Early Agriculture in Southeast Asia: Phytolith Evidence from the Bang Pakong Valley, Thailand

By Kealhofer, Lisa; Piperno, Dolores R. | Antiquity, September 1994 | Go to article overview

Early Agriculture in Southeast Asia: Phytolith Evidence from the Bang Pakong Valley, Thailand


Kealhofer, Lisa, Piperno, Dolores R., Antiquity


Phytoliths -- the microscopic opal silica bodies inside plant tissue that often survive well in archaeological deposits -- are becoming a larger part of the world of human palaeobotany. They give a new view of early rice in southeast Asia.

Introduction

In 1989 researchers working in the region of Khok Phanom Di, a 4000-year-old site in the Bang Pakong Valley, identified evidence of cultural burning and possibly early agriculture in the 5th millennium BC in sediment cores (FIGURE 1; Maloney et al. 1989). Phytolith analysis of these same cores provides a more detailed record of agriculture and grass weeds, and indicates that cultural modification of the environment may have begun even earlier.

Despite previous claims for early rice agricultural development in Thailand (Gorman 1973; 1977), abundant early evidence from southeastern China pre-dates Thai archaeological sites (An 1989; Yan 1991). Higham and co-workers investigated the coastal region of Thailand, particularly the fresh-water swamp zone, and the site of Khok Phanom Di for possible early agricultural development (Higham et al. 1992; Higham & Maloney 1989). While the site was first occupied at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, late relative to the beginnings of agricultural development (Higham & Bannanurag 1990), pollen cores from adjacent fields document human and natural environments back to the 6th millennium BC (Maloney 1992c). One core, KL2, showed several intense charcoal peaks pre-dating the site's occupation (5278[+ or -]420 BC (OxA-1359) at 4-95 m, 4950[+ or -]390 BC (OXA-1357) at 3.50-3.54 m). Slightly later, charcoal peaks are associated with weeds indicative of rice field cultivation (2.30 m, c. 4350[+ or -]375 BC (OxA-1356)). While rice is not directly identifiable from pollen data, the decline in mangrove species, increase in burning and increase in rice field weeds strongly suggest agriculture was practised in this region in the 5th millennium BC (Maloney et al. 1989: 367).

Methods

Two cores, KL2 and BMR2, from the Bang Pakong Valley were analysed for phytoliths. Both were located 170-200 m north of the site of Khok Phanom Di, within 30 m of each other. The pollen, spore, charcoal and sediment records are discussed in detail by Maloney (1992a; 1992b; 1992c; 1992e). The site is strategically located near the estuary of the Bang Pakong River, has access to marine, mangrove, riverine, fresh-water swamp, and alluvial plain/grassland resources. The diversity and abundance of subsistence resources made this an advantageous niche throughout the Holocene (Higham et al. 1992; Takaya 1979).

Phytolith extraction from sediment samples followed standard methods (Piperno 1988). Soils were disaggregated in [Na.sub.2] C[O.sub.3]. A 270-mesh sieve separated the sand fraction from the silts and clays. Clays were removed by gravity sedimentation, and the remaining silts were then fractionated, also by differential gravity sedimentation. The organics were wet ashed from these fractions with KCl[O.sub.3] (Schulze's solution). The phytoliths were floated (specific gravity [is less than] 2.3) on a density gradient of potassium and cadmium iodide (specific gravity 2.35). Samples were washed in water, dried in acetone, and mounted in permount. Phytoliths were counted at 400x on an Olympus photomicroscope while the permount was still fluid. Individual phytoliths were rotated to avoid confusion with similar two-dimensional forms.

Phytoliths were identified using modern reference material of over 340 species, comprising most of the southeast Asian families known to be phytolith producers (after Piperno 1988), as well as many previously untested Old World tropical taxa (Kealhofer & Piperno in press a). A major goal of this study was to retrieve and identify Oryza phytoliths from sediment cores.

Nearly a century ago German botanists studying grass morphology identified distinctive Oryza glume phytoliths (Formanek 1899; Grob 1896). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Early Agriculture in Southeast Asia: Phytolith Evidence from the Bang Pakong Valley, Thailand
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.