricefields, orchards, plantations and market gardens, undertook special domestic activities such as cooking, weaving, dancing, and serving the temple. Slaves were regarded as a family unit as in the case of a certain Vodhigana, who served the temple together with his wife and children. Jacob identifies a specific reference to Mon slaves, males (Jacob, 1979: 410), perhaps prisoners of war. Others may have been debt slaves. Jacob has suggested the possibility that in this pre-Angkorian period, slaves may have worked partly for the temple and partly for their private owners (Jacob, 1979: 412).

The economy was dominated by the tilling of ricefields, mango groves, plantations of coconut palms, areca nuts, pepper plants, beans and ginger; the care of goats, buffalo and elephant, and trade in salt. Unlike the Dvaravati


culture, coinage was not used. A system of redistribution of goods and barter trade formed the backbone of this agricultural economy. Exchange of cloth,

paddy and silver was the means of transacting business, acquiring land or ricefields. From other inscriptions it is apparent that honey was a valuational

concept to purchase oil; cloth was used to purchase syrup and cotton bought ginger preserve (Jacob, 1979: 414). Measurement of land was determined by

reference to environmental features such as water-tanks, bamboo clumps, rivers, lakes or hills and their value recorded as lengths of cloth which appears to have a monetary concept attached to it. Clearly, weaving must have been a significant sector in the economy.

Gift exchange also seems to have been a central feature of the economics of redistribution in the pre-Angkorian society of the 6th century. A passage from

the Chinese dynastic chronicles, The History of the Sui Dynasty, compiled by Wei Zheng (581 643) shows that:
Whoever wishes to marry first of all sends presents to the girl he seeks. . . When the wedding ceremony is over, the husband receives part of the goods of his parents and goes to establish himself in his own house. At the death of his parents, if the deceased have young children who are not yet married, these children receive the rest of the goods; but if all the children are already married and endowed, the goods that the parents have retained for themselves go to the public treasury (Coedes, 1975: 75).

Such goods may have been claimed by an official Treasury, or simply by members of the ruling elite. In Khmer administered lands, there was a highly organized taxation system based on collection of taxes in kind, including the produce of the gardens (Wicks, 1992:187), what one would expect from an economy of redistribution and barter. Kind came to include not only primary 92

produce and manufactured goods, but also labour and service. By the 8th century, the appearance of the word, mulya, Sanskrit for value, in the inscriptions is linked to the stipulation of tamlin of silver or yau of cloth as the price of land. This indicates use of an extrinsic valuational standard in land transactions, which appears to have had several components: the object being purchased, the services given in exchange, the price as a value concept of silver and cloth (Wicks, 1992: 192). Such land purchases in the inscriptions are often linked to donations to a temple complex (Wicks, 1992: 187).

Economic, cultural and political development went hand in hand. In the southern part of the Korat Plateau, around Surin province, the Khmer presence is first obvious. Invaders or immigrants coming from Cambodia would have

crossed the Dangraek Mountain range to reach the Korat Plateau proper. At Prasat Phumphon in Surin Province, the 7th century Khmer temple is the earliest known Khmer architectural remains in the northeast. Another Khmer temple of the same vintage is at Khao Noi, in Prachinburi Province. As Khmer domination spread over the northeast from the 11th century, so too did examples of their architecture, and if there are none extant in Thailand constructed during the 8th and 9th centuries the height of the Dvaravati culture after this date, numerous examples appear, of which Phimai at Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) and Phanom Rung are internationally famous. They were constructed of brick, laterite and

sandstone, using the corbel arch, a system of covering the overhead space with stone blocks extended on either side, until the space at the top could be covered


by a single block.

The system lent itself to small rooms and long narrow

galleries even in the largest Khmer temples. No mortar, vaulted ceilings or true arches appear in Khmer temples, many of which collapsed after they had been abandoned. The Khmer path through northeast Thailand is marked by some 300 in the north, and the

Khmer sites between Phimai and Ubon Ratchathani Dangraek mountains in the south.

The remains of hospitals and resthouses

erected by the Angkorian rulers, in addition to temples, mark the extent of the Khmer expansionism.

Whilst Dvaravati was a Theravada Buddhist culture, the Khmer polity exhibited Saivite Hinduistic devotionalism, at least amongst the elite, as shown in the inscriptions and the temple remains (Wolters, 1979: 432). Under the aegis of Saivite devotionalism, the local territorial chief (pon) took on the social status of overlord, committed to individualistic and personal union with Siva, intended to demonstrate his superior personal prowess (Vickery, 1998). Enjoying spiritual and physical power derived from assimilating the sakti of Siva, the Khmer chieftain established a cult of personal prowess to support his territorial expansionism. Pasupatas, Indian Saivite ascetics attending the Khmer ruler,

supported his claim to spiritual power; comparison with Visnu supported his claim to military prowess. As the 9th century opened, the stage was set in

mainland Southeast Asia for the Khmer rulers in the next two centuries to develop the manpower and resources based at Angkor which would support expanding their influence across the Korat plateau to the central plain of the Chao Phraya


valley at Lopburi, down the Peninsula to Nakhon Sri Thammarat (then known as Tambralinga) and westwards towards the Mon cultures of the Gulf of Siam.. The Mon of northeast Thailand may have fled north and west, up the Mun River valley and the Mekong to Laos, to Lamphun (Haripunchai) and Lampang. Together with conquest of the Cham controlled zones in the east, this expansion in the later eleventh century strategically placed the Khmers to exercise control over the communication, transport and trade routes of this part of mainland Southeast Asia. Perhaps his westward expansionist policy was part of an ongoing competition for economic hegemony, a direct challenge to break the commercial power of the Srivijayan federation.

Conclusion In the above examination of the evidence for Mon cultural, and sociopolitical developments in Thailand from the earliest appearances in the archaeological record to the 9th century when the Mon cultural continuum begins to confront Khmer expansionism, I have sought to draw a picture of extensive, vibrant, diverse settlements and centres drawing on the resources of their environments, interacting both within their own regional niches and with the wider external world of international trade, recombining elements of that world with their own as it suited their own notions. The picture is necessarily

incomplete, both as a result of the limitations of my own research and the ongoing results of archaeological and historical research. This incompleteness urges us

on to find out more about these early cultures of mainland Southeast Asia.


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