A Brief Reinterpretation of the Pollen Record from Khok Phanom Di, Central Thailand, and Its Archaeological Significance

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In 1989 and again in 1992, Antiquity reported evidence for early rice cultivation in central Thailand. A brief supplement clarifies the story.

Khok Phanom Di was occupied from c. 4000 BP (Maloney et al. 1989). Aitken (1992) thought the site was on a levee up to 20 km inland when it was settled, that there was no modern evidence for a transgression of more than 2-3 m in height or sign of major oscillation in the regional transgression, and that its abandonment was due to increased siltation. Yet the archaeological data indicate there was access to a mangrove environment - indisputable given the wealth of shell, fish bone and other remains of marine organisms from the site. The apparent contradiction is reconcilable: mangrove could extend 20 km inland along a large estuary.

The palynological and radiocarbon data from core KL 2 at Khok Phanom Di support the idea of a marine transgression at c. 5600 bp and are in accord with findings from the Gulf of Siam. The interpretation of the pollen record from below 2.5 m stands, with elaboration based on phytolith analysis (Kealhofer & Piperno 1994). Phytoliths possibly from Rhizophoraceae were found up to 1.75 m but declined markedly thereafter; Rhizophoraceae pollen, much of it fresh, showed a second peak near the top of the diagram (0.72-1.11 m). The inverted dates from the upper part of the core (Maloney et al. …