Studies in Global Archaeology 6

Studies in Global Archaeology 6
Studies in Global Archaeology 6
And Through Flows the River
archaeology and the pasts of Lao Pako
Anna Källén
African and Comparative Archaeology
Department of Archaeology and Ancient History
Uppsala University
Uppsala 2004
Doctoral thesis defended at Uppsala University 2004
ABSTRACT
Källén, A. 2004. And Through Flows the River: Archaeology and the Pasts of Lao Pako. Studies in Global
Archaeology 6. Uppsala. 336 pp, 105 figures, 4 appendices. ISSN 1651-1255, ISBN 91-973212-4-9.
This is a story about Lao Pako. Lao Pako is located on a small hill on the southern bank of the river
Nam Ngum in central Laos. Four seasons of archaeological fieldwork have yielded considerable amounts
of pottery, metallurgical remains, glass beads, stone artefacts, spindle whorls as well as other material
and structural information that have created a foundation for interpretation. The archaeological interpretation presents Lao Pako as a place where people came to perform rituals c. 1500 years ago. In these
rituals, sophisticated combinations of pottery depositions, infant burials and iron production created a
narrative about what it means to be in the world. Things in and on the ground created, and continue to
create, non-verbal sentences about life and death, fertility, decay and worldly reproduction.
The archaeological interpretation is, however, not the only valid story about Lao Pako. This is a
place where spirits are; it is also a tourist resort and a national treasure. These other stories all work to
create Lao Pako as a place of interest and are used in this thesis to define the archaeological story, and
to visualize the aims and agendas that are inherent in the production of archaeological knowledge.
Using the conceptual apparatus of postcolonial and other critical theory, the thesis aims to critically deconstruct the archaeology performed by the author and others. It entails an explicit critique of
the deterministic temporal unilinearity that is inherent in the archaeological narrative of the evolution
of humankind, as well as against essentialist notions of culture and the dissociation of the past as
exotic otherness. Thus, the different stories about Lao Pako demonstrate the need to critically revise
the role of archaeology in a postcolonial world, and create archaeological stories by which we are touched,
moved and disturbed, without resorting to imperialist notions of time and progress.
Keywords: Lao Pako, Laos, Mainland Southeast Asia, archaeology, excavation, ceramics, iron production,
ritual, gender, the past, time, postcolonial, critical theory
Anna Källén, African and Comparative Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University,
Box 626, 751 26 Uppsala, Sweden.
ISSN 1651-1255
ISBN 91-973212
©Anna Källén
Studies in Global Archaeology 6
Series Editor: Paul J. J. Sinclair
Editorial committee: Christina Bendegard and Paul J. J. Sinclair
Layout and cover design: Anna Källén
Cover illustration: the river Nam Ngum at Lao Pako (photo: Anna Karlström), Ding
Saynjavongnak and Kanda Keosopha with J221 in February 2003 (photo: Anna Källén)
Insert: photgraphs and drawings by Anna Källén unless otherwise stated.
Lao translations: Kanda Keosopha
Published and distributed by: African and Comparative Archaeology, Department of
Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Box 626, 751 26 Uppsala, Sweden
Printed in Sweden by Elanders Gotab, Stockholm 2004
For Gunnar and Bengt
CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................. 9
A NOTE ON TRANSLATION ...................................................................................... 13
INTRODUCTION: And Through Flows the River ....................................................... 15
OUT-SET: A Postcolonial Archaeology ............................................................................ 25
Postcolonial theory in archaeology
26
Discipline and critique
30
UPSTREAM: A History of Research ................................................................................ 35
Olov Janse and the birth of modern archaeology in Mainland Southeast Asia
36
Art and archaeology in Laos: an example from the 21st century
42
Postcolonial archaeology in Africa: a briefing
45
Ban Chiang and the Iron Age of Mainland Southeast Asia
48
Plain of Jars: archaeology from Indochina to the Lao PDR
57
WITHIN THE WHIRLPOOL
OMNIUM GATHERUM: À͉-¾-¯¾-¡-Á´È̹
- ¨
ñ ¤- ? – What is Lao Pako? .................... 66
ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS: Aims, Methods and Outcomes 75
Excavation in 1995
75
Survey in 2000
76
Excavations in 2002-2003
78
THE EARTH: Stratigraphy, Soil and Dating .................................................................... 81
Soil details
81
Stratigraphy and excavation
82
Layers
83
Dating
85
Stratigraphic conclusion
85
THE THINGS ....................................................................................................................... 87
The Lao Pako material culture
91
Ceramics
92
Complete vessels
104
Textile production
153
Beads
155
Metal and metallurgy
158
Stone
164
CONTEXTS ......................................................................................................................... 167
The ground
168
Pits
171
Ceramics
171
Burials
174
Textile production
178
Metallurgy
178
Curious depositions
179
RITUAL SPACE.................................................................................................................. 181
Ritual as a conceptual tool
182
Embodied pots
185
Iron in other words
191
LAO PAKO 1500 YEARS AGO: An Archaeological Synthesis ......................... 195
Looking out
195
Insights
201
CREATING REFLECTIONS ....................................................................................... 209
Views, viewpoints and interviews
209
Laos and the Lao PDR cultural heritage management
211
Ban Pako tourist resort
218
Ban Nabong and Ban Phonkham
223
CONFLUENCE ................................................................................................................. 233
SUMMARY ........................................................................................................................... 237
¦½ÍЮ¹¨Ó
269
NOTES .................................................................................................................................. 253
REFERENCES ................................................................................................................... 257
APPENDIX
APPENDIX
APPENDIX
APPENDIX
I: FINDLIST LAO PAKO 1995 – 2003 ........................................... 271
II: PLAN DRAWINGS .......................................................................... 287
III: STRATIGRAPHY ............................................................................ 305
IV: THIN SECTION ANALYSIS – by Anders Lindahl ................ 317
PREFACE
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
It is with a mixed feeling of relief and nostalgic sadness that I now find myself
at the end of this road. Since its beginning, I have walked a long way, sometimes
in sunshine but at other times the road has seemed endless and lonely. I know
now that I would not have reached the end of it without friends and colleagues
who pushed me forward, who walked with me for a while, forced me to choose
when I reached junctions, encouraged me to stop and rest when needed, and who
built bridges across unexpected rifts. The space here is not enough to mention
all who have so generously contributed to the becoming of this book, but I will
take the opportunity to say a few thanks.
Before anything else, I want to say a very special thanks to Anna Karlström,
who has walked beside me from the beginning to the end of the road, always there
as a stimulating colleague and my best friend. Thank you, Anna.
At the very beginning of everything, Per Sørensen and Göran Burenhult
helped me up on the road. It is now far back in memory, but I will always be
indebted to them for that help, and to Inger and Sven Österholm for teaching
me the art of archaeological excavation. Through the years that followed I met
and interacted with a number of people who have, consciously or not, been inspiring and influential to the shape this project has taken. Mats Burström made
me open my eyes to the politics of archaeolog y. Ian Glover has always been
supportive, encouraging and a good friend despite our constant differences of
opinion. Magnus Fiskesjö and the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm have given me many opportunities to broaden my professional perspectives,
as have Paul Wallin and Helene Martinsson Wallin at the Kon-Tiki Museum in
Oslo. In the most generous way, Michael Rowlands has discussed themes and
issues that are at the core of this thesis, and our conversations have been formative in my thinking. Vincent Pigott has been helpful and supportive with his
expertise on Southeast Asian metallurgy, and Anders Lindahl stepped in at a
stressful moment and helped out with crucial ceramic analyses. Joyce White has
been a knowledgeable discussion partner on the late prehistory of the Khorat
Plateau, and taught me much about being a female foreign archaeologist in Southeast Asia. On the same matter I have also benefited greatly from my contact with
Rasmi Shoocongdej.
I owe more than I can say to colleagues and friends in Laos who shared the
production of this thesis with me. The Ministry of Information and Culture, and
Department of Museums and Archaeology have been my cooperation partners
throughout the years, and the archaeological investigations at Lao Pako could
9
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
never have been realized without the profound knowledge and dedication of my
fieldwork collea gues T hongsa Sayavongkhamd y, T honglith Luangkhoth,
Bounheuang Bouasiseng paseuth, Phimmaseng Khamdalavong and K anda
Keosopha. I owe them a special debt for their generosity in letting me use and
put my name on fieldwork results that are theirs just as much. Kanda Keosopha
has also done all transcripts of interviews in Lao, as well as the Lao translations
of summary and figure captions in this book, for which he deserves an extra
special thanks. Various other persons and institutions have made invaluable contributions to the fieldwork at Lao Pako; Soutanh Phonsongkham at the Vientiane
Municipality office, Phoukong Yutitham at the Pak Ngum District office,
Finnmap in Vientiane and there in particular Jussi Yrjölä, Sounet Potisane and
staff at Laos National Museum, Bronwyn Campbell and the three volunteers
Göran Franson in the 2002 fieldwork season, and Emmy Ageros and Katey
Belford in 2003. Warm thanks to all of you for your much appreciated contributions. I am grateful beyond words for the help and support I received from
Carol Cassidy and from Christer Holtsberg, Chargé d’Affairs AI and staff at the
Swedish Embassy in Vientiane at a particularly difficult phase of the fieldwork
time, and I also want to say a sincere thank you to Peter Fogde and the Burapha
Group for genuine support and much valued friendship.
A few people have shared great parts of the fieldwork times with me, and deserve a special recognition. Marion Ravenscroft, without your professional devotion to Lao Pako and its things, and your marvellous sense of humour I would
not have lasted long. I owe you big time! Christian Vinterhav, thanks for sharing
the longest and most strenuous fieldwork season with me, I will always be grateful. And Marc Craig, saving me with emergency volunteer work, bowling and and
good wines, I thank you from my heart. Last but not least, I will always be indebted to the people living close to Lao Pako, who more than anyone else have
lent their land and ideas to this thesis. Many have also contributed greatly to the
project as staff members, informants and friends. Thank you Unla and Git
Sisongkham, Nor Ountagok, Sumpiang Douangsompong and Ding Saynjavongnak:
Àºœ º ¨ ºÉ ¾ ¨ ÌÉ º ¤‚ ¢º®Ã¥Í¾¨Í¾¨À©† . Warm thanks also to John McArdle, Ban
Pako resort staff and villagers of Ban Nabong and Ban Phonkham.
Many of my ideas in this book originated in discussions with colleagues at
the Archaeology Departments at Stockholm and Uppsala University respectively.
I thank Elisabet Regner for her sharp and useful criticism, Michel Notelid for
inspiring Cambridge talks on the importance of words and the problems of
archaeology, Patrik Nordström for his bright ideas and enthusiastic encouragements, Anneli Ekblom for her priceless poignant comments and for lending her
10
PREFACE
microscope and her eyes to the Lao Pako soil and ceramics, Lena Johansson de
Château for inspirational discussions on postcolonialism, Alex Gill for his
straightforward attitude to thesis writing and an early introduction to postprocessual archaeology, Raj Somadeva for useful talks on Buddhism and help with
ceramic analysis, Kalle Lindholm for his tireless GIS support, Cia Lidström
Holmberg for her steady encouragement and inspiration in discussions on gender and science critique, Fredrik Andersson for his generous contributions to my
understanding of archaeological theory, and Marie Svedin, Anneli Sundkvist,
Susanne Thedéen, Fredrik Hallgren, Vicky Saenz, Jonas Monié Nordin, Åsa M
Larsson, Olaf Winter and Li Winter for friendship, inspiration, and for making
the road more pleasant to walk.
I offer my deepest thanks to my supervisor Professor Paul Sinclair, for believing in my ideas and my capacity to go through with this project. His steadfast support for ideas that are not always close to his own views, and his ways to
make me believe in myself at my weakest moments make him a great supervisor
and a good friend. Johan Hegardt, Anna Karlström, Anneli Ekblom, Michel
Notelid and Michael Rowlands read and commented on various earlier drafts of
this text, and made considerable structural and intellectual contributions to the
final result. A heartfelt thanks also goes to the staff at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University, and in particular to Elisabet
Green, Christina Bendegard, Birgitta Karlsson, Markku Pyykönen, Maria Lund,
and Professor Ola Kyhlberg who has always been genuinely supportive of this
project. My warm thanks to Martin Högvall for lending his knowledge and skilled
eye as I entered the wide world of book layout, to Elisabet Green who revised
the English language, to Andreas Karinen for allowing me to use his beautiful
photographs and to Simon Tilton for computer assistance. For two great opportunities to broaden my university perspectives I am grateful to Luiz Oosterbeek
and his students who gave me three rewarding months at Instituto Politécnico
de Tomar in Portugal, and to Marie Louise Stig Sørensen and Janice Stargardt who
were my mentors during a nine weeks stay at Cambridge University.
Research cannot be done without funding. Thus I wish to express my deepfelt gratitude to Sida/SAREC for four years salary, to Birgit and Gad Rausing’s
Foundation for my computer, to the Kunstadter Family Foundation and Carol
Cassidy Lao Textiles for funding a Lao Pako exhibition at Laos National Museum,
to Rydeberg’s Foundation for covering fieldwork expenses and my stay at Cambridge University, and finally to Mårten Stenberger’s Foundation for a contribution to the production of this book.
My family is the framework that has supported me all this time. My parents
11
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Lisa and Per Arne, Bengt and Marianne, my brother Jonas and my sister Maja,
my grandparents Inga and Bengt, Viola and Gunnar – I thank you from the bottom of my heart. For just-like-family support I also want to thank Susanne Wik,
Elisabet Lind, Anna Lena Holmström, and Birgitta Gustafsson. Finally, Johan –
thank you for being a great support and my sunshine on the last steps of the road.
I dedicate this work to my grandfathers, who are now, as they say – gamla som
gatan och äldre än så – even older than the road. To Bengt Källén for introducing
me to the vast potentials of the Swedish language and the everyday joys of the
written word. I can only hope that he will forgive me for writing this book in
English. And to Gunnar Pettersson for sharing with me some of his admirable
and infinite curiosity about all that is unknown to him. It was a love for words
and curiosity about the unknown that made this book.
Uppsala 20 th August 2004
Anna Källén
12
PREFACE
A NOTE ON TRANSLATION
쾸 -- Lao, the official language of Laos, is a tonal language with a script of its
own. In the absence of common official standards for transcript to Latin letters,
there are several possible ways to transcribe Lao in an English text. Some writers rely on old French standard spellings, while others have tried to innovate other
ways of writing that would better suit English-speaking readers. In any case, the
tones inherent and crucial for understanding the Lao language are never conveyed
properly in any use of a Latin script. To suit the purposes of this book, I have
decided to use Lao as I have used it myself during the course of my work in Laos
and at Lao Pako, that is, in a piecemeal hybrid manner. More specifically this
means that where possible I have included names of places, people and crucial
words and concepts in Lao script within the English text, followed by an approximate transcript in Latin letters, which is most often according to the spelling (of
names and places) used by the concerned Lao people in translations into English. The overall aim is to facilitate the reading as well as the identification of
people, places and concepts that occur in the book, both for those who are literate in Lao and those who are not.
13
INTRODUCTION
INTRODUCTION
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
1. View from Lao Pako overlooking
the Nam Ngum river.
The Mekong river, the Mae Nam Kong – ‘Mother of Waters’, flows through the
entire Mainland Southeast Asia. It touches the territories of all modern nation
states in the area: China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Along
the way, it takes on various different shapes and is known by many names: Dza
Chu – ‘River of Rocks’, Lancang Jiang – Turbulent River’, Tonle Thom – ‘Great River’
and Song Cuu Long – ‘Nine Dragons River’, to name but a few (Osborne 2000:15).
As it enters the lowlands after its first two thousand kilometres in Tibet, China
and mountainous Laos, and joins the present border between Thailand and Laos,
it is known as the Mae Nam Kong, and forms, together with its many tributaries,
a vast floodplain. This flat and seasonally flooded land is the immediate focus
of this study.
Lao Pako is the place I focus on and the place from which I look out, in an
attempt to understand the perspectives and ideas of its people. That is, the people who used it in the 4 th to 6 th centuries AD and we who use it today. One of
the largest tributaries of the Mekong, the river Nam Ngum, literally flows through
the Lao Pako landscape. Lao Pako is situated on a hill at the southern bank of
the Nam Ngum, at a sharp bend and overlooking the course of the river both upstream and downstream. At a distance is the Phu Khao Khouay – Buffalo Horn
êò¸êñ©ê¿´½§¾©À®…¤ºº¡Ä¯ê¾¤
Á´ÈÌÕ¤‡´.
15
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
mountain range framing the landscape, a floodplain completely dominated by the
river.
The Lao Pako hill is today home to the Ban Pako eco-cultural tourist resort. For
long, Lao Pako was known as a phii pa saa – a place where spirits are – among
people in the nearby villages. With the establishment of the resort in the early
1990’s it first became known as a prehistoric site of some importance to the national authorities for cultural heritage management, the Ministry of Information
and Culture. A series of archaeological investigations followed, all but one in a
Lao-Swedish joint research project starting out in 1995, and of which I have
myself been a part (for reports, see Källén & Karlström 1999, Bouasisengpaseuth
et al. 2000, Källén et al. 2002). The combined results from this fieldwork constitute the bulk of this book.
I saw Lao Pako for the first time in November 1995. I had just finished my
graduate courses in archaeolog y, and I travelled to Laos with my friend and
colleague Anna Karlström, having been granted a scholarship from the Swedish
International Development Agency (Sida) to work together with the Lao PDR
national authorities in an archaeological investigation project. I was 21 years old,
and it was the first time I travelled outside Europe. In retrospect it is clear how
this entire launching part of the Lao Pako project bears signs of our youth and
lack of professional as well as cultural experience. Naivety led to mistakes that
seem needless today, but with naivety came also fearlessness and direct determination that I am now in some sense sad to have lost along the way.
Anna Karlström and I arrived at Lao Pako the first time by boat, along the
river. Little did I know that morning in November, that the slightly elevated hill
on the top of the river bank in front of me was about to set me off on an intellectual and emotional roller coaster ride, lasting nearly a decade. I was entirely
occupied with all that was new around me. Spending half an hour travelling
downstream the Nam Ngum in a long, narrow and scarily flat boat, I saw jungle
and bananas and people with cone-shaped hats working in gardens on the
riverbanks. The scent of flowers, fire smoke and something indistinguishably
rotten filled the air. The boatman spoke in a language that did not even allow me
to guess whether he was very happy or very angry. It was scorching hot in the
sun and the heavy air enveloped my skin like a fomentation. I was as in a bubble, experiencing this new world at a distance, sensitive to all its novelty. As far
as I can remember, the Lao Pako hill did not appeal in any particular way to me,
as we approached it on the river. The boatman dropped us off at the bend of the
river, and we climbed the steep bank. At the top was a sign pointing to the left:
‘
TO THE BAR: 106 m’.
16
INTRODUCTION
A few years earlier an Austrian had travelled by and spotted the hill by the
river, which was then in the middle of a plant school and eucalyptus plantation
run by the Lao-Swedish company Burapha Group. The man, Walter Pfabigan,
decided to build a tourist resort on the hill. Being one of very few tourist resorts
in Laos, it was moulded on ideas from Thailand and Malaysia. It had an expressed
ecological profile, with constructions built in traditional Lao techniques and with
a minimum of material luxuries. He called his resort Lao Pako, which was the
name the Lao people living nearby used for the hill by the river. Lao Pako, in Lao
À¹ù ‰ ¾ ¯È ¾ -  ¡, means literally a young forest of ko trees: Láo Pá is young forest, and
Ko is a tree that grows in abundance in the area. Anna and I came to Lao Pako
because they had found extraordinary and apparently old things in the ground
when they were constructing the tourist resort. We were to investigate what it was
they had found, in a joint Lao-Swedish research project. We stayed six weeks at
Lao Pako, six weeks filled with excavations and documentation, and then returned
to Sweden.
The meeting with Laos and Lao Pako was something completely new for me,
and it quite unexpectedly opened previously invisible doors in my world. The
world where I grew up and started to study archaeology was in some sense protected and homogenous, and in all possible senses a very Swedish world. I had
almost no prior exposure to so much difference that I was to meet at Lao Pako,
and I was at that time not very interested in the world outside Sweden. This also
means that I had no expectations as to where this trip to Laos was going to lead
in regard of my own personal experience. While it has not been an outspoken
strategy along the way, in hindsight it is clear that this first meeting with Laos
was for me the onset of a constant and still ongoing critical enquiry into my
known world. This is important to know for the reading of this book, which was
created along this decade-long way filled with questioning, where Laos and the
area around the Nam Ngum river have slowly become more and more familiar
to me, to the extent that it is today an important part of me and my constitution
of self.
My meetings with Laos have inevitably put the world I knew into perspective.
Somewhere along the way the interest was also awoken in me to understand more
about archaeology as a science, as it was illuminated in my meetings with different actors in the Lao Pako project. The archaeology that I had always taken for
granted as the only viable way to approach the past, slowly stood out as only one
of several possible ways to create stories about the past that apparently worked
well for other people, with other perspectives, aims and agendas. This has never
made me doubt the value of archaeology (referring back to its etymology, being
17
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
defined as knowledge of the ancient) as a potentially great storyteller about the past,
rather it has made me wonder about the mechanisms creating our archaeological past. Paraphrasing the feminist primatologist and analyst of science Donna
Haraway, in her brilliant analysis of the scientific construction of nature: In what
specific places, out of which social and intellectual histories, and with what tools
is the past constructed as an object of erotic and intellectual desire? (Haraway
1989:1) These are also the key questions around which the argument of this book
evolves.
We will linger a while on the conceptual framework within which I move, the
roots of my inquiries and arguments. In the introduction to her book Primate
Visions, Donna Haraway lists four temptations in her analysis of primatology as
a scientific discourse. These temptations are positions in the current debate that
Haraway finds ‘persuasive, enabling, and also dangerous’ in case any one of the
positions silences the others, creating a ‘false harmony’ in the narrative (1989:6).
Likewise, I have four main, as well as many minor, temptations in my research
and writing. I wish to remain tempted and inspired, and not let myself be entirely
seduced by any one of them. The first of my temptations is Donna Haraway
herself. In the influential article Situated Knowledges in Feminist Studies (1988), and
the books Simians, Cyborgs, and Women (1991) and Primate Visions (1989) mentioned
above, she has shown that taken-for-granted concepts that constitute the common modern worldview, such as nature, and woman are constructed, while not
denying their reality and importance in the real world. Arguing against all vulgar forms of relativism and social constructionism, she strives to combine a view
of knowledge as historically, politically and ideologically contingent with a ‘nononsense commitment to f aithful accounts of a ‘ real’ wo rld’ (Har away
1988:579,584). Adopting a Lacanian perspective on the subject and the self,
Haraway has argued convincingly that there is no such thing as ‘pure’ knowledge.
Scientific as well as other knowledge can only be produced in embodied form,
it must emerge from a body of some sort, and it is never fixed, complete or
absolute. Knowledge must be understood as a partial perspective, and precisely
therefore is only an explicitly partial knowing self ‘able to join with another, to
see together without claiming to be another’ (1988:586, my italics). Consequently, a
responsible knowledge claim must for Haraway inevitably be situated (Haraway 1988,
see also Rustad 1998). Responsible is to be understood in its literally meaning as
‘able to be called into account’, and to situate knowledge is more complicated
than providing an account that will, once and for all, contextualize the research
subject. Situating knowledge is rather to be seen as an attitude, which requires
explicitness and a dynamic appreciation of the research process, in which the ob-
18
INTRODUCTION
ject of knowledge must also be pictured as an active agent and not as a flat screen,
a ground or a resource (Haraway 1988:583,592; see also Rustad 1998). In other
words, it is not a statement about spatial position but rather it is about involvement and relation, revealing a recurring legacy from Heidegger in Haraway’s
thinking (cf. Haraway 2000; Gosden 1994:111). Western scientific knowledge is
based on the principle of vision, and Haraway argues strongly against a distanced
scientific gaze, which pretends to be all-seeing:
The eye of any ordinary primate like us can be endlessly enhanced by sonography
systems, magnetic resonance imaging, artificial intelligence-linked graphic manipulation systems, scanning electron microscopes, computed tomography scanners,
color-enhancement techniques, satellite surveillance systems, […] Vision in this
technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; all seems not just mythically
about the god trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth
into ordinary practice. And like the god trick, this eye fucks the world to make
techno-monsters (1988:581).
I share Haraway’s general concern for the ‘god trick’ in science. I would also
argue that this is a particular problem for scientific archaeology today, a problem that is indirectly addressed by the shape the Lao Pako project has taken. Only
too often, it seems, is a vision-enhancing method used as a legitimising device
to knowledge claims in archaeology, seemingly replacing the need to be explicit
about the location and the driving forces behind knowledge production. Archaeological knowledge produced with a technologically enhanced vision is often presented by a distant and invisible subject, who pretends to have seen everything
from nowhere. Donna Haraway is not in any way seduced or impressed by such
blind techno-monsters (yet, it must be stressed, she is not denying the importance
of technology in science), the real challenge is instead to find ways and means
to produce a responsible, that is, situated scientific knowledge:
I am arguing for politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make
rational knowledge claims. These are claims on people’s lives. I am arguing for
the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring, and structured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplicity (1988:589).
My second temptation, which I am somewhat more disturbed by, is structuralism and post-structuralism. While I do not in any way claim to have conducted
a sophisticated or profound structuralist analysis, I am undeniably attracted to
the cool elegance and sense of order in structuralist and post-structuralist think-
19
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
ing. When exposed to something new I have a tendency to start ordering that
which is unknown and incomprehensible into boxes and categories of either or,
black or white. It is satisfying and balmy to my mind to understand the world in
dichotomies, in neat clean pictures. Structuralism is also in a sense directed inwards, and in that way it enables a creation of meaning in the local, the particular, without alluding to general routes of development and progress. I am also
inspired by structural linguistics in that it finds meaning in momentary space as
a complement to the general focus on progress in cultural analysis (Crang &
Thrift 2000:4, see also Gosden 1994:49). Nonetheless, there are aspects of structuralism that disturb me to the same degree that I am attracted to others. A structuralist analysis of culture creates fixed and motionless images as it moves away
and above the actual events seeking underlying and invisible structures. This
entails a necessary neglect not only for the being of the actual people under study.
As a consequence, it also neglects ambiguity, the in-between, the dynamics of
contradiction that are important parts of all human culture.
Postcolonial critique and postcolonial theory, the third of my temptations, is
in some sense saving me from the structuralist side of myself. With parallels to
Haraway’s critique of science as described above, but instead with a more general focus on culture, postcolonial theory is useful for critical deconstruction of
precisely that which I find problematic with structuralist analyses. Postcolonial
critique argues consistently against essentialist, static and simplifying views on
culture. Its theory has a toolbox full of concepts to deal with the messiness of
human culture; all that which is neither/nor. Just as I am attracted to the order
and detachment of structuralism, I am equally drawn to the dynamics and creativity of postcolonial thinking. You will be able to trace this contradiction in my
research personality, particularly in the chapters of this book dealing with the
material culture of Lao Pako. I have used postcolonial theory in my research not
primarily because I work in the former French colony Laos, but as a tool to illuminate the foundations of archaeology as a scientific discipline born out of
imperialist structures with certain political and ideological agendas. And I argue,
supported by the conceptual tools of postcolonial theory, that these imperialistic politics cling to archaeological narratives with an almost peculiar persistence.
Let us return for a brief moment to Donna Haraway. She belongs to a loosely
defined group of critical analysts of science, many born in the 1940s, who are
affiliated with university departments in the United States, and who relate
strongly to one another, yet have adopted different perspectives in their critical
inquiries into culture, science and knowledge. While I have been much inspired
by Haraway’s views on science and knowledge in the formulation of an overall
20
INTRODUCTION
conceptual framework of this thesis, other members of this interrelated group
will emerge as influential to the arguments in the different chapters of the book:
Bruno Latour addressing issues of time and materiality in relation to scientific
knowledge, James Clifford for the critical deconstruction of anthropology and
the anthropological gaze, and Judith Butler and Lila Abu-Lughod for feminist and
postcolonial critique towards static and essentialist views on gender, stressing
performance and embodiment as crucial factors for the constitution of gender.
All these scholars are to be found in the borderlands between feminism,
postcolonial thinking and science critique. They refer in some way back to
Heidegger in that they all refuse to keep a clear distinction between epistemology and ontology, and they use the words theory and critique in a similar way as
something both necessary and extremely useful, or as phrased by Judith Butler
in the preface to Gender Trouble:
There is a new venue for theory, necessarily impure, where it emerges in and as
the very event of cultural translation. Thus it is not the displacement of theory
by historicism, nor a simple historicization of theory that exposes the contingent limits of its more generalizable claims. It is, rather, the emergence of theory
at the site where cultural horizons meet, where the demand for translation is acute
and its promise of success, uncertain (1999:ix).
Much of their inquiries focus on desire, power and lust, in its widest senses,
as important human driving forces – also in science, and they focus on performance, the active and particular, the local, and the individual in their studies and
analyses. What further unites these different writers is in my view a willingness
to see science as part of the ongoing world, something which is for real, and
should touch us, move us, disturb us. Therefore their writings are in a sense both
self-reflective and passionate, yet always based on sophisticated analyses of the
scientific discourse. My foremost problem with these critics of science as well
as with postcolonial theory is that I am tempted on the verge of seduction. I
simply think that these two related forms of critical analysis of science and
culture respectively, both based on the method of deconstruction, are very useful, inspiring and constructive to think with.
Finally, my fourth temptation is my love for Lao Pako with its things and
people. It has been an important driving force throughout this research project,
and I hope that the result is reflective of it. Archaeology should in my view
contain an element of love, and maybe it always does. But equally important is
that love as a driving force in research is made explicit, to create responsible scientific knowledge and situate the research subject (cf. Haraway 1989:8). Love
21
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
must not, however, take over permanently so that it disables the critical in-flux
distance between subject and object. Thus my love for Lao Pako is not an erotic
or desiring love, nor should it be mistaken for a complete emotional takeover.
Rather it is a deep feeling of respect and a fascination for the beauty and sophistication of the place, its things and its people.
Our archaeological investigations at Lao Pako are at the centre of my critical inquiry. In the still ongoing process of critical deconstruction that begun with
my first meeting with Laos and Lao Pako, I have identified a number of issues
in archaeology, as produced by myself and others, which I must put into question because I find them contradictory to my general sense of ethics. One such
problem in the structure of the discipline is the relationship to the Other,
because the archaeological narrative works to essentialize and exoticize other people in the past and in the present, using them in discourse as a fundamental difference to the modern world. Another problem is the archaeological realization
of the conception of a universal linear time axis, enabling the idea of social
evolution and development as a uniform movement towards modernity. Needless to say, time is important for archaeology, but surprisingly few attempts have
been made to critically investigate the archaeological use of time. My line of
argument has borrowed from one of the few profound studies of time in archaeology, Christopher Gosden’s Social Being and Time (1994). Gosden is explicitly
influenced by Heidegger’s classic Being and Time, and generally I subscribe to his/
their view of time as a human dimension which unfolds in action. Seen like this,
time cannot exist as an empty measured entity to be filled with happenings, but
is created in existence and action. Time can thus exist only out of that which it
is filled with. This general view on time, which blurs the distinction between
ontology and epistemology, has significant consequences for my arguments as it
opens up for more specific criticisms of the use of time in archaeology. For the
argument of this book I see the common modern description of time (both
measured and experienced) as unilinear and progressive as deeply problematic.
The problem is expressively illustrated in the words of Michel Serres who said,
in a conversation with Bruno Latour:
We conceive of time as an irreversible line, whether interrupted or continuous,
of acquisitions and inventions. We go from generalizations to discoveries, leaving behind us a trail of errors finally corrected – like a cloud of ink from a squid.
“Whew! We’ve finally arrived at the truth”. It can never be demonstrated whether
this idea of time is true or false.
But, irresistibly, I cannot help thinking that this idea is the equivalent of
those ancient diagrams we laugh at today, which place the Earth at the center of
22
INTRODUCTION
everything, or our galaxy at the middle of the universe, to satisfy our narcissism.
[…]
[…] so for time, through progress, we never cease to be at the summit, on the
cutting edge, at the state-of-the-art of development. It follows that we are always right, for the simple, banal, and naïve reason that we are living in the present
moment (Serres & Latour 1995:48).
At the core of my time problem is thus the determinacy that is part of the
modern western linear perception of time, where interpretations of the past are
always related to a now ‘at the summit’, a now that we have already agreed on is
the cutting edge of history. Therefore, as Serres says, ‘we’ are destined to always
be right. Time is in fact always at the heart of my critical questioning of academic
archaeolog y, being both a consequence of a linear perception of time, and a
means to continuously give meaning to that linearity in its almost entirely uncritical attitude to progress. This is even further complicated in the particular sociocultural situation of the Lao Pako project. In Laos, ritual cosmology is based on
a circular perception of time, characteristic for Buddhist, Hindu and animist
cosmology. Time is according to the Lao system described as continuously moving in circles representing the life cycles of the moon, the year, the human being, the Buddha, etc. A specific point in time is there understood in relation to
its position within one or several circles. In Laos today, this experience of time
is used in a hybrid form with a measured linear time that is compatible with the
Western idea of time that is in particular used in historical sciences. This, I will
argue, will have unforeseen negative consequences, because the issues of time and
the Other as fundamental difference are known to be connected and dependent on each
other in the structure of archaeology, something which I will ideal with in more
detail in several chapters of this book. The consequence of this argument is that,
in a global perspective, when adopting a linear description of time for the understanding of historical development in Laos, it creates a discourse that undoubtedly benefits the West at the expense of Laos itself.
The story I have written about Lao Pako and its pasts is woven of both fact
and fiction, and so it must be. While the etymology of fact as a descendant of a
neuter past participle refers to something which has actually happened, something which is done and seems unchangeable, fiction refers to human action and
forming, is open and inventive (Haraway 1989:4). This does not, of course, mean
that fact is more true than fiction nor that it is not constructed, and archaeology must of necessity contain both of them. Writing human science has often
put higher demand than natural science on the fiction binding facts in a story.
There could be reason for pulling the argument even further, quoting John
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Kirtland Wright: ‘All science should be scholarly, but not all scholarship can be
rigorously scientific… The terrae incognitae of the periphery contain fertile ground
awaiting cultivation with the tools and in the spirit of the humanities’ (cited in
Tuan 1990). I mean for this, my archaeology, to be read as a narrative, just as I
present and analyse other science as narrative. Following the arguments above,
I see it not as dismissive to treat archaeology and other human and natural science as narrative, quite the contrary (see also Serres & Latour 1995:21ff). Critical deconstruction opens an endless array of possibilities to reflect upon ourselves in the most self-constructive way. In my view, therefore, a clearly situated
archaeology is only more nuanced and interesting than one that pretends to be
disinterested and all-embracing.
This book is, however, first and foremost a story about the place Lao Pako.
My story evolves in a movement of wider and tighter loops, but always with this
particular place at its centre, and always aiming to understand Lao Pako as a place
of interest. In my archaeological interpretation of Lao Pako as a prehistoric site,
it will emerge gradually through the text as a place for complex and sophisticated
rituals performed 1500 years ago, and I will argue that these rituals can best be
understood as a performed narration concerning issues of birth, life and death.
Moreover, this archaeological interpretation will be presented as only one of
many ways to tell a story and give meaning to the place Lao Pako. Thus, if I have
a say, I want this book to be read as a story about Lao Pako. Such a breathtakingly beautiful and thought-provoking place deserves a story of its own. Besides
that, it can also be regarded as a story about archaeology as but one way to create a past. I also hope that parts of the book can be read out of specific interest
for late prehistoric ceramics of central Mainland Southeast Asia, and also, perhaps, as an example of conceptual connections between iron, pottery and infant
burials in a ritual context. Nevertheless, this is foremost a story of Lao Pako and
its different pasts. And through it all flows the river – physically and as a metaphor of time – connecting people with place in directional yet endless motion.
24
OUT-SET
OUT-SET
A POSTCOLONIAL ARCHAEOLOGY
…
Memory speaks:
You cannot live on me alone
you cannot live without me
I’m nothing if I’m just a roll of film
stills from a vanished world
fixed lightstreaked mute
left for another generation’s
restoration and framing
I can’t be restored or framed
I can’t be still
I’m here
in your mirror
pressed leg to leg beside you
intrusive inappropriate bitter flashing
— Adrienne Rich, An Atlas of the Difficult World 1
This book was written in a postcolonial world. The postcolonial world is characterized by its legacy of colonial structures – economic, politico-conceptual,
cultural – remnants from a past colonial reality in nineteenth and early twentieth century imperial Europe and its colonies; and the post situation, where independent former colonies and colonisers alike are coping with the consequences
of those past colonial times. These structures reach far beyond the nation states
that were directly involved in the nineteenth and twentieth century European
colonial project: they affect the entire world in the twenty-first century time of
globalization. Therefore, an analysis of the postcolonial situation is important
and inevitable for most fields in social sciences and humanities that address issues of power, identity and cultural imagery in our contemporary world.
The turn of the twentieth century was the heyday of European colonialism,
and archaeologists and anthropologists 2 worked uncontested to legitimise the
colonial project with its scientific cosmology of human evolution from Stone Age
to Modernity, from Africa to Europe (cf. Fabian 1983; Thomas 1996; Rowlands
1998; Gosden 1999). It was at that time the first postcolonial critique was formulated as a direct anti-colonial resistance and so it was among intellectuals in
the colonies that critical voices were first raised on the injustices inherent in the
colonial system. Early postcolonial critics such as Frantz Fanon have continued
to inspire the field of postcolonial critique to this day. This field is now widespread and diverse, to the degree where it is not everywhere fully recognized as
25
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
a distinct mode of cultural analysis (Moore-Gilbert 1997:13). It is now covering
a wide range of productions in literature, art, film, theatre etc. Bart Moore-Gilbert has defined postcolonial critique as:
…a more or less distinct set of reading practices, if it is understood as preoccupied principally with analysis of cultural forms which mediate, challenge or reflect upon the relations of domination and subordination – economic, cultural
and political – between (and often within) nations, races or cultures, which
characteristically have their roots in the history of modern European colonialism and imperialism and which, equally characteristically, continue to be apparent in the present era of neo-colonialism (Moore-Gilbert 1997:12).
Postcolonial theory was built within the frames of this postcolonial critique,
and it will thus always work with an inherent radical political agenda which is to
elucidate and scrutinize colonial structures as the origin of injustice. Although
too vast to be grasped in one sentence, postcolonial theory can be described as
a deconstructive analytical method and conceptual framework to visualise, analyse and criticise colonial structures affecting power relations, identity construction and other cultural production, working at different levels of society (MooreGilbert 1997). One of its anchors is found in the Gramscian theories of power
and there especially the notion of hegemony and the subalter n concept, giving
postcolonial theory a strong connection to Marxist theory. Another lies in French
postmodern philosophy 3 with strong influences from Michel Foucault, Jacques
Derrida and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, bringing deconstruction as the main
analytical tool. At the core of postcolonial theory is a clear focus on culture, and
it works consistently against all forms of cultural essentialism (Gosden 2000:243).
POSTCOLONIAL THEORY IN ARCHAEOLOGY
Although postcolonial theory is considered to be one of the liveliest and most
important fields of critical discussion in current academia, surprisingly few attempts have been made to use it in archaeology, compared with other contemporary critical theory. There are three more or less separate, yet distinguishable
approaches taken in the use of postcolonial theory in archaeology. The first is
to understand and analyse the relationships between modern and ancient colonialism, in particular in Classic Mediterranean archaeology (e.g. Webster & Cooper
1996; van Dommelen 1997; Johansson de Château 2002). The conceptual apparatus of postcolonial theory is here used to critically review previous ideas of
ancient imperialist structures and power relations, creating a more balanced picture of the mechanisms involved in the political developments of ancient Greece
26
OUT-SET
and the Roman Empire. It means in this case that concepts such as power and
resistance, centre and periphery are problemized and used in a more dynamic
sense than in previous analysis. Both Peter van Dommelen (1997) and Michael
Rowlands (1998) have concluded that there has been a general reluctance to use
postcolonial theory for the analysis of ancient colonial situations, which resides
in a fear that using parallels would imply a scholarly conceptual continuity between ancient and modern colonialism. Like both Rowlands and van Dommelen,
I find this argument difficult to sustain and would argue instead that, if we agree
that there is nothing outside the text – in a Derridaean sense of it, the previous
‘neutral’ understanding of ancient colonialism must be based on the mid 20 th
century concepts of modern colonialism. Since there were no other conceptual
ways to describe it, they must inevitably have a modernist bias. And it is precisely
that bias which postcolonial theory aims to elucidate and criticize. Therefore, I
cannot see how there could be any ground for such fears.
Another postcolonial approach focuses on the imperialist foundation of the
archaeological discipline. The colonial roots of archaeology as a discipline are
now well recognized, and postcolonial theory has been used more or less profoundly for analysing the history and foundations of the discipline (e.g. Trigger
1984; Rowlands 1989; Gosden 1999; Glover 2003). Historically speaking, archaeology played an important role in shaping a colonial world in the 19 th and 20 th
centuries. Panivong Norindr, in one of many similar examples, denotes archaeology as one of the main enterprises that worked to inventory, catalogue and
assess the French colonial possessions in Indochina and their wealth for the great
Exposition Coloniale Internationale de Paris in 1931. The Exposition is described by
Norindr as a:
…stage upon which to enhance the prestige of Imperial France and thus to justify and promote the ethos of colonialism […], a space within which various systems of representation and different discourses on the Other come together to
‘materialize exotic cultures’ (Norindr 1996:15f).
Norindr further writes that the will by the French to fashion a coherent identity for Indochina sanctioned the pseudo-scientific idea that all cultures on Mainland Southeast Asia were derivatives of those of India and China. Consequently,
writings of the belle époque portrayed Indochina as ‘a region of transition’, ‘a
meeting point’, ‘the cross-roads of maritime routes between the Orient and the
Far East’, etc.
It is an empty space where traces of a glorious past can only be excavated with
27
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
the knowledge and expertise of the French […] To consolidate these myths of
Indochina as lack, void, or absence, a new history of the region had to be written, one that would fit the new political identity assigned to it and accommodate
new phantasmatic images like those of Angkor Wat, long forgotten by the natives and ‘rediscovered’ and promoted by the French (ibid:19).
Archaeolog y was thus in this particular case instr umental for France as
colonizers to use as an operative device to claim the right to the past, and hence
also the future of the colonized Indochinese territory. More generally, it stands
uncontested that archaeology and related sciences such as anthropology were
born and raised in imperial 19 th and 20 th century Europe, as part of the imperialist project to legitimise colonisation. At the core was the idea of a unilinear
physical and social human evolution, from savages to modern humans, related
to Darwin’s model for biological evolution of species. Technological advancement in material culture was used as the sole measure of complexity and sophistication, and human societies were scientifically ordered on a scale from the simplest to the most complex. In anthropology, the people found lowest on the scale
were stone using hunter-gatherers in remote parts of the colonies, and at the top
were the colonisers, the moder n people of imperial Europe. Archaeolog y
reconfirmed this evolutionary order presented in anthropology with a temporal
dimension. Using the linear Christian notion of time that became important in
the 18 th centur y (Thomas 1996; Fabian 1983; Tuan 1990:148; Gr undberg
2000:13ff), archaeology demonstrated, using a unilinear model of evolutionary
stages, how humanity had developed from simple to more complex stone technology, then acquiring the knowledge of agriculture, further learned how to
handle metals, eventually developing written language, and finally entered modernity. Archaeology’s vision of unilinear temporal progression and anthropology’s spatially distinctive groups in the ‘ethnographic present’, nailed to the same
imaginary developmental sequence were in this way two crucial parts of the same
mindset, serving to place the colonised Other as the before in the becoming of
modern Europe. Within this mental template, time is curiously compressed in the
present, enabling the modern European to conceive of contemporary but spatially distant people as belonging to another time (cf. Fabian 1983; Clifford
1988:16). This further allows and paves the ground for the rather bizarre idea of
people at one evolutionary level developing to another stage within one single
person’s life time, provided that they are helped by influences from the already
more developed, thus legitimizing the aid pretences often put forward in colonial ideology. George Bond and Angela Gilliam write: ‘It reflects where ‘we’ have
been and where ‘they’ have yet to reach. In these formulations, our present is their
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future’ (1994:13). In this way, archaeology contributed significantly to the definition of development as a universal aspiration for modernity and western values.
Postcolonial deconstruction has visualised the ideology and the political agenda
behind these mindsets as legitimising colonial oppression, but archaeology has,
as far as I can see, not taken into account the consequences of this critique.
A third distinguishable field where postcolonial theory has been used in archaeology is in discussions on cultural heritage and indigenous rights (e.g. Bond
& Gilliam 1994; Rowlands 1994, 1998; Chakrabarti 1997; Gosden 2000; Källén
2001). At the core of these discussions is the concept subaltern 4 , and a concern
for issues of identity, differing cosmologies, and cultural hybridity. The traditional
archaeological narrative has been one of exclusive cultures developing through
their own force or through influence in a straight line of descent to the dominant group of the modern nation state. Since postcolonial theory works against
all forms of culture essentialism, we need a sharper definition of the word essentialism in order to understand the dynamics at play. Lynn Meskell has identified two understandings of the word as relevant for an examination of social
dynamics in archaeology, which are as follows: (i) particular things have intrinsic essences which serve to identify them as particular, and (ii) abstract entities
or universals that exist across time and space (Meskell 1998a:142). Expressing
in both of these senses an essentialist view of cultural origin, archaeology has
been a useful tool to legitimise modern nationalist projects, which have arguably
had positive as well as negative consequences (Kohl & Fawcett 1995). The temporal aspect of the development idea, which enables us to conceive of cultural
origins in the first place, is naturalised in discourse, and often by archaeologists
themselves. There is, however, a complicated ideological operation behind such
a world view, which is not in any respect natural, as I have argued above. To be
able to envision Vikings as the ancestors of people living in Scandinavia in the
21 st century, there is need both for an essentialist apprehension of culture, and
a mental manoeuvre of time compression. What we end up with is in Bond and
Gilliam’s words that: ‘The postulated past and the present occupy the same temporal space, thereby restoring power to history’ (1994:13).
Postcolonial thinking has foremost been used in the form of postcolonial
critique in cultural heritage management to visualise and scrutinize the modern
day power relations that are behind the official images of the past produced in
history and archaeology, arguing that there are other alternative and mute histories that are not allowed to be told in the national discourse. This has typically
been used as a tool to criticize politically dominant groups in favour of minority peoples such as Australian Aborigines, North-American Indians, Maori and
29
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
the Saami. This postcolonial critique has thus contributed to the production of
alternative histories to be incorporated in school education, claims and realizations of artefact repatriation, and it has been used for arguments in legal land
use cases. While these are arguably positive uses of history and archaeology in
favour of indigenous rights, it is important to understand this empowering of
the past as a mental construct based on the same principles – culture essentialism and time compression – that were and are still used to legitimise the imperialist project. In one of very few critical reflections on this matter, Chris Gosden
has argued that postcolonial theory must inevitably be seen as in direct contradiction to laws surrounding repatriation of artefacts and human remains, which
use arguments of cultural integrity and continuity with prehistoric cultures as the
legal basis for their claims (Gosden 2000:241f). This is a deeply complicated and
ambiguous matter, which is in itself well suited for postcolonial analysis. Arguably, archaeology has here for the first time made real and important political
contributions to the situation of minority groups, while it is continuously working to reproduce a world view based on an evolutionary development principle
where these same groups and their alternative histories are conceptually fixed in
time and space, inferior to and always behind the dominating history. And perhaps most importantly, the hegemony is in this case actively reproduced by the
oppressed, reconfirming the attraction of the empowered history. Moreover, it
can be argued that these formerly subaltern minority groups may use archaeology to claim their own superiority at the expense of another Other, now subaltern. Chris Gosden maintains that a solution to these postcolonial contradictions
would be for archaeology to be more open to understanding culture as hybridor creole formations, and that knowledge of the past is layered and must be
formed as a process of negotiation, recognizing the plurality of present interests in the past concerning issues of culture, politics and identity (Gosden
2000:258f).
DISCIPLINE AND CRITIQUE
It can now be said without reasonable doubt that the discipline of archaeology
can be challenged by the postcolonial critique, and that it would be shaken to its
foundation were the critique to be taken profoundly and seriously. Postcolonial
deconstruction has visualised and put into words a set of conceptual contrasts
that have been necessary to create western humanism, with both anthropology
and archaeology at the core with their conscious study of the Other playing a
major part in the creation of western hegemony (Gosden 2000:245). Panivong
Norindr has argued that the Western world’s historical narrative articulates a
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vision of other worlds as a ‘blank space on which Western desire is written’, and
that in his case France, using Indochina as a space of cultural production in an
exoticizing project pictured it as coherent and backward to sustain the colonial
myth (Norindr 1996:2f). The words and structures Norindr uses to describe the
‘exoticizing project’ of picturing Indochina, can with ease be transferred to
describe pictures of the past as ‘a foreign country’, in Europe and elsewhere
today. And now, at the beginning of the 21 st century, a wide range of postcolonial
critics have demonstrated convincingly that such an imperialist mindset is no
longer sustainable. Thus postcolonial critique is not a trend, should not be about
inherited guilt, but is inevitably part of a world dealing with the consequences
of colonialism. While anthropology has to some extent come to terms with its
colonial legacy through a constant and open critical discussion within the discipline, archaeology as described above has instead used postcolonial theory mainly
in a constructive manner, adopting a new conceptual framework and terminology
for cultural analysis of the past, either in prehistory or the colonial past of the
discipline. The postcolonial critical deconstruction has, however, largely been ignored.
Paraphrasing Robert Proctor (1995, quoted in Winston 2001:1), these structures of ignorance are at the core of the contemporary creation of archaeological
knowledge. Ignorance, like knowledge, is actively but not necessarily consciously
manufactured (Winston 2001:1-8). What in archaeology has then been subject to
critical ignorance? In contemporary archaeology there are conceptual structures
and metaphors with clear imperialist connotations. As Nicholas Thomas put it:
notions that were at once widely discredited seem curiously alive (1996:123). One
obvious example of such a strong metaphor is the three-Age system. Prehistory
is commonly divided into three parts: Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, one
developing more or less smoothly into the other in any given area of the world.
The word Age brings an analogy to the development of a human being, from the
‘cradle’ (another common metaphor in archaeology) to maturity as incorporated
in modern civilization. This metaphor enables us to conceive of a unilinear dev e l o p m e n t o f h u m a n i t y, c o m p r e h e n s i b l e a s o n e s i n g l e l i f e t i m e. T h i s
conceptualisation played, needless to say, a pivotal part in the colonialist project,
and is thus still intellectually supported by archaeology. Another related area is
the attention paid to the development of societal complexity, which is still at the
core of much archaeological research, particularly in processual archaeology.
Complexity is here measured in terms of hierarchical social formations, individual and collective wealth, composition of trade systems, etc. The greatest
complexity in all these areas are naturally to be found in the modern capitalist
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
society, and thus the cultures of the world have been ordered with the help of
archaeology along a developmental line from simple to complex and finally
modern. There has been critique posed against the definition of complexity in
archaeology, both from critical gender theory and as expressed in the well-known
heterarchy debate (Ehrenreich et al. 1995, specifically for Southeast Asia, see
White 1995), arguing that there are other ways to measure complexity. There have,
however, been very few attempts to debate the value in discussing the development of societal complexity, and why such a concept should be at the core of
the archaeological science. A third example is the archaeologically debated and
contested notion of culture. James Clifford has argued in a critical review of
anthropology that the postcolonial critique from the negritude movement onwards led to a profound disciplinary crisis. It forced anthropology to renegotiate its own role, now that it could no longer present itself as a unique purveyor
of knowledge about others:
With expanded communication and intercultural influence, people interpret
others, and themselves, in a bewildering diversity of idioms […] This ambiguous, multivocal world makes it increasingly hard to conceive of human diversity
as inscribed in bounded, independent cultures (Clifford 1988).
In spite of this, archaeology persists in using a terminology that implies and
reproduces a view of prehistoric humanity as inscribed in bounded cultures.
Moreover, among the archaeologists who have written on the subject of
postcolonial theory I can sense a defensiveness, or perhaps a fear, which is well
expressed by Chris Gosden when he explains why postcolonial theory in his view
cannot be seriously considered and used in archaeology:
As well as the lack of concern for material culture, which must be central to any
archaeological analysis, postcolonial approaches contain no real theory of history
or change, tending to consist of vignettes or snapshots of one time and place
(Gosden 2000:243).
While I cannot agree with Gosden that postcolonial theory with its cultural
focus on ritual, architecture, costume, etc, lacks a concern for material culture,
it is more interesting to note the almost taken-for-granted definition of archaeology presented between the lines 5 . Archaeology, says Gosden, is about material
culture and long-term change. Here I must once again disagree, and refer to etymology where archaeology is defined as knowledge of the ancient. This very book consists exactly of that which Gosden calls vignettes or snapshots of one time and
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place, with no attempt from my side to explain the process that lead from Lao
Pako and finally to the development of modern Lao PDR. And yet this book is
about the ancient past, and I would claim it is archaeology. In fact, the exclusive
(and excluding) archaeological focus on the longue durée, has been extensively
criticized by feminist scholars (e.g. Wylie 1992; Meskell 1998a; Gilchrist 2000).
They have developed an alternative emphasis on the short term, the small scale
and the individual in archaeological analysis, which has emerged as a characteristic feminist epistemology (Gilchrist 2000:325). I think, however, that Chris
Gosden’s defensive reaction in a paper otherwise supportive of the postcolonial
critique is representative of responses by the archaeological research establishment confronted with postcolonial deconstruction of what is traditionally considered to be the foundations of the discipline. But at whose expense are those
foundations defended? Could not a story about the ancient be meaningful and
interesting without creating a conceptual linear development naturalising past and
contemporary oppression?
In conclusion, I cannot understand these remnant imperial structures in archaeology as anything but a result of active disciplinary ignorance of important
intellectual currents in the contemporary world. The examples I have given of
imperialist metaphors in the archaeological representation of the past are but a
few, and I do not wish to say that it is as easy as to find better alternatives. I do,
however, sustain that there is need to critically review the role of archaeology
in a postcolonial world.
Finally we return to the poem by Adrienne Rich at the onset of this chapter.
How does memory speak? Like Homi Bhabha, I see ‘[...] the need to work through
the problem of memory in reconstructing a ‘sign’ of history that may not provide
a causal or deterministic narrative.’ (Bhabha 1996:204, original italics). That is a
memory by which we are touched by the frailty and greatness of humanity, but
with no deterministic linearity. Archaeology, in its sense of official memory must
be allowed to be as open and ambiguous as life itself. Touching and moving us,
like our worst nightmare and a wet dream; in your mirror pressed leg to leg
beside you – intrusive inappropriate bitter flashing.
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A HISTORY OF RESEARCH
We are about to embark on a journey around the world. Accompanied by the
discipline of archaeology we will travel from Sweden to Asia, and back to Europe before we once again head off to Asia. Thereafter we will go to Africa, Thailand and the USA, and finally we end our journey in north eastern Laos. This is
a history of research for this particular work. My purpose is to give you a framework; a setting for my own archaeological research as it is presented in the following chapters. For readers who look for more comprehensive accounts on the
histor y of archaeolog y in Mainland Southeast Asia, I recommend Charles
Higham’s books The Archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia (1989) and Early Cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia (2002) in combination with the papers of Warren Peterson (1983) and Ian Glover (2003).
My point of departure for this chapter is that an objective history of research
is impossible, even a contradiction in terms. To make full use of that situation,
I work with my subject as a tool, fully and actively. This history has an associative logic, evolving around the Lao Pako archaeological project and me as a professional archaeologist serving to wrap this project up in the tradition of archaeology of which it is a part. The narrative form was actively chosen to create an
alternative way of relating to and acknowledging the bonds to my scientific discipline rather than through a more common linear account, based upon the
underlying principle of academic (cf. social) evolution (cf. Fabian 1983:15f).
Although I will consistently argue in favour of an archaeology that is consistent
with my sense of ethics and with my own understanding of the world, I do not
wish to end up portraying my work and my views as more developed than that of
any particular scholar or intellectual schools of thought. Instead I wish to point
to the complexity and ambiguities of any archaeological work, including the Lao
Pako project, from being created at the intersection of scholarly tradition, personal interests, and the socio-political structures of which it is a part. By using
other archaeologies, which are in different respects touching upon mine, I aim
to offer an understanding of the archaeology I have done at Lao Pako through
a patchwork principle. Many small pieces will be stitched together to create a picture of my archaeology in a wider frame.
The archaeology of Southeast Asia has been created and reproduced with a
notable lack of critical reflection on the socio-political structures it was and is
part of. In a paper that constitutes one of very few exceptions to that tradition 1 ,
Warren Peterson writes:
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Scholarly images of Southeast Asian prehistory are a direct reflection of paradigmatic developments in archaeology plus the unconscious political habits of
individual archaeologists and anthropologists (Peterson 1983:123).
According to my view, as I do not share Warren Peterson’s thirst for objectivity in archaeological research, ‘paradigmatic developments’ of the discipline
are very much intertwined with the socio-political and cultural contexts of scholars, individual as well as the collective. This chapter aims to show how, while at
the same time offer you an understanding of my own context.
All that is told in this chapter is in one way or another related to the shape
the Lao Pako project has taken. Knowledge about these different scholars and
their archaeologies such as they are discussed in this chapter, as well as the political and social circumstances they were and are part of, is crucial for an understanding of this present study. The image of Lao Pako is seen and defined
m o r e c l e a r l y t h ro u g h t h e r e l a t i o n s t o t h e s e o t h e r a r ch a e o l o g i s t s a n d
archaeologies. Let us now begin our journey in the company of Olov Janse.
OLOV JANSE AND THE BIRTH OF MODERN ARCHAEOLOGY IN
MAINLAND SOUTHEAST ASIA
Olov Robert Thure Janse was born in Norrköping, Sweden in 1892, and came to
be one of the scholars who gave birth to a tradition of modern archaeological
research in Mainland Southeast Asia. Janse began his studies in archaeology at
Uppsala University, as a student of the legendary Professor Oscar Almgren. He
left for France in 1922 after having completed his PhD thesis on gold artefacts
from the Migration Period in Sweden (Janse 1922). In Paris Janse started to work
for the national museum in Saint-Germain and came in contact with a collection
of artefacts from Indochina, the French colony in Mainland Southeast Asia. He
nurtured a boyhood dream of going to China, which was to him a fascinating land
of immense treasures. So when the chance appeared to lead an archaeological
research expedition to Indochina, he jumped at it. Indochina was at the time
regarded as a backward baby brother of China having formed its cultural identity through a direct mix of second-hand cultural influences from India and
China. Studying Indochina would thus be a way of studying China, the main focus
of his interests (Janse 1959a:14-32).
Thus Olov Janse travelled to Hanoi in October 1934 with his wife Renée. His
autobiography Ljusmannens gåta – ‘The Candle Man Enigma’ [my translation]
(Janse 1959a), allows us to follow in their footsteps. At that time, Hanoi was the
colonial administrative centre of French Indochina, and also the location of the
École Française d’Extrême Orient, the research institute that provided the colonisateurs
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with scientific information about the history, archaeology and philology of their
colonised territories. He was well looked after by the EFEO and was immediately
given access to a number of known archaeological sites to investigate and excavate. These sites and monuments had in many cases previously been visited by
local looters and amateur archaeologists among the colonial officials. During the
first decades of colonisation, it was common to identify and excavate historical
monuments and sites as a hobby among colonial officials. This was eventually
identified as a problem, which called upon the establishment of an institution
for management of monuments and cultural heritage of the colonised territory
(Groslier 1966:155ff). Thus the EFEO came into being in 1898, cast in the mould
of already existing French schools in Athens, Rome and Cairo (Higham 2002:21).
The amateur archaeological missions by colonial officials continued, however, and
many of the excavations which rendered collections for museums and collectors
in Europe, were undertaken with no scientific pretensions at all.
2. Olov Janse in the Musée Louis Finot in Hanoi. Reproduced from Janse 1959:65.
ºìö® À¥Ì Ã̹ð²²
ò ê
ò ½²ñÌ ì÷¨³óÂÌ©, »È¾Ą̂.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
However, there were also a number of professional archaeologists and art
historians working for the EFEO in Hanoi. Most of them were French, and most
were occupied with research on major monumental sites, remains of ‘civilizations’
such as the Khmer and the Cham. Many of these men, because this was an almost exclusively male domain, were to become legendary in the archaeology of
Southeast Asia. There were names like Louis Finot, George Coedès, Henri
Parmentier, Jean-Yves Claëys and Etienne Aymonnier. There were also a few prehistorians, most with a background in geology, who laid the foundation for later
research in prehistoric archaeolog y. The most well-known among these are
Etienne Patte, Henri Mansuy and Madeleine Colani, who was one of very few
women in the field at this time (Groslier 1966:155ff). We will return to the work
of Madeleine Colani later on in this chapter.
Until the Second World War finally interrupted his fieldwork in 1939, Olov
Janse worked three long seasons in what is today northern Vietnam, in co-operation with many of the EFEO members mentioned above. There he excavated
a number of brick tombs from the times when the Chinese Han, Six, Tang and
Sung dynasties had colonised the area. He also did the first proper archaeological excavations of the site Ðông So’n, which was later to become a symbol for
the glorious past of the Vietnamese people in nationalist propaganda (cf. Hà Van
Tan 1991; Loofs Wissowa 1991:39; Han 1998; Källén 1999:6ff). After his return
to Europe and the United States, Olov Janse published the reports from his excavations in three extensive volumes (Janse 1947, 1951, 1958a). He ended up as
a well-reputed scholar at Harvard University, where parts of his excavation findings remain today, at the Peabody Museum. The rest of the excavated material
are now stored at museums in France, Vietnam and in Sweden 2 . Olov Janse died
1985 in New York, being one of the most highly respected western scholars of
Southeast Asian archaeology (cf. Solheim 1985, 2002). His work is often referred
to in Vietnamese archaeology of today (e.g. Prior 2002, 2003; Miyamoto 2003),
and has been widely appreciated for its high scientific standards.
Janse was indeed a serious scientist. As a disciple of Oscar Montelius and
Birger Nerman, two of many father figures in early Swedish archaeology, he was
trained in modern archaeological excavation methods. In the introduction to his
autobiography, he argued passionately for the importance of a careful documentation of the context of every artefact during excavations:
…even an apparently insignificant little potsherd with no aesthetical value at all
may sometimes to the scientist be the key to the chamber that holds the solution
to many of the mysteries of the past’ (Janse 1959a:17f [my translation]).
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In retrospect Olov Janse has also been mentioned as one who, with the words
of Bernard Groslier, ‘introduced order into the researches’ in the archaeology
of Indochina (Groslier 1966:160). This indicates that he, in his fieldwork, kept
to a professional archaeological ethics similar to that followed by most archaeologists in international archaeology today (cf. EAA 2000, see also Källén 2004).
Nevertheless, Olov Janse’s theoretical analyses and conclusions are in many
ways questionable from the perspective of our contemporary world. The early
paper Arkeologien och reutilisationsproblemet (Archaeology and the Problem of Reutilization
- [my translation]) from a volume in honour of the Swedish crown prince Gustaf
Adolf, is a good and explicit example of how Janse explained cultural change and
artefactual similarities over vast geographical and temporal distances by the
principle of diffusion. Using diffusion as a model for explaining change in human societies was common in archaeology at this particular time, when human
culture and society in general was perceived as static and humans as uninventive
(Trig ger 1989:151). He was convinced that the many similarities between for
instance artefacts from the Hallstatt Culture of central Europe and archaeological
findings in East Asia, could only be explained by diffusion, happening through
transportation of physical objects between these two areas. The objects would
have travelled with people, moving across the continents. While the movement
from west to east is often described by Janse with active words like ‘travel’ or
‘spread’, the opposite influence from east to west is described as waves of people ‘pouring’ (vältra) in over Europe from the east (Janse 1932:382ff). The choice
of words in this paper indicates a world view which fits with the view of the
relation between the Orient and Europe, such as it was described and criticised
by Edward Said in Orientalism (1978). Europe is portrayed as active and in the
centre, while the Orient is mysterious, constant and passive in the periphery. Thus
words describing a movement out from the centre are active, while the words for
the opposite direction are passive (vältra), and indicating a lack of intent and
direction. Later on in his career, Janse consistently gave meaning to his excavation findings in Southeast Asia with a symbolic structure created as a sort of
cultural patchwork with pieces from China, India and not least the Classical
Mediterranean. He traced a Dionysus cult among some Southeast Asian artefacts,
and found direct representations of Pan in others (Janse 1958b, 1959a). Only
occasionally did he refer to the indigenous people of the same area for analogies, and then in a rather anecdotal tone. He obviously needed to seek the origins for all the splendour he met in the archaeological record with a civilization,
and in Janse’s world the most prominent of civilizations was the one he was part
of, with its origins in the Classical Mediterranean.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Ljusmannens gåta (Janse 1959a) gives us an opportunity to follow Janse’s travels and work in Indochina in the 1930’s. In a sense it illuminates the scene for
his scientific work, as we get to see the world he met in Southeast Asia through
his own eyes. Olov Janse lived and worked in a colonial world, and his perspective was undoubtedly imperialist. His research was both a product of, and an instrument to reproduce a French, or European view of a commodified and alluring Indochina, an icon and object of desire and possession (cf. Norindr 1996:4).
The social hierarchy with colonisers in another societal sphere, and also at a
higher stage of social evolution than indigenous people, was completely naturalized and no object for questioning. While not overtly expressing racist opinions,
Janse’s interpretations of the past reflect his world view, where people of his kind
were naturally worth more than the anonymous and mute indigène. In a booklet
with the title ‘The Peoples of French Indochina’, (a Smithsonian Institution War
Background Study from 1944), Janse writes the following on the peoples of Mainland Southeast Asia:
[There is an] extreme variety of ethnic groups. Though many of these groups
still stubbornly cling to their beliefs and ancient customs, the French penetration
[...] has largely contributed to the levelling of the various social and racial barriers and to orienting the elite of these peoples toward human progress (Janse
1944:11).
The use of words such as stubbornly indicates a fatherly and patronizing perspective, which equates the people he describes with children. A discourse that
portrayed indigenous peoples as children worked to legitimize the intervention
of colonisateurs who would act as parents and teachers in the process of
socialization into a modern society. It is indeed typical of texts from the time just
after the fall of French Indochina that colonization was described in retrospect
as something necessary and even heroic, with what Norindr has called a ‘rhetoric of paternalistic benevolence’ (Norindr 1996:44). The French colonisers in
Southeast Asia had, seen from that perspective, taken on a great human responsibility and made many personal sacrifices for the greater good of rescuing the
peoples and lands of Indochina to modernity from an otherwise inevitable decay. Bernard Groslier wrote in the same spirit about the history of colonial
archaeology in Indochina:
This brief summary [...] seeks to show the immense progress that has been made
since the enquiries of the dilettantes of the 18 th century. [...] By the eve of the
Second World War which was to throw Indochina into turmoil, two generations
of scholars had built an imposing edifice and enriched history with a fascinating
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new chapter. The road had not been an easy one, and some of those who travelled it had sacrificed their lives on the way. But though the names of most of
these men are now forgotten it is by their efforts that cities like Angkor and Pagan have at last been brought back to life (Groslier 1966:192).
Illuminated like this, it is almost inevitable to see the archaeology of Olov
Janse as somewhat dubious from the perspective of my contemporary society.
And the critique is, of course, not new. It is widely known that the entire discourse
of human sciences and archaeology during the first decades of the 20th century
aimed at picturing colonisation as something natural and inevitable to human
society, and thereby legitimising European colonial rule over great parts of the
world 3 . During a few decades Olov Janse played a part in the reproduction and
legitimisation of the colonial world order through the pictures of the past that
he communicated. We must nevertheless remember that from all that has been
written about him it is clear that Olov Janse was, and is, regarded as a good scientist and a good man.
A couple of papers from the end of his professional career testify to a change
with Janse, who was then suddenly more apt to turn to the local context for
analogies in his interpretations (Janse 1959b). He judged his own earlier interpretations, which were based upon the assumption of direct cultural influences
from India and China as ‘simplistic’, and began to open up for the possibility of
indigenous origins of local cultures in Southeast Asia (Janse 1961:1645). This was
at the beginning of the 1960s, 25 years and one World War later. The world of
Olov Janse, who was by then almost 70 years old, had changed. What was previously called Indochina had, after years of war and a new wave of colonisation
by Japan, become the independent states of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The
archaeological research he was himself part of had contributed to a fundamental change in the view of this area. Olov Janse’s personal reason for wanting to
study Indochina, which was as we remember to study the Chinese civilisation in
its very periphery, was characteristic for the initial focus of archaeological research in the entire Indochina. The interest was typically either with the Chinese,
or the Indian civilization. But at the beginning of the 1960s, a few decades of
archaeological and historical research along with a changing political climate had
shown that the cultural complex which had at an initial stage of colonization been
considered as a passive mixture of elements from Chinese and Indian civilizations, would instead better be defined as a significant cultural complex in its own
right, and most importantly, with indigenous origins (cf. Groslier 1966:155).
Indochina had, together with Thailand, Burma and Yunnan, become Mainland
Southeast Asia.
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Just like Olov Janse was once, I am at the time of writing a PhD candidate at
the department of Archaeology and Ancient History at Uppsala University in
Sweden. I chose Mainland Southeast Asia as a focus for my studies, not because
I was interested in China or India, but in Mainland Southeast Asia itself. Then
again, my world is in that sense different from Olov Janse’s. My studies are funded
by the Swedish International Development Agency, whereas French museums and
institutions for colonial research financed Janse’s research. There are some similarities between the projects of these institutions, perhaps most obviously the
aim, or mission, to aid or assist the indigènes/local populations with their
socialization into modernity. I do not suggest that there is a direct analogy between early 20th century institutions for colonial research and present day international development aid, but there are enough parallels in these two structures
to make comparisons worthwhile. Let us keep that in mind as we now move on
to take a look at archaeological narratives from Laos in the 21st century.
ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY IN LAOS:
AN EXAMPLE FROM THE 21ST CENTURY
The beautiful and lavish Art et Archéologie du Laos from 2001 is at the time of
writing the only book published with an explicit focus specifically on the archaeology of Laos. It is a heavy book with many high quality photographs and drawings, written by Madeleine Giteau, Professor Emerita at l’Université de Paris III.
Madeleine Giteau started her art historian career with the École Française d’Extrême
Orient in the 1940s, and has since worked long periods for the EFEO, Unesco and
other international organisations in Southeast Asia, foremost in Cambodia but
also in Laos. As an expert on iconography she has published a number of important works on Khmer art (Giteau 1965, 1975, 1976), and she has also re-edited
the classic work L’Art du Laos, originally written by Henri Parmentier (1954).
In Giteau’s own book on the art and archaeology of Laos (Giteau 2001), the
main focus is on description and iconographic analyses of reliefs, mosaics, paintings and sculptures from Buddhist and Khmer temples. These are Giteau’s own
research fields, and only about a sixth of the total space is devoted to Préhistoire
et Protohistoire and Les Poteries, which are more typical fields of archaeological
research. The focus on architecture is however by no means coincidental, but
must be understood as part of the French colonial culture in Indochina. In the
French colonialist ideology of the 1930s, architecture was regarded as the finest and most sophisticated measurement of ancient cultures. Based on interpretations of architectural techniques, conclusions were drawn about intelligence
and genius of the builders; the ‘refinement, the strength or naivety of a race’
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(Norindr 1996:27). It must be understood as a consistent part of an ideology
aiming to produce an image of universal and unilinear development from ‘primitive’ to ‘modern’ people. As a legacy of this ideology, there is typically a strong
emphasis on Buddhist and Khmer art and architecture also in contemporary international archaeology in Southeast Asia, especially among French and Italian
scholars. In a short introduction to the history of Laos and its artistic tradition,
Giteau writes:
The long Khmer occupation left important vestiges, most importantly the Wat
Phu temple. The dominating influence had been that of the Thai, of the same
race as the Lao and with similar religion and culture. [...] Lao art did certainly not
start to develop until the end of the 14 th century, [when the Lan Xang kingdom
was in close contact, and even united with the Thai under the reign of king
Setthatirat]. The richness and diversity of their works gave them an important
place in the artistic evolution of the Indochinese peninsula 4 (Giteau 2001:34 [my
translation]).
Words like dominating influence, race, artistic evolution and Indochinese peninsula in
this short extract place Madeleine Giteau’s language firmly in a colonial discourse.
It is in fact almost identical to that of the texts written by Olov Janse and other
colonial researchers from the early 20th century, and must in my view be regarded
as being part of the same context. Most references cited are also from the beginning of the 20th century, and Giteau clarifies her position further by naming
George Coedès (Director of the EFEO in Hanoi 1929-46 (Nugent 1996) and a
friend of Olov Janse’s) as the greatest historian ever to have worked in Southeast Asia (Giteau 2001:35). While I agree with Giteau in her appreciation of
Coedès as a prominent scholar of his time, the lack of critical distance to the
political context of which Coedès was a part, makes Giteau reproduce the colonial discourse that was created by the first archaeologists in Indochina at the
beginning of the 20th century, but in her case a century later. Whereas colonial
research in the early 20th century can in some sense be excused in retrospect by
its socio-political context, such an imperialist discourse cannot be supported by
the 21st century society, where historical change is generally explained in more
complex terms than through dominating influences and artistic evolution. Yet this
book was published in 2001, which must say something about the disciplines of
archaeology and art history in Mainland Southeast Asia in the early 21st century.
This does not, however, solely depend on disciplinary structures, but must be
viewed in the light of the postcolonial relationship between France and Indochina.
Panivong Norindr has eloquently formulated and analysed what he calls the
phantasme of Indochina in French culture:
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As a discursive construction that supported financial and political ambitions, and
as a particularly fecund lieu de mémoire (site of memory) heavily charged with symbolic significance, Indochina continues today to arouse powerful desires. Its luminous aura sustains memories of erotic fantasies and perpetuates exotic adventures of a bygone era, while appealing to the French nostalgia for grandeur
(Norindr 1996:1).
The explanation as to why this particular book has not been widely criticized
is in my view partly to be found in the format of the book, appealing to a nostalgia for grandeur. It contains a great number of photographs and beautiful drawings of temples, reliefs and Buddhist sculptures: a systematic documentation of
what is considered to be the most important religious art in Laos. The major aim
appears to be to find an art that is typically Lao, in comparison with the rest of
Mainland Southeast Asia. There is no critical reflection on the pictures of Laos
and its inhabitants that are simultaneously produced. In other words, there seems
to be no discursive importance attached to these images of the world that are
communicated, directly and between the lines, in descriptions and analyses of
artistic styles. Moreover, Giteau writes in the style of an all-seeing narrator, playing what Donna Haraway has called the ‘god-trick’ of seeing everything from
nowhere, letting the story appear uncontested. It can be argued that the coffeetable-book format of Art et Archéologie du Laos makes this case even more serious. Many such folio books have been produced to show the world the fantastic
arts and artefacts of Southeast Asia in all its splendour. Such an appearance
means that the book is meant to appeal to a much wider circuit of readers than
only archaeologists and art historians, many of whom have no previous knowledge about the art and archaeology of Laos, and subsequently trust in the knowledge and authority represented by academia. Such implicit images of history and
prehistory are thus more powerful than the explicit pictures discussed among the
official contemporary society of researchers in archaeology and art history (cf.
Samuel 1994: 13, 17f, 35, 39). Once more quoting the strong arguments of
Panivong Norindr:
If absorbed and consumed uncritically, the current wave of popular material on
Indochina threatens to submerge all serious attempts at interrogating French
colonial involvement in Southeast Asia under the ebb of phantasmatic images that
perpetuate the myths of its foundation, promoting a fin de siècle resurrection of
the mythologized images of an exotic and erotic Indochina (Norindr 1996:13).
This is precisely why ‘popular material’ like Art et Archéologie du Laos deserves
equally serious critical consideration as any overtly argued research results.
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I here use Madeleine Giteau and her book on the art and archaeology of Laos
as an illustration to my argument. The argument goes of course beyond the critique of this particular book, and it is not my intention to blame Giteau for the
inequalities of the world. The broader question must be lifted from the level of
political correctness and posed to the disciplinary structures. What is it in the
disciplines of archaeology and art history of Mainland Southeast Asia today that
validates a division of people, today or in the past, into races? Or, for that matter, find it useful to discuss art in terms of artistic evolution. Where are the
people who actually live in Laos? It bothers me that the only book ever published
on such a vast – and wonderful – subject as the art and archaeology of Laos is
one that communicates a view of the same country’s inhabitants in terms of races.
It bothers me that the scholarly community has not raised critical discussions on
this matter. Or do we agree? The words of one writer are volatile: they may be
the result of all from clear intentions to sheer mistakes, while the (silent) acceptance by the scholarly community indicates a more general tendency. On another
level of understanding, I see Madeleine Giteau’s book on the art and archaeology of Laos as a powerful example of that it is a theoretical simplification to
describe the development of the archaeological discipline in unilinear evolutionary terms. The practical world is far messier, and there is today a wide variety of
archaeologies out there, which are all legitimized by their cultural or sub-cultural
contexts. Thus the question must be what (sub-)cultural context it is that work
to legitimize the imperialist agenda of this particular work.
This particular example does not, however, make justice to the contemporary
field of archaeological research in Southeast Asia. It is indeed a field of great
variation, of which the Lao Pako project is a part. Before we return to take a
closer look at contemporary Southeast Asian archaeology, we will make a stop
in Africa, partly to put Southeast Asian archaeology into perspective, and partly
to provide a background to some main sources of inspiration for my theoretical
approach in the Lao Pako project.
POSTCOLONIAL ARCHAEOLOGY IN AFRICA – A BRIEFING
The early history of African archaeology shows many parallels to the history of
colonial research in Southeast Asia. Modern archaeology in Africa was created
in a strong colonial and racist discourse, which it also helped to reproduce (cf.
Trigger 1989:129-38). After independence there has been a multitude of reactions to these earlier traditions, creating a manifold field of archaeology. Contemporary African archaeology is characterized by strong bonds to anthropology and linguistics, and the critique has in a broad sense been pointed towards
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archaeology’s role in the reproduction of a general imperialist image of Africa
and Africans as being primitive, backward, static and uninventive (Rowlands 1989;
Ekblom 1998; cf. also Trigger 1989). There are three distinct reactions to this
imperialist discourse, which are of special interest for this study.
Perhaps the most extensive of these reactions has been the processually influenced archaeology, which accentuates ecological and functionalistic aspects
of prehistoric and historic societies (e.g. Sinclair et al. 1993; Sinclair 2004). It has
been much concerned with issues such as socio-ecological relations, adaptation
to ecological changes and food strategies among different economies of huntergatherers, agriculturalists and pastoralists. It has also enhanced a neo-evolutionary view on prehistory (e.g. Deacon 2001), and adopted ethnoarchaeology as a
common method. The major aim for this processual approach is to create an
alternative to the culture-historical approach, which is connected with colonialist
archaeology and to lift the discussions from the particular to addressing more
general and widely important issues for humanity. High-level scientific analysis
has lately often been combined with a local oral history perspective (e.g. Sinclair
2004) to create specific local history and at the same time make the African past
become an important factor in a universal historical current (Ekblom 1998; Diop
1970). This approach has been applied by international as well as local archaeologists, and must be seen as a strategy to make African archaeology competitive in international science, and further to show that the issues raised were of
active importance for humanity as a whole, not only as a passive negative image
of the Western world.
Another more forceful reaction to the colonialist discourse has come from a
number of African archaeologists who have used several different approaches to
reclaim the images of the African past. Bassey Andah, who claims that only native
Africans or ‘true’ Africanists can create a valid picture of the African past represents one extreme. In an almost agitatory line of argument he writes:
[...] it is necessary to excavate and expose the paralyzing structures and strictures
of definition of the African which confine both the African insider and the Arab/
European outsiders. [...] demand that we reject European - Arab historical vocabulary [...] And only when we have completed the ascent of literacy, identity,
spiritual, political and economic freedom, should we welcome them back, but on
our own terms (Andah 1990:3).
Another example of a strong argument towards a prevailing imperialist discourse is Webber Ndoro’s doctoral thesis Your Monument Our Shrine (Ndoro 2001),
in which he argues for a more locally attuned cultural heritage management
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approach to Great Zimbabwe. It is interesting to note that such forceful criticism
on the former imperialist discourse as is shown by the examples above is formulated sharply within a post-modern critical discourse originating from universities in the West. Quoting scholars like Michel Foucault (e.g. Andah 1990:3) makes
the critique accessible to international academia, and provides an entry ticket to
the more exclusive societies of that particular world. We will return to the issue
of local critique with a different example further on in this chapter.
A slightly different yet related reaction is that represented by foremost WestEuropean and African archaeologists with a post-processual archaeological approach. This archaeology is the younger relative of the processual school. It lined
up with the processual critique of the unscientific culture-historical school, but
tried to combine scientific methods for excavation and artefact analysis with a
humanist and particularist approach to the interpretation of the past. The postprocessual archaeology was formulated as a critique against the processual functionalist and eco-deter minist view of human society and launched instead a
strong focus on rituals and symbols and metaphors in material culture. However,
similar to her processual relative, the post-processual archaeology is often combined with anthropological studies to create local frameworks of meaning and
metaphor to understand and interpret material culture (Barley 1984; Collett 1993;
Rowlands & Warnier 1993; Bekaert 1998; cf. also Tilley 1999). Although it can
be argued that a basic understanding of human culture in terms of development
and evolution must underlie every choice of ethnoarchaeology as a method of
investigation to understand the past, the post-processual approach has openly
criticized the neo-evolutionar y view of the processual school. T he postprocessual ethnoarchaeology therefore, albeit somewhat contradictory, accentuates the distinctiveness in particular human societies and the way they organize
their worlds: as abstract structures and as concrete expressions in material culture. Often are these particular contexts also used in comparison with other
archaeological contexts in Europe or other parts of the world, to visualize in a
sense the vast array of possibilities for human societies to create a world (e.g.
Hodder 1982a, 1990). This approach means choosing a different way to criticize
the colonial past than that of its processual relative, and aims instead to create
a post-modern localized alternative to functionalism and the imperialist focus on
cultural evolution. I find this the most attractive of the approaches described
above, and my own theoretical framework has, as we will se further on, strong
connections to it.
During the last few decades humanities and social sciences in Africa have also
been much influenced by postcolonial theory. In fact, postcolonial theory has
47
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been by far most influential in African and North American academia. Archaeology has not shown as strong influences as for instance literary theory and
anthropology, but there are a few examples. Michael Rowlands has combined the
post-processual archaeology approach with an explicit critical focus on issues of
colonialism (e.g. Kristiansen & Rowlands 1998: part III). In a paper on archaeology and colonialism, he says the following about the priorities in contemporary African archaeology:
One of these is the need for an historical archaeology of Africa that would address itself more cogently to understanding the origins of the contemporary economic and political conditions that beset the continent. Many of these require a
more long-term view of social change than ‘colonial history’ allows, yet African
archaeology appears too preoccupied with demonstrating its value to an international audience concerned with the ‘big questions’ in human prehistory (Rowlands
1989:395).
This critique, pointing to the impact of present-day relations of power and
resistance on science, shows the relevance of concepts of colonialism and imperialism for contemporary archaeology. Postcolonial theory lifts the discussion
on issues of colonialism to be valid for power relations that exist long after the
situation of direct colonization has come to an end. This is used for direct critique, and at the same time as a tool for understanding social, political and scientific structures in contemporary society. The postcolonial critique, which has
so far almost exclusively been confined to African and American colonialism has
played an important role in the creation of my own theoretical approach to archaeology.
In contrast to the African situation, critical discussions in Mainland Southeast Asian archaeology after the break-up of Indochina have concerned datings
and models of prehistoric society rather than the contemporary societal role of
the discipline. We will now move to take a closer look at the archaeological site
Ban Chiang in Northeast Thailand, and from there look out on the contemporary field of archaeology in Mainland Southeast Asia.
5
BAN CHIANG AND THE IRON AGE OF MAINLAND SOUTHEAST ASIA
‘Oops, I tripped…’ – so begins one of the most recited legends of Southeast
Asian archaeology. The tripper was Stephen Young, sociology student at Harvard
University and son of the United States Ambassador to Thailand, who was out
doing sociological research walking in a village called Ban Chiang one day in 1966.
According to the legend, Stephen Young fell over the root of a kapok tree and
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landed with his face down, right on the rim of a pot just barely exposed on the
ground (White 1982:15; Ban Chiang Home Page 2003). He saw pottery of the
most amazing kinds on the ground all around him, some with the outstanding redon-buff painted ware with swirling designs that Ban Chiang was later going to
be famous for. He soon realized that he was standing on an archaeological site,
and collected some pottery samples to bring to Bangkok. In fact, the village Ban
Chiang on the Khorat plateau in the northeast part of the country was by then
already known to the Thai authorities for Cultural Heritage Management. Six
years earlier, an officer from the Thai Fine Arts Department had inspected the
site, after the authorities had received information that villagers found curious
things en masse when they built new houses or worked in their gardens. But, in
the words of Joyce White: ‘there was little official interest at that time in the archaeology of the pre-Buddhist periods’ (1982:15), so it was not until Stephen
Young notified American experts on ancient artefacts in Bangkok (Lyons &
Rainey 1982:5; White 1982:15f) that the Ban Chiang archaeological site was really discovered in the sense that fits a legend.
No one could have guessed at the time how much Ban Chiang was about to
stir up the archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia. Thailand had – as the only
country in the region – never been colonised in the same sense as Vietnam, Laos
and Cambodia that were part of Indochina, and Myanmar that belonged to the
British Empire. Nevertheless there was an important American influence on the
development of the modern Thailand we see today, principally through the
United States’ presence in Thailand before and during the Vietnam War. Half a
century before, just after the Indochina administration in Hanoi had established
the École Française d’Extrême Orient, thirty-nine people held a meeting at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok in February 1904 and founded the Siam Society (Higham
2002:23). In 1911 it was followed by the establishment of the Fine Arts Department, and the two institutions, both with close connections to the Thai royal
family, were going to work side by side in the study and documentation of arts,
literature, archaeology and other sciences in Thailand and the surrounding countries (ibid.). To this day, the Fine Arts Department (FAD) is an important actor
in Thai archaeolog y, and the Siam Society produces one of few international
journals for Southeast Asian arts and archaeology.
Well, back to the story of Ban Chiang. In 1966, when Stephen Young fell over
the kapok root, the research interest for prehistoric 6 times in Thai archaeology
was close to zero. The national institutions Siam Society and FAD focused almost
exclusively on Buddhist art and architecture: monuments of early Thai civilizations (Higham 2002:24). Three years earlier, the American archaeologist Wilhelm
3a.
49
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
3b.
G. Solheim from the University of Hawaii who, as a curious detail, was also a
student and friend of Olov Janse’s, had begun to do research on pre- and early
agricultural society sites, together with his students Donn Bayard and Chester
Gorman. They initiated work on now well-known sites like Non Nok Tha and
Spirit Cave (Possehl 1982:3; White 1982:13; Higham 2002:25). Thus, when
Elizabet Lyons, the American Fine Arts consultant in Bangkok, saw Young’s
pottery samples, she sent them home to Philadelphia to be dated with the new
thermoluminisence method for dating ceramics. At the same time, the Fine Arts
Department initiated excavations at the site, revealing outstanding amounts of
cultural material, the earliest layers being associated with bronze. It turned out
that the site had a mound shape, entirely covered by a modern village. There were
cultural layers of great depth and great complexity, which the FAD excavation
team did not have enough resources to handle alone.
However, it was the pottery that was going to turn everything upside down.
The results from the thermoluminisence dating in Philadelphia showed a date of
4630 BC (White 1982:16). To some scholars on the project it seemed unlikely, but
since Solheim and his students had just recently shown results of extraordinarily early use of metals at the site Non Nok Tha and early plant domestication in
Spirit Cave (Lyons & Rainey 1982:6), so why not? At a time when the insecurities of the thermoluminisence method were not yet known, and when the trust
in scientific methods in general bordered on religious belief, the warnings from
some scholars were silenced by others’ enthusiasm of having discovered evidence
of the earliest bronze working in the entire world. One claim led to another and
started to run riot. In an article in National Geographic from 1971, Wilhelm
Solheim wrote that not only the first bronze, but also the first pottery and the
first domestication of plants were likely to have appeared in Southeast Asia
(Solheim 1971). All of a sudden Southeast Asia, and Thailand, was called ‘the
cradle of civilizations’, and Thai prehistory became one of the highest priorities for the Thai Fine Arts Department and for the international community of
archaeologists. All this attention of course led to extensive looting activities in
Ban Chiang, where villagers traded pottery and artefacts to foreigners at the
Udorn American air base close by (Lyons & Rainey 1982:6). The director of the
University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia went to Ban
Chiang in February 1973:
Some of the skeletons left in the open excavation seemed to me to be
extraordinarily large and well-formed people for early Southeast Asia. Who in the
world were they? Why did they settle here and not in some more fertile area? Or
had there been great climatic changes? I was convinced we really must excavate
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here, and soon, or all the pottery would be in private hands or in antique shops,
and all the other evidence of that civilization tossed into the local rubbish pit
(Froelich Rainey in Lyons & Rainey 1982:9).
The University Museum in Pennsylvania started a cooperation project with
the Thai Fine Arts Department, co-directed by Pisit Charoenwongsa and Chester Gorman, hired by the University Museum at University of Pennsylvania, and
so in 1974, the Northeast Thailand Archaeological Project (NETAP) came into
being (White 1982:16). The NETAP project undertook extensive excavations at
Ban Chiang in 1974-75, and it became a model on which many archaeological
projects in Mainland Southeast Asia in the following decades were to be moulded.
First of all, this was the first real cooperation project between one Thai and one
American institution. The Americans brought funding and knowledge, and the
Thai archaeologists opened their territory while they received training and an
upgrade in the latest archaeological methods. This system of reciprocity is, of
course, not completely unproblematic, and in retrospect the build-up of an
imbalanced power structure in the discipline of archaeology in Mainland Southeast Asia is obvious. Nevertheless, it can be argued that the contributions were
real, and that the situation was much improved from the imbalances that existed
before (Charoenwongsa 1982; White 1982:17; Higham 2002:25).
The Ban Chiang excavation was also the first real breakthrough for the
processual, or new archaeology, in Southeast Asia. It brought a critique against
the earlier culture-history oriented colonial archaeology that lived on in Southeast Asia during the low-activity interim period up to the 1960s. It was a large
and dynamic team of young archaeologists that worked in Ban Chiang, and over
the project reports (e.g. Gorman & Charoenwongsa 1976; Expedition 1982) rest
an air of hope for the future and belief in the possibilities for the ‘new’ archaeology to revolutionize the discipline – which it was also about to do, all over the
world. The new, or processual archaeology bears traces of the world where it was
created in the 1960s, and is characterised by a general optimism towards the
possibilities for archaeology to find answers to questions about the physical,
cultural and social evolution of humanity – one united humanity. At Ban Chiang
the charismatic American excavation director, Chester Gorman, led his students
and colleagues in a multidisciplinary research approach that aimed to understand
a prehistoric society in its environment. Processual archaeology had a holistic approach to the study of man and environment, which stood out from the typical
culture-historical focus on exclusive cultures, typologies and diffusion. Nevertheless it was the power of artefacts that made Ban Chiang what it is today. Joyce
White, who is at the time of writing the archaeologist in charge of the Ban Chiang
3c.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
project at the University Museum in Philadelphia, wrote:
…more than 200 square metres were excavated to depths of up to 5 metres […]
these limited excavations were conducted to retrieve a maximum amount of information and produced a wealth of material: more than 5000 bags of sherds,
123 burials, more than 2000 other artefacts plus soil samples, animal bone, charcoal samples and other items (White 1982:16f).
Ban Chiang has all it takes to become an archaeological legend. It has a proper
discovery, and an abundance of fantastic and characteristic artefacts. It holds a
major scientific controversy that was just about to change the whole world’s
gathered knowledge on the origin of everything, before it turned back at the light
of new scientific evidence. As if that was not enough, the American co-director
Chester Gorman, known as an Indiana Jones of the real world with all the appeals that comes with such an epithet, died unexpectedly
from melanoma in 1981. The death of Chester Gorman
paralysed the international community of archaeologists
in Southeast Asia, not least the American students and
colleagues who had worked with him at Ban Chiang,
many of whom never returned to work with Southeast
Asian archaeology again.
After Gorman, the project leadership from the University Museum in Philadelphia was taken over by Joyce
White, archaeologist and archaeobotanist who made a
great effort in her PhD dissertation to sort out the complicated chronology of the site (White 1986). The dating
of Ban Chiang was still, after over a decade, a matter for
controversy. Charcoal samples with, it would later be
proved, insecure provenances had continued to give early
dates: radiocarbon analysis showed dates in the 4th millennium BC (Gorman & Charoenwongsa 1976). White
managed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the first
dates to the 5 th or 4 th millennium BC had been grossly
exaggerated, and that the first secure evidence of bronze
at Ban Chiang was in the early second millennium BC
(White 1997:104; cf. also Loofs Wissowa 1992). The con-
3a-d. Ban Chiang in April 2001.
¹ð²²
ò ê
ò ½²ñÌ¡¾¤Á¥É¤ ®É¾Ì§¼¤.
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troversy over the Ban Chiang dates still rises to the surface occasionally (e.g.
Higham 2002:133), but with this, the dating of the earliest bronze has now finally stepped out of the limelight in the archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia.
The time after Chester Gorman’s untimely death in 1981 was one of confusion at the Pennsylvania University Museum. The huge documentation work of
all the excavated materials took time, no reports were published and it was as if
Ban Chiang faded away into the haze in international archaeology, adding mystery to the legend. Meanwhile, a museum and an open-air excavation display were
set up at Ban Chiang, in a joint effort between the FAD and the University
Museum in Philadelphia, and in 1992 the site was listed on Unesco’s list of World
Heritage Sites. Just recently, the University Museum has begun to publish the
reports from the 1974-75 excavations in a number of heavy volumes (for Volume I, see Pietrusewsky & Douglas 2002).
While the story of Ban Chiang is of great relevance for all archaeology that
has taken place on the Khorat Plateau from the 1970s and onwards, the Bronze
Age discussion with which it has been mostly associated among archaeologists is
of less relevance for the Lao Pako site and this study. However, I will return to
the Ban Chiang site for comparisons with Lao Pako in the subsequent chapters,
and then in particular to the so-called Late Period of the site, the settlement of
an iron-using community between c. 300 BC and AD 200 (White 1982:20;
Pietrusewsky & Douglas 2002:5). That Late Period of Ban Chiang is part of what
has come to be called the Iron Age in Mainland Southeast Asia, starting at around
500 BC and ending with state formations in different parts of the mainland, at
the Khorat Plateau probably after AD 600 (cf. Higham 2002:27, 262f). In accordance with the image of the Ban Chiang site, the Iron Age on the Khorat Plateau
is a rather bleak period of time in the archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia.
Despite a steadily increasing number of excavated sites with the most intriguing
patterns of material culture 7 , the Khorat Plateau Iron Age is typically depicted as
low profile and industrial. The Iron Age has in the archaeological narrative become an interim period with its greatest value being that it is pre-state: with
chiefdoms developing as precursors to the states that were going to be formed
centuries later.
The origins for this image of the Iron Age on the Khorat Plateau can partly
be found within the structure of the discipline that the Ban Chiang project created. In retrospect it is clear how influential the Non Nok Tha and the Ban Chiang
projects have been on the development of the archaeology on the Khorat Plateau. Many of the international scholars working with archaeological research in
this area today have in one way or another been tied to the Ban Chiang project,
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and most Thai archaeologists in high positions in University Education or Cultural Heritage Management have received their training and university education
within the Ban Chiang project or related ones. Reproducing a tradition started
by Wilhelm Solheim and Chester Gorman, most of the international projects have
been large-scale operations with a multidisciplinary research approach directed
by a strong and charismatic English-speaking male scholar and a more silent codirector from the national cooperation institution. These directors (examples
except for Solheim and Gor man are: Donn Bayard (University of Hawaii),
Charles Higham (University of Otago) and Ian Glover (University College London)) have been highly influential on the way we appreciate the late prehistory
of Mainland Southeast Asia today. With firm fatherly hands they have directed
their local and international colleagues and students. In line with the original
critique launched by the processual archaeology, as we saw expressed in the Ban
Chiang project against the artefact-mania and particular focus of the colonial
culture-historical archaeology, the aim was to lift the human society to be in focus, on a more general level. Central questions were: How did people live and
make their living, and how could their society have developed into the modern
society of Southeast Asia today? Thus a functionalist focus on metallurgy as
industry developed in the Thailand Archaeometallurgy Project (Pigott & Natapintu
1997; Pigott 1998; White & Pigott 1996, see also Bronson 1985), and for iron metallurg y in combination with discussions on salt-making (Nitta 1991a, 1991b,
1992).
It is important to understand the image of the Khorat Plateau Iron Age as
interacting pre-state chiefdoms involved in iron- and salt-making industry in the
light of its origin. This image has been produced within a strictly functionalist
school, as a critique against the colonial discourse. A comparison with African
archaeology shows the possibilities to study production in other terms than industry. As an example that we will return to further on in this text, several African studies have investigated the symbolic and ritual aspects of the production
of iron (e.g. Bekaert 1998; Collett 1993; Rowlands & Warnier 1993) and pottery
(Hodder 1982a; Barley 1994; Tilley 1999), which have there emerged as valid and
important aspects to the societies under study. A comparison between Southeast
Asian and African pottery studies shows that in Southeast Asia there has been
almost no interest at all in studying such metaphorical aspects of the production
and use of pottery. In an anthology on African and Asian pottery from 1984, most
of the papers dealing with African pottery evolves around pottery symbolism (e.g.
Barley 1984; Ibigami 1984), while the ones on Southeast Asia (Ho 1984; Mourer
1984) deal almost exclusively with technology, reflecting general tendencies in
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these two archaeology traditions. This, of course, is not indicative of a complete
lack of pottery symbolism in the Southeast Asian past, but has, I would argue,
to do with the structures of the archaeological discipline. I shall return to the
discussion on the metaphorical aspect of material culture in the following chapters.
If we remain for a moment with postcolonial African archaeology, we see
clearly that the critique of colonialism there has divided into several different
roads, of which the processual archaeology is one. The local critique of colonialism from native Southeast Asian scholars exists, but has taken a different position than in Africa. In my view this can be described in terms of active silence.
It can be argued that I have hardly included any Southeast Asian colleagues at
all in this history of research. That is true, and it is partly due to the nature of
this silent critique. Rasmi Shoocongdej from Silpakorn University in Bangkok initiated what she called a ‘conversation across the continents’ in the Southeast
Asian Archaeolog y International Newsletter 1993-1994, where a number of
scholars from within Southeast Asia as well as from the outside shared their
opinions about positive and negative aspects of contemporary international archaeolog y in Southeast Asia. Both David Bulbeck in his contribution and
Shoocongdej herself identify nationalism and tourism promotion as the major
driving forces behind archaeological enterprise in Southeast Asia today.
Shoocongdej argues further that the ‘native’ Southeast Asian archaeology in that
respect is very different from archaeology in for instance the USA, which she
describes as more research focused and problem oriented (Shoocongdej 19931994). Shoocongdej further lists a number of ‘values and behaviours’ that could
pose a potential problem to a foreign archaeologist working in Thailand, were
he or she unaware of them:
Thai culture values individuals who are modest, gentle, ever-smiling, non-aggressive, considerate and averse to criticizing others in their presence. Following the
Buddhist ‘middle-path’, the Thais like to compromise rather than hurt other’s
feelingsby decisive acts.
[…]
Such behaviours obviously seem to be misused or misunderstood by many foreigners who seem to assume that we do not have opinions simply because we do
not speak them […] In comparing Thai and western values, while the Thai may
view argument and criticism as being aggressive, rude, and arrogant and showing
lack of control, in the west (e.g. America) the same behaviour may be viewed as
self-actualisation and showing self-confidence (Shoocongdej 1993-1994).
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Thus, the sort of direct and outspoken critique towards former teachers that
we have seen in the case of postcolonial Africa is, following the arguments of
Shoocongdej, impossible in Buddhist Southeast Asia. Contra-hierarchical disagreements and conflicts are strategically dealt with through means of silence, a
silence that should not be mistaken for passivity.
Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Bur mese archaeologists today
constitute an absolute majority of all working with the archaeology of Mainland
Southeast Asia. In the first generation, many were trained in the large international excavation projects described above, and many have got scholarships to
study further at universities abroad. These same scholars are now leading at
universities and other institutions in each country respectively. The next generation have been or are currently trained within the country itself, in the native
languages. This means that most of the archaeology that is produced in Mainland Southeast Asia today is communicated in Thai, Khmer, Lao or Vietnamese,
and only very few foreign archaeologists master those languages to the degree
where they can publish and be part of the national debate (with one exception
in the German archaeologist Andreas Reinecke, who has published several books
in Vietnamese, e.g. Reinecke & Lê 1998).
Meanwhile, the current internationally communicated image (in English) of
the late prehistory of Mainland Southeast Asia, and here specifically the Khorat
Plateau, is about origins. As a legacy from the Ban Chiang project, the focus is
still on origins. Southeast Asian archaeology – national as well as international
– has ever since its colonial upbringing been very much occupied with evolution.
The aim is to find the roots, and now it is not so much for bronze technology or
plant domestication, but for civilization. It is not difficult – albeit perhaps surprising – to see parallels here to Olov Janse’s archaeological project. But there is one
crucial difference in this contemporary approach. The aim is now to find an
indigenous root to civilization, and preferably one that leads in a straight line of
cultural and social evolution to the dominant ethnic group of each country respectively:
The rise of civilisation is one of the most popular and intriguing topics for anyone interested in the past, for in studying ancient states, we can recognize many
aspects of behaviour that recall our own experience (Higham & Thosarat
1998:173).
When I began to write about Ban Chiang for this chapter, I had no intention
to let this site alone take up so much space. But as I wrote, it gradually appeared
to me how much influence Ban Chiang has had on all postcolonial international
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archaeology in Southeast Asia, especially for the archaeology of the Khorat plateau, such as the Lao Pako project. We all work to some extent in the starlight
of the Ban Chiang legend.
PLAIN OF JARS: ARCHAEOLOGY FROM INDOCHINA TO THE LAO PDR
From Ban Chiang and the Iron Age of the Khorat Plateau, we move northeast,
into the territory of the Lao PDR and to the Plain of Jars: a place that has attracted
a lot of archaeological attention through time. With the Plain of Jars I want to
demonstrate how a place is literally created out of different viewpoints: how five
distinct perspectives – from Indochina to the Lao PDR – have created five quite
different stories about one and the same place.
êÈ Ü ¤ ¹¹Ù Ì, or the Plain of Jars, has got its name after its characteristic jarshaped prehistoric stone monuments, and is situated in Xieng Khouang province
in north-central Laos. Around 200,000 people from several officially defined
ethnic groups today live in Xieng Khouang, the majority being Phouane and Lao,
but there are also smaller communities of Kha and Hmong (Chazée 1999; UXO
Lao 2002). The Plain of Jars is a vast area on a highland plateau with more than
60 sites; some host just a few stone jars, while the largest have more than 250
jars and other monuments (Sayavongkhamdy 1996a:11; Sayavongkhamdy et al.
2000:105ff; Rogers et al. 2003). The jars are of varying sizes, the largest more than
three metres in height, and associated with them are stone discs and other stone
monuments. They have been typologically dated to the last centuries BC and the
first centuries AD (at the most 500 BC to AD 800). Pottery, metal artefacts, beads
and burnt bones have been found inside and around the jars, which has led archaeologists to interpret them as connected to human burials (ibid.). The Plain
of Jars also has a recent history and has attracted attention as one of the most
tragically war-torn places on earth, with considerable damage from both the
French colonial conflicts and the Vietnam War. A Unesco-Lao project team
(Rogers et al. 2003) has described it as one of the world’s most endangered archaeological sites, and they say further: ‘Bombs and land mines left over from
recent conflicts are a daily menace both for researchers and local inhabitants who
are struggling to eke out an existence in one of Southeast Asia’s most economically depressed areas’ (ibid.). Thus the Plain of Jars is often described as both a
highly fascinating place and one of deep tragedy.
No comprehensive study has yet been made on how the local population
perceive these monuments. But in accounts with other focuses, for instance Fred
Branfman’s Voices from the Plain of Jars (1972) in which people living on the Plain
of Jars tell in writing and drawings about their own experiences of the Vietnam
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War, the jars seem to have no place at all. There are in all 32 drawings in this book,
showing air attacks on elaborated landscapes with houses, people, animals, rivers, mountains and rice fields. But there are no depicted stone jars in any of the
drawings, even though they seem to be a very tangible part of the physical environment. Or, with the words of Rogers et al. (2003): ‘The jars’ striking and enigmatic presence has given to the Xieng Khouang Plateau the name The Plain of
Jars’. However, there are legends associated with the jars. Some of them say that
the stone jars in ancient times functioned as burial monuments, but most stories
are elaborations on the theme that they originate from a time when giants (sometimes equated with the Kha people) populated the plain. They used the jars as
5. Drawing from the Plain of Jars.
Reproduced from Branfman 1972:69. containers for food and alcoholic beverages (Sayavongkhamdy et al. 2000:105ff),
²¾¯¢¼ÌꉤĹ¹óÌ Â©¨°øÉ¢¼Ì´óº¾¨÷ and led a prosperous life until the Ho people (historically known as an expansive ethnic group originating from south China) invaded the area from the north
21 ¯óꆺ¾Ã¦ÈµøÈÃÌ®ðìÀò ¸ÌÌ.š
and destroyed the giants’ society (Colani 1935(I):120ff). Today on the Plain of
Jars there is a steady and increasing stream of tourists coming to the central town
of Phonsavan, and guided tours to the monument sites are arranged with local
guides. Tourists are often told that the monuments are several thousand years old,
and that they were burial monuments of a very prosperous society that once had
its centre there.
The French geologist and archaeologist Madeleine Colani worked for three
years during the 1930s with the monuments on the Plain of Jars. As mentioned
earlier in this chapter, Colani was part of the colonial institution École Français
d’Extrême Orient, administrated from Hanoi and working all over French
Indochina. Her work and publications (Colani 1935) from the Plain of Jars have
b e e n ve r y i n f l u e n t i a l a n d a p p r e c i a t e d f o r t h e i r s c i e n t i f i c q u a l i t y ( c f.
Sayavongkhamdy et al. 2000; Higham 2002:34). Colani excavated in trenches
around a number of jars, as well as inside a cave at the central Ban Ang site. She
took into account in considerable detail the indigenous mythology concerning
the jars and their origins (Colani 1935 (I):120ff), and she agreed with the assumption that there was probably once a prosperous society in this area with its centre to the north-east, yet close to the central monument site (ibid.). The great
effort that must have been put into the construction of the monuments is seen
as an indicator of a society with quite a large population that was under strong
rule (ibid. (II):258). The monuments were interpreted by Colani as burial monuments containing the ashes of bodies that were cremated in the Ban Ang cave
(ibid.(II):259). The artefacts that were found around and under the stone monuments were considered mainly for their possibilities to date the monuments and
to trace possible relations to other areas around Mainland Southeast Asia. The
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final conclusion is that the jars were constructed in a society on the Plain of Jars
between 300 BC and AD 300, which prospered thanks to a junction of important trade routes, mainly for salt, at this particular place. Such trade routes have
also been used as an explanation for artefactual links to other areas. The jars
would finally have been destroyed during an invasion in which the invaders’
purpose was to destroy the old society’s link to its ancestors, and thereby undermine its entire foundation (ibid.(I):120ff).
The present Director General of the Department of Museums and Archaeo l o g y at t h e L a o t i a n M i n i s t r y o f I n f o r m a t i o n a n d C u l t u r e, T h o n g s a
Sayavongkhamdy, has himself conducted research on the Plain of Jars, as part
of his PhD studies. Awaiting the completion of his PhD thesis, he produced a
booklet 8 in connection with the opening of an exhibition at the Laos National
Museum in Vientiane, with some preliminary results and interpretations about
the Plain of Jars (Sayavongkhamdy 1996a). There he described the Plain of Jars
as a unique expression of ‘the universally known Megalithic Culture’, which also includes sites such as Stonehenge, Carnac and the stone sculptures of Easter Island. The jars were interpreted by Sayavongkhamdy as temporary sarcophagi for
the deceased and their belongings, until after decomposition when the remains
were buried in pits at the foot of the stone jar. This procedure, he suggests, was
exclusively for high-ranked persons or the male members of the community. Females and children, on the other hand, were cremated and buried in pottery
vessels, since the production and transportation of monuments was costly and
therefore available only to the cream of society (ibid.:11). The society that produced these monuments is said to have been a highly developed one, whose
members mastered a number of techniques for subsistence and handicraft
(ibid.:12). A greater part of the discussion is devoted to a proposed ethnic origin of the society, an argument based on the presence of an anthropomorphic
decorative figure (see photo in Colani 1932: pl.XXXVIII) found in four different contexts on the Plain of Jars. It is said to represent a mythical ‘frog man’ that
has connections with the present ethnic group Lao, which forms the majority of
the present nation state of Laos. If this can be shown to be true, Sayavongkhamdy
writes:
6. M.Colani’s jar typology from the
Plain of Jars (1932:pl XXXII).
²¾®êȾ¨¥¾¡ ꉤĹ¹óÌ ¢º¤
´½©òìóÌ Â¡ì½Ì.
…the entering of the Lao ethnic group would be pushed back from the 7th century AD to the 7th century BC (1000 years!) (ibid.:11).
Some attention has also been given to the Plain of Jars recently in European
magazines, and I will use two such articles to show a more popular (albeit still
with scientific pretensions) European view of the Plain of Jars. Pierre Rossion
59
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
wrote the first for the French magazine Archéologia in 1992. His article with the
title ‘Mysterieuse Plaine des Jarres au Laos’ describes the Plain of Jars as ‘one of
the two most fascinating enigmas of the Far East’ – the other being Easter Island
(Rossion 1992:44 [my translation]). Rossion’s point of departure is that the only
serious work carried out on the Plain of Jars was that of Madeleine Colani in the
1930s, and outside of her reports he only refers to other French written accounts
from when Laos was part of French Indochina (ibid.). He also gives information
about some of the ethnic groups inhabiting the area. The sources of this information, he writes, are legends transmitted from father to son. And:
…[t]he natives, even the educated, are still convinced that the jars contained seeds,
alcohol or rain water. This theory is not valid... (ibid.:46 [my translation]).
4b.
This, he argues, is because, should the jars have contained spirituous liquors,
it would have been enough for the entire country’s population, and that, he says,
is absurd (ibid.). He ends the article with an account of the damage done to these
monuments during the French and American wars, but he describes recent theft
and looting by local inhabitants as a much more serious threat. That, he concludes, is why the Plain of Jars should be protected by Unesco, and archaeologists from the Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient should continue to do research there
(ibid.:47).
Flemming Kaul (1998) has written an article with the title ’Nu vet vi äntligen
mer om de mystiska krukorna i Laos’ (‘At last we know more about the mysterious jars in Laos’ [my translation]) for the Danish-Swedish magazine Illustrerad
Vetenskap. The title refers to an expedition led by the Danish photographer and
journalist Freddy Wulf, who went to the Plain of Jars to find new and previously
unknown jars. Laos as a whole is here described as one of the most dangerous
and isolated places on earth, and Freddy Wulf is portrayed as a heroic character. His search is an adventure involving many risks: with an old Russian crosscountry vehicle and by foot, his expedition find their way through mined areas,
eventually discovering what seems to be a quarry and manufacturing place for
stone jars (Kaul 1998:50f). The Plain of Jars is here called
...one of the world’s last great archaeological enigmas [...] the stone jars have kept
their mystery because Laos has been on the whole closed to archaeologists (ibid.:49
[my translation]).
According to Kaul, there is no internal archaeological activity at all in Laos,
and the few scientific investigations that have been carried out have all been
60
UPSTREAM
initiated from the outside: France, USA and Japan. In a small text box he tells
about the ethnic group Hmong in the area, who make holes in the soft stone
monuments to create nests for their precious fighting cocks. The heading of the
text box is ‘Old myth destroys stone jars’, and it refers to a local story of how
the two giants who once made the jars from elephant and buffalo skin, stone,
gravel and sugar, had included silver ingots in the bottom of the jars. These are
treasures that local inhabitants have tried to find by breaking the bottom of the
large jars. The people living on the Plain of Jars are thus in several ways identified as the major threat to the preservation of the monuments. Kaul concludes
that the protection of this area as a Unesco World Heritage site, which has been
proposed, will demand great efforts, ‘...not least the enlightenment of the local inhabitants’ (ibid.:50 [my translation]). In an ongoing project on the Plain of Jars, a
Unesco-Lao team are working to record, conserve and develop the archaeological sites for cultural tourism. They write in other words about the threats posed,
and the possibilities of the cultural heritage:
Most of the heritage resources are at risk from neglect and natural forces such as
erosion, stone weathering and growth of vegetation as well as from modern pressures of village growth and community development, principally road construction. Attempts to loot the jar fields have resulted in destruction of archaeological deposits as well as breakage of the jars themselves. There are few mechanisms
to protect this rich heritage resource base and none to use it in a sustainable fashion to enhance the standard of living for local communities (Rogers et al. 2003).
This is clearly a more profound description of the contemporary situation for
the cultural heritage of the Plain of Jars, as it incorporates different aspects of
threats as well as assets. On the other hand, this description does not have, nor
does it strive to have, any of the allure and appeal surrounding the other depictions of the same place. The archaeological pictures created by Kaul, Rossion and
Sayavongkhamdy are made to sell, to compete on the international, and in the
case of Sayavongkhamdy the national, arenas of prehistoric sites. For the UnescoLao team the situation is different – their job is not to sell the Plain of Jars to
an audience, for Unesco is supposed to represent the gathered knowledge of the
World.
These stories about the Plain of Jars, as represented above, are typical of their
contexts and can almost be described as stereotypes. The people living on the
Plain of Jars today seem to have no strong identity-creating relations to the
monuments. They are indeed aware of them, as the jars have a place in mythology where stories about them have an explanatory purpose, but there seem to be
61
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
4a-c. Different sites at the Plain of
Jars in 2001. Above with archaeologist Chanthone Chantavong.
¦½«¾Ìê† ê‰¤Ä¹¹óÌ. Ìס¸×©«÷®ø»¾Ì
¥×ÌêºÌ ¥×Ì꽸ܤ.
62
no connections between these material remains of the past and the contemporary society in terms of identity links (cf. Rowlands 1994). Such links are instead
crucial for the example of contemporary nationalist archaeology, which enhances
the ‘frog man’ connection with the nationally dominant ethnic group Lao. In sharp contrast, neither the
1930s report by Madeleine Colani, nor the contemporary and more popular European accounts by Kaul and
Rossion show any interest in the possible importance
of these monuments to the people of Laos today. Kaul
and Rossion instead portray the Plain of Jars as a sort
of universal heritage for which European archaeology
has a responsibility, and to which local inhabitants are
considered the great threat. The local community is in
fact seen in a similar manner in both the colonial 1930s
version and the contemporary European ones. In these
stories, created for an audience far away in Europe, the
local views are reproduced as mythologies whose function is to render the stories an exotic touch, an
exotisation that results in the readers’ dissociation and
alienation regarding the Plain of Jars and its present
inhabitants. The official Laotian story, on the other
hand, shows no interest at all in the accounts of the
local inhabitants, which is in line with the politically
communicated image of the Lao PDR as a nation with
no domestic problems between different ethnic
groups, creating a tradition of official denial of ethnic diversity within the country. In fact, the only one
of these different stories that makes an effort to take
the local population seriously into account, without
neglecting them nor making them into a threat or an
anecdote, is the Unesco-Lao project (Rogers et al. 2003).
It is also interesting to note the willingness in both the official Laotian archaeology and the contemporary European accounts to portray the Plain of Jars as
something extraordinary, which is nevertheless part of a universal phenomenon
together with other expressions such as Easter Island. The Laotian account also
compares it to megalithic monuments in Europe, while the European accounts
deny such comparisons. This reveals a desire from the official Laotian side to be
part of, and compared within, the same framework as the global archaeological
UPSTREAM
tradition with its centre in the West (cf. Peterson 1983:125), and the unwillingness on the contemporary European side to allow that.
There is one important conclusion to be drawn from studying Kaul’s and
Rossion’s contemporary archaeological accounts of the Plain of Jars. Although
they per definition work in a postcolonial world, it is in many ways a colonial and
imperialistic archaeological discourse that these authors, deliberately or not,
operate in. I would also argue that their writings are representative for many such
accounts in Europe today. It could further be argued that this is connected to the
knowledge-trade situation discussed above, where a picture of an archaeological site is created to attract a potential consumer of archaeological knowledge,
in this case the readers of the popular mag azines Illustr erad Vetenskap and
Archéologia. As Lynn Meskell has reminded us (1998b:136), the economic currency
of archaeology should not be underestimated, and a more nuanced picture of the
Plain of Jars would, it appears, not be as attractive for the consumer as the blackand-white-good-and-bad one. Thus, instead of making an effort to involve in a
meeting with that which is depicted, they strive to remain completely untouched.
In this way, these authors retreat through an act of exotisation to make the Third
or Fourth world ‘other’ into an object to observe, rather than to involve in. One
can wonder whether this has to do with the real preferences of the consumers,
or if it is a denigration of the public’s potentials on part of the academics.
I have taken you to the Plain of Jars to show how the knowledges and values
of an archaeological site are situational and directional, and how it must emerge
through an act of communication. It is a clear and powerful example of how an
archaeological site is literally created and communicated to the rest of the world
through the pens and lenses of chosen academics. From the Plain of Jars we will
now move to the final destination of this chapter. We travel south, downstream
along the Nam Ngum river that rises on the Plain of Jars, into the lowlands of
Laos until we almost reach the Mekong river and the border to Thailand. And
there, on a hill on the southern bank of the mighty Nam Ngum it is: Lao Pako.
We have reached our destination, and the real story of this book can begin.
63
WITHIN THE WHIRLPOOL
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
OMNIUM GATHERUM
À͉-¾-¯¾-¡-Á´ÈÌ -¹Ñ¨-¤?1 WHAT IS LAO PAKO?
- À͉¾-¯È¾-¡-©ô¡-©¿-®ñ ̡ȺÌ-ªøÉ-¯øÈ-Ä©É-ìö¤-´¾-µøÈ-¹˜Ì´¾-ªó-²É¾ªó-´ò©-µøÈ-¹˜Ì ¥‡¤-æÈ-§ˆ¸È¾-À͉¾-¯È¾-¡ -À͉¾-
¯È¾-¡-Á´È Ì-´ó-¯È¾-§É¾..-. À¯ñÌ -À͉-¾-¯È¾-¡«¾¤-ûÈ-Áìɸ-À¯ñÌ-À͉¾, ÁªÈ¡ÈºÌ-Ì˜Ì À͉¾-Ì-˜ Ì-»Éº¤-À¸òÌ -
κ¤-¢ºÌ-´ñ Ì-´ó-À¸ó Ì, À´‡ºÀ¢í¾-´¾-À»ñ©-Ä»È-µøÈ-¹˜ ÌÀ¢ö¾-À¥í¾-»Éº¤-À͉¾-¯È¾-¡..-. ´¾-»Éº¤ÃÎÈ, À¹‰¾-
¯È¾-¡ÁªÈ-¡š-Á´ÈÌ -À¸òÌ-κ¤-¢ºÌ-¯¾¡-¹É¸¨Îº¤-¢ºÌ..-. À²óÌ-´¾-µøÈ-À²óÌ -¡Ò-À»ñ©-®÷Ì-ùÉ, À»ñ©-®÷Ì -®ÒÁ´È Ì-¢º¤-£Èº¨-®÷Ì £øÌ-À¢í¾À¥í¾-¹ö¸-į-¦ø©-į-¹¨ñ¤-ùÉ..-.- ´ñ ÌÀ¯ñÌ -À͉¾-.-..-
- There were people at Lao Pako a long time ago, even before my grandfather
went there to sharpen his iron tools. They used to call Lao Pako Voen Nong Khone
because the river is deep and there is a whirlpool there. When my grandfather
went to Lao Pako to make a garden they cut the trees and after that they called
it Lao Pa Ko, young forest of Ko trees.
Mae To Gim [Á²¤´ó ¦ ó ê ¼´£¿] 58 years old, married with seven children and 20 grandchildren. Lao PDR citizen, resident
in Ban Phonkham.
- Lao Pako... Lao Pako is an archaeology site. Very important archaeology site
in Lao, in Vientiane. I think… Very interesting.
Dr Sounet Pothisane [ ¦÷ À Ì © ²êò ¦ ¾Ì ] 49 years old, married with two children. Lao PDR citizen, resident in Ban
Chanpet Neua, Vientiane. PhD in History and Director of Laos National Museum.
66
OMNIUM GATHERUM
- It is…it is so many different things… the… it is a beautiful spot. That was what
first occurred to me. But later on, I mean, seen in this perspective it is a place
that is… it is high grounds, that is also why it is beautiful. It.. it is… it has.. you
have a good view of the approaches, there is fresh water, fresh spring water, there
is agriculture land… It’s a perfect place for some kind of settlement… Easy to
defend.
Mr Peter Fogde [¯óÀªó ±ëº¡] 50 years old, married with three children. Swedish citizen, resident in Ban Thongkham ,
Vientiane. Forest engineer and MD of the Burapha Group that was involved in creating and running the Ban Pako resort.
- - À͉¾-¯È¾-¡-Ä©-¨òÌ -ÁªÈ-¸È¾-À͉¾-¯È¾-¡ ª-Ìš-£õ-¸È¾-£¾, -£¾-µøÈ-®ÈºÌ-é À²¾½-¸È¾-ÁªÈ-ùÈ-¨-¢œÌ -´¾-§ÔÌš¡Ò-»-ºÉ-¤-À͉¾-¯È¾-¡, À͉¾-¯È¾-¡-£¸¾´-ξ¨-Á̸-é̚-Á¯-¸È¾-®ñÌ -¹¾-¦¿-£ñÌ-ºñÌ -é-º-ñÌ -·¤-¢º¤-²Ò¢º¤-Á´È ̺¡-¥¾¡¸ñ©-«÷-¯ø-»¾Ì ´¾-ÁªÈ-À®›º¤-ªí Ì Ä©É-»Éº¤¸È¾-À͉¾-¯È¾-¡ ,À¯ñÌ -¸ñ©-«÷-À¡‰¾- À¯ñÌ-
¦ö´-®ñ©-À¡‰¾-µøÈ-à Ì-À͉¾-¯È¾-¡ À¯ñÌ-®É¾ Ì-À¡‰¾..-. ºº¡-¥-¾¡-êȾ-ãɅ...ºº¡-êȾ-¦¸Ì-µ¾
- I only hear Lao Pako, but I don’t know what Lao Pako is exactly. When I grew
up it was called Lao Pako and it still is. Lao Pako, what is the meaning?... It is a
problem for me, I do not know... It is important, it is old, and it belongs to my
parents and to the archaeologists. From the early times it was called Lao Pako.
There is an old property in Lao Pako. Lao Pako is an old village outside of Tha
Khai and Tha Suan Ya.
ñ ©Ù] 46 years old, married with eight children. Lao PDR citizen, resident in Ban Phonkham .
Mr Lang Xouvandi [ À설 ¦÷¸Ì
Village chief in Ban Phonkham, neighbour village to Lao Pako.
67
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
- Lao Pako is a small hill on the bank of the Nam Ngum river, where people came
to perform rituals during a few centuries some 1500 years ago. Today there is a
tourist resort at the same place, but under the ground are the remains of these
rituals, such as pottery vessels, burials and iron slag.
Ms Anna Källén [ º× Ì Ì¾ ¡¾ÀìññÌ] 29 years old, unmarried and no children. Swedish citizen, resident in Uppsala, Sweden.
PhD Candidate at Uppsala University, archaeologist at Lao Pako.
- Lao Pako is ... mean ... ‘Lao’ is forest ... forest like, you know, forest. ‘Lao’ is
small forest. ‘Pa’ is forest. ‘Ko’ is the Ko tree.
Mr Khamput Sisongkham [ £¿²÷© ¦ó¦ö¤£¾´] 32 years old, married with one daughter. Lao PDR citizen, resident in Ban
Nabong. Employee at the Ban Pako resort.
68
PLACE AND PEOPLE
PLACE AND PEOPLE
For places do not just trace out the traces of
spaces, they have an active role which is inscribed
in their activity. … [P]laces are the means by
which hybrids register each other as hybrids and,
in allowing the performance of their difference,
face change.
— Nick Bingham & Nigel Thrift (2000:299)
The Lao Pako archaeological site is situated on a hill on the southern bank of
the mighty Nam Ngum river in central Lao PDR. It is in the Mekong valley, in
Mainland or continental Southeast Asia on the Vientiane plain in Vientiane Province, Pak Ngum district, about 40 kilometres as the crow flies to the northeast
of Vientiane City. The immediate area around Lao Pako is mostly used for agriculture, and is today home for people from a number of officially defined ethnic groups. The majority is Lao, which is also the majority group in the country
as a whole, but there are also groups of Phouane, Lao Isan, Hmong Lay, Hmong
Khao and Khmu Ou (Chazée 1999). The exact position of the Lao Pako archaeological site is on longitude E102º51,471’ and latitude N18º09,511’ on the global
grid. The Ban Pako tourist resort (prior to May 2002 known as the Lao Pako
resort) is today partly overlapping the prehistoric site. For visitors, the site is
reached easiest from Vientiane City by bus and boat, or directly by car.
The Vientiane Plain is an alluvial plain in the Mekong Basin, in the northern
outskirts of the Khorat Plateau. The Khorat Plateau stretches across northeast
Thailand and parts of central Laos. It is dominated by the large drainages from
the Mun and Chi rivers, and has the Mekong river running through its north and
east peripher y. Lao Pako, situated by the Nam Ngum river, the largest of
Mekong’s tributaries in Laos, is in the very outskirts of the Khorath plateau, and
the area has more topographical and vegetational similarities with the area south
of the Mekong river that today belongs to Thailand, than to more mountainous
areas just to the north. A mountain range and national conservation area: Phu Khao
Khoay (²ø À ¢Ü ¾ £¸¾¨) or buffalo horn mountains, is visible from the site.
The river Nam Ngum flows through and defines the Lao Pako landscape. It
rises near the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province and passes through the
entire east-central Laos before it meets with the Mekong just east of Lao Pako.
7. View from Lao Pako in January 2002.
²¾®«È¾¨ê¿´½§¾© À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ 1/2002.
69
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
8. Map of Mainland Southeast Asia
with sites mentioned in the text.
Á°ÈÌꆢº¤º¾§óª¾À¸ñ̺º¡¦¼¤Äª.
70
Lao Pako is situated on a small hill at the
bend of the river, with a view both upstream
and downstream, just beside the confluence
of the great river with a smaller stream. The
immediate choice of place seems not to have
been coincidental. In the survey around the
Lao Pako site in the spring 2000, another
similar site was identified a kilometre or so
away, on the opposite bank of the river.
There were earthenware ceramics with characteristic screw head decoration otherwise
found only on prehistoric Lao Pako falling
out from the eroding river bank. In the broken jars were iron artefacts and fragments of
burnt bone. This place, which we called site
15, is apparently strongly connected with
Lao Pako (Bouasisengpaseuth et al. 2000). A
closer look at the location of this place, site
15, shows that it is situated on a small hill at
the bend of the river, with a view both upstream and downstream, just beside the conf luence of the great river with a smaller
stream. That is almost a mirror image of the
location of the Lao Pako site, just at the next
bend of the river. Thus the location of the
prehistoric site on the bank at a sharp bend
of the river must have been chosen with
great care, pointing to the symbolic importance of the river landscape. All
through the history of Mainland Southeast Asia, rivers and waterways have been
at the centre of life, in function and cosmology. Around Lao Pako the Nam Ngum
is and has been a major food resource, an infrastructural highway, giving and
taking life in its annual floods. The river is at the centre, life is lived and the world
is ordered around it.
The landscape immediately around the site is flat and dominated by the river.
The river’s water level varies greatly with the monsoon climate. In the rainy season (May to October), the water level is high, often flooding the plain around.
In the dry season the riverbanks are high and steep and are used for cultivation
of lettuce, leeks etc. for the nearby villages. The forest is partly secondary for-
PLACE AND PEOPLE
est (originally a dry monsoon forest with small to medium sized trees and rare
occurrence of lianas, ferns and epiphytes) with bamboo, wild banana etc. Parts
of the area are also used for eucalyptus plantations for the Burapha Group. The
riverbanks serve as gardens for the nearby villages, and there are paddy fields for
slash-and-burn cultivated rice around. There is also a recently irrigated paddy
field system for multiple harvest rice to the west.
9. Lao Pako is located on the southern bank of the Nam Ngum river, with Vientiane City to the southwest, the Mekong river and the border
to Thailand to the south, and the Phu Khao Khoay mountain range to the northeast 3.
¦½«¾Ìꆪ˜¤ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ µøÈ꾤êò©ÄªÉÁ£´Á´ÈÌ Õ¤‡´, êò©ª¾¸ñ©ºº¡¦¼¤ÄªÉ¢º¤Ì½ £º- Í ¸¤¸¼¤¥ñÌ, Á´ÈÌÕ¢º¤À¯ņ̃¾¨Á©Ì¡ñ®¯½Àê©
Äê êò©ÄªÉ Áì½ ²øÀ¢ö¾£¸¾¨ê† ¨¾¸µ¼©ê¾¤êò©ª¾À¸ñ-ºº¡¦¼¤ÀÎõº.
71
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Lao Pako (- À ͉ ¾ ¯È ¾ -  ¡), meaning ‘forest of young ko 1 trees’, has been known
as a specific place among the nearby villages since long times. It is indicated as
a hill on the southern bank of the river that is slightly more elevated than the
surrounding plain. This means that the hill at Lao Pako is spared on occasions
of severe flooding, and when that last happened in the late 1990s, the villagers
from around gathered there for a respite from the water. There are today no
villages adjacent to the site, which is surrounded by eucalyptus plantations, banana gardens and paddy fields for slash-and-burn rice cultivation. Prior to 1945
there was a village, Tha Suan Ya (êÈ ¾ - ¦ ¸Ìµ¾) about a kilometre to the west of Lao
Pako along the bank of the river. The village was abandoned in 1945 after it had
been ravaged by fire in the French War, and the villagers settled in the new village Ban Phonkham (®¾É Ì Â³Ì£¿) a few kilometres away. Several residents in Ban
Phonkham have said that the hill at Lao Pako was used as a village cemetery for
Tha Suan Ya before the village was abandoned and the villagers moved to Ban
Phonkham 2. The dead were taken by boat on the river the few hundred metres from
the village to Lao Pako. It was the northeastern end of the hill that was used, i.e.
on the other side of the tourist resort buildings from the excavated areas, and
also an area on the western periphery of the hill, which was used as a children’s
cemetery (for more detailed descriptions, see the chapter Creating Reflections).
10. Phosphates from analyses in
March 2000. The distance between
samples is ten metres, the smallest
dots mark 0 mg/l PO 43- and the largest
200-250 mg/l PO43- . The result should
be considered as relational and
indicates a clear difference of
phosphate concentration between the
top of the hill where ancient remains
have been found, and the surrounding
area, including historic cemetery
areas (cf. Creating Reflections). Map
courtesy of Finnmap, Vientiane.
³ëº©À³© ¡¾¢÷©£íÀºö¾ªö¸µÈ¾¤À¯ñ
¥÷©»È¾¤¡ñ 10 Á´ñ© ´ó¥÷©¥Õº¨Å 0 mg/
l P03-Œ4 Áì½ ¢½Î¾©Ã¹È¨ 200 Œ 250
mg/l P03-Œ4 °ÜÌ¢º¤¡¾ ²ò¥¾ ì½¾
ꆴ󡾲ö¸²ñ Áì½ Ã¡ð ìÉó´ó£¸¾´¥½Á¥É¤
ê†Áª¡ªÈ¾¤¡ñ¢º¤ ³º¡¦½³ð ´ó£¸¾´
À¢˜´¦ø¤ì½¹¸È¾¤ ¥º´ÀóÌêÀ† ¯ñ¦½«¾ê†
®ø§¾ Áì½ ®ðìòÀ¸Â©¨ìº®ì¸´êñ¤¯È¾
§É¾®ø»¾¦½ç¾Ì©¸É¨.
72
PLACE AND PEOPLE
These recent cemetery areas only negligible concentrations of phosphates in the
soil, as compared to the high phosphate levels in the excavated area in the southwestern part of the hill (figure 10, see also Bouasisengpaseuth et al. 2000:6ff, 15).
At the time when Tha Suan Ya was abandoned in 1945, it appears that Lao Pako
was considered a phii pa saa (°Ù ¯ È ¾ §É ¾ ), which is a place where spirits, or phii (°Ù )
are, by the inhabitants in the closest villages Ban Phonkham and Ban Nabong
(®¾É Ì Ì¾Â®¤). A phii pa saa is usually secluded and not used for mundane activities, due to the presence of spirits. After the village was abandoned, however,
some for mer villagers returned to make fruit- and vegetable gardens there.
During a short period of time (up until the early 1990s), a man lived alone in a
small house on the hill, where he also had a garden with fruit trees. In the beginning of the 90s, the Burapha Group started a plantation and forest preservation project in the area around the hill. Shortly thereafter, the Lao Pako hill was
leased to Mr Walter Pfabigan, who built up the Lao Pako eco-tourist resort, partly
owned by the Burapha Group. After the sudden death of Mr Pfabigan in January 2001, the majority ownership of the resort was taken over by Mr Bengt
Eckerwall, in cooperation with the Burapha Group and the Managing Director
Mr Peter Fogde. The name of the resort was changed to Ban Pako in May 2002,
and a new management concept was introduced, focusing on nature, culture and
health, to attract visitors to the resort. The archaeological site is an important part
of the culture profile of the resort, together with the tourist-attracting qualities
of present-day rural lifestyles of the neighbour villages.
11a-b. Exhibition of archaeological stray finds and photographs at the Ban Pako resort in January 2004. Photo cortesy
of Anna Karlström
¡¾Ì¸¾¤ ¦½Á©¤ »Þ®«È¾¨ Áì½ À¦© À£ˆº¤ ¯˜Ì ©òÌ À°ö¾ ê† À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ 1/2004.
73
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
12a-b. The permanent exhibition Lao Pako: A Glimpse of the Prehistory of Laos opened in April 2002 at Laos National Museum in Vientiane.
¡¾Ì¸¾¤ ¦½Á©¤ Á®® «¸ºÌ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ ¦¸Ì ψ¤¢º¤¡¾Ì¸¾¤¦½Á©¤¨÷¡¡ºÌ¯½¹¸ñ©¦¾©;À¯Ù©ÃÌÀ©ÛºÌ 4/2002 ê¹Ö²Ø²Øê½²×ÌÁ¹È¤§¾©
¸¼¤¥×Ì.
About one third of the total area of the prehistoric site (the total area being
almost exactly 10000 m² (1 ha), as indicated by the soil phosphates mapped in
figure phosphates) is today occupied by constructions for the Ban Pako eco-tourism resort. The remaining part (c. 6400 m²) functions as a park or cleared space
with pathways for the resort guests, and the prehistoric cultural remains are thus
almost entirely undisturbed there. The management of the tourist resort encourages and shows much interest in the archaeological research carried out at the
site, and is currently negotiating with the Ministry of Information and Culture,
Department of Museums and Archaeology to work out a program for protection
and management of the site’s cultural heritage resources. There is at the time of
writing a photo exhibition of the excavations and findings with texts in both
English and Lao at the resort, and there are plans to extend the exhibition with
material similar to that which is displayed in the permanent exhibition Lao Pako
– a glimpse of the prehistor y of Laos at the Laos National Museum in Vientiane.
74
AIMS, METHODS AND OUTCOMES
ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS
AIMS, METHODS AND OUTCOMES
Lao Pako was first defined as an archaeological site in the early 1990s, when the
tourist resort management on the site found archaeological materials in the
ground during construction work for the newly established resort. The findings
were duly reported to the Lao Ministry of Information and Culture, Department
of Museums and Archaeology (from here onwards referred to as MIC) that conducted a first test excavation of one trench in 1994 under the direction of archaeologist Viengkeo Souksavatdy (¸¼¤Á¡É ¸ ¦÷ ¡ ¦½¹¸× © ©Ù ) . There is no report
written in English of this first investigation.
EXCAVATION IN 1995
W hen I ar rived at Lao Pako with Anna
Karlström the first time in November 1995,
the resort management had encountered
more prehistoric materials, some of which
were uncovered in a pit that was meant to
make room for a septic tank, but was now
left open. The Austrian and Swedish management of the resort were interested in
having further archaeological investigations
conducted, in order to better understand the
histor y of the site and the origin of the
things they found in the ground, with the
overall aim to attract more tourists to the
site. The MIC were positive to an international cooperation project, mainly due to their own strained staff and funding
situation. Anna Karlström and I were funded by a MFS (Minor Field Study) grant
from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and we
formed a team with members from the MIC under the direction of Director
General Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy (꺤¦¾ ħ¨½¸Ü ¤ £¿©Ù ) and archaeologist
Thonglith Luangkhoth (꺤ìØ © ¹ù ¸ ¤Â£©). We had also a number of local employees in the team, of which Sumpiang Douangsompong (§ø ´ ²¼¤ ©¸¤¦Ü ´ ¯º¤)
and Ding Sayavongnak (©… ¤ ħ¨½¸Ü ¤ ̾¡) have since been involved in all excavations at the site.
The aims of this first excavation were kept very basic: simply to find out what
kind of remains were represented at the site, how old they were, and to what kind
13. Excavation of trench E2 in 1995.
¡¾Ì¢÷©£Ì 1995 ¢º¤Íд E2.
75
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
of contexts they belonged. Since there was hardly any professional infrastructure for archaeological excavations at that time in Laos (no archives, no fixed grid
points, very little excavation- or measuring equipment), the excavation methods
were also kept as simple as possible. Anna Karlström and I had just finished our
undergraduate studies in archaeology with the sole experience of excavation from
Neolithic sites in Sweden and on Ireland. Together with the broader excavation
experience of our senior colleague Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy we worked out a
first excavation strategy, including a local grid. The grid, metric, measured with
compass and tape and with its origin at the foundation of the toilet house, has
been reused for all excavations. Along the grid we lay out three trenches of varying sizes; D1, E2 and B2, which we excavated in spits (for details, see Källén &
Karlström 1999). We excavated with spades, trowels, brushes and tools from the
nearby village, measured with measuring tape, plumbob and theodolite, and
collected cultural materials in bags and paper boxes to be brought to the Laos
National Museum in Vientiane. The excavations of 25 m² in these three trenches
revealed large quantities of artefacts, the bulk being pottery and iron production
materials (a fuller description is found in Källén & Karlström 1999, Karlström
2000 and Källén 2000). We could conclude that Lao Pako was likely to have been
a place for rituals involving pottery depositions and small-scale iron production
between approximately AD 350 and 600.
14. Bounheuang Bouasisengpaseuth
and Unla Sisongkham.
®÷ÌÀ»õº¤ ®ö¸ìóÁ¦¤¯½À¦© Áì½
º÷ÈÌÍɾ ¦ó¦ö¤£¾´.
76
SURVEY IN 2000
Following the 1995 excavation, it took four years until we were both back in Laos
again, Anna and I. By that time, we had both finished our graduate educations
and were working with new research projects, both dealing with the archaeology
of Vientiane Province, yet with two different foci. Anna had decided to focus
on issues of cultural heritage management in urban Vientiane (Karlström 2003,
and also forthcoming), while I continued to work with the Lao Pako site. Once again
we formed a joint project with the MIC, represented by ceramist Bounheuang
Bouasisengpaseuth (®Ý ÌÀ»Û º ¤ ®Ü ¸ ¦Ù Á ¦¤¯½À¦Ù © ). A fourth team member was Unla
Sisongkham (ºÝ È Ì ÍÉ ¾ þ ¦Ù ¦ Ü ¤ £¾´) from the village Ban Nabong (®É ¾ Ì̾®¤) near
Lao Pako. In discussions with the MIC we decided to carry out an archaeological survey of an area of approximately 20 km² surrounding the Lao Pako site, in
February and March 2000. There were several explicit aims of the survey. Firstly
there was a need to put Lao Pako in a physical context and to gain an understanding of the landscape it was and is part of. Secondly, we wanted to test whether
or not archaeological survey methods that had been worked out to suit other
projects in other parts of the world would work for this area. One of these
methods was a field kit for phosphate analysis (Merckoquant®, see Persson 1997).
AIMS, METHODS AND OUTCOMES
Thirdly, we wished to involve the local community in the project to a greater extent than
in the previous excavation, and at the same
time increase our own knowledge of the
physical and cultural setting of the site.
We prepared the survey with studies of
a topog raphic map (sheet 5545 II, scale
1:50000) from 1966, and stereographic pairs
of aerial photographs, dating from 1955 and
with an approximate scale of 1:30000. From
those we chose a search area of approximately 20 km² with the intent to cover as
many vegetational and topographic components as possible. They included the banks
of the Nam Ngum river, a lowland river valley area covered with forest, paddy
fields and present villages. The initial plan was to conduct an archaeological
survey based on systematic walking in transects, covering the entire research area.
Immediately at the onset of the field survey, that method proved impossible,
mostly due to the impenetrable dense forest with thick undergrowth covering
large parts of the search area. Instead, we turned to a more humanistic approach
based on contacts with the local community. We spent all the survey time in the
villages which are located today within the search area (Ban Nabong (®¾É Ì
̾®¤), Ban Phonkham (®¾É Ì Â³Ì£¿) and Ban Tha Kok Hai (®¾É Ì êÈ ¾ £¡Ä»))
interacting with the villagers. From formal interviews and informal talks we identified archaeological sites, characterised as places where there are what we called
‘old things’. These sites were visited, marked on a map, surveyed and sampled
for phosphate analysis. We also began a communication with the villagers in Ban
Nabong and Ban Phonkham about the value and importance of old things, about
spirits, and about the recent history of the area.
As a result of the survey, more than twenty archaeological sites previously
unknown to the authorities were identified in the search area. Of those one is
roughly contemporary with the Lao Pako site and most of the other are from
more recent times. A phosphate mapping with a 10 x 10 metre grid of the Lao
Pako site and a few locations in its immediate vicinity gave at hand a clear pattern of quite remarkable phosphate concentrations on the top of the Lao Pako
hill, which is partly where the tourist resort resides today (see figure 10). More
detailed information on the survey results are found in the unpublished report
Lao Pako Project – Survey 2000 (Bouasisengpaseuth et al. 2000).
15. Bounheuang Bouasisengpaseuth
and children of the nearby villages in
the 2000 survey.
®÷ÌÀ»õº¤ ®ö¸ìóÁ¦¤¯½À¦© Áì½
À©ñ¡Ìɺ¨ê†µ®
Èø ¾É ÌÄ¡É£¼¤À´ˆºÀ¸ì¾¦¿
͸©¯ó 2000.
77
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
16. Nor Untagok by the screen in the
2003 excavation.
̾¤ Ìð º÷̪¾¡º¡ ¡¿ìñ¤»ÈºÌ¹¾
¸ñ©«÷ÃÌ¡¾Ì¢÷©£í̯ó 2003.
78
EXCAVATIONS IN 2002-2003
Two years after the survey we began the first excavation at Lao Pako specifically
for this PhD project, which was running over two seasons in 2002 and 2003.
Again it was a joint project with the MIC and now also with the Laos National
Museum in Vientiane involved. This time the team was larger. In 2002, the project
was co-directed by Phimmaseng Khamdalavong (²Ø ´ ´½Á¦¤ £¿©¾ì¾¸Ü ¤), archaeologist from MIC, and apart from myself, the team consisted of conser vator
Marion Ravenscroft from the AESOP foundation in Australia, undergraduate
student Christian Vinterhav from Uppsala University, Ban Nabong and Ban
Phonkham staff members Ding Sayavongnak (©… ¤ ħ¨½¸Ü ¤ ̾¡), Nor Untagok
(ÌÖ ºÝ È Ìª¾¡º¡), Sumpiang Douangsompong (§ø ´ ²¼¤ ©¸¤¦Ü ´ ¯º¤), and Unla
Sisongkham (ºÝ È ÌÍÉ ¾ ¦Ù ¦ Ü ¤ £¾´), and volunteer worker Göran Franson from
Uddevalla, Sweden. In 2003, the co-director was K anda Keosopha (¡× Ì ©¾
Á¡É ¸ ¦²¾), archaeologist from the Laos National Museum, and the Pak Ngum
district office was for the first time involved in the excavation represented by
Phoukong Yutitham (²Þ  ¢¤ ¨Ý © ªØ ê ¿). The other team members were conservator Marion Ravenscroft, Ban Nabong and Ban Phonkham staff members Ding
Saynjavongnak (©… ¤ ħ¨½¸Ü ¤ ̾¡), Git Sisongkham (¥Ø © ¦Ù ¦ Ü ¤ £¾´), Nor Untagok
(ÌÖ ºÝ È Ìª¾¡º¡), Sumpiang Douangsompong (§ø ´ ²¼¤ ©¸¤¦Ü ´ ¯º¤) and Unla
Sisongkham (ºÝ È ÌÍÉ ¾ ¦Ù ¦ Ü ¤ £¾´), and finally, volunteer worker Emmy Ageros from
Vientiane.
The objectives of this the fourth archaeological investigation season at Lao
Pako was to get a fuller understanding of the spread and composition of cultural
material over the area that had been identified in the survey with high concentrations of phosphates (used as an indicator of a variety of human activities).
Were the remains homogenous all over the area? Would there be similar depositions all over the entire top of the hill, an area of approximately 6400 m², to those
recovered in the excavation 1995-96 on just 25 m² in one corner of the hill? And
would all remains date to the same period of time, a couple of centuries in the
fourth to sixth centuries AD? Or was this a site with a great variety of remains
from diverse activities over a long time span?
The method of excavation was worked out to suit those questions. The aim
was to extract as much quantitative and qualitative information as possible about
the site’s cultural material, while limiting the destruction and keeping the integrity of the site in its current role as a resort. The results were aimed to fit in with
the planning of future archaeological investigation projects, and with assessments
of the spread and qualities of the material remains to enable a program of cultural heritage management in cooperation between the Ministry of Information
and Culture and the Ban Pako tourist resort. An excavation method with small
AIMS, METHODS AND OUTCOMES
testpits spread over the entire hill was chosen because it would answer questions
on quantity and quality of cultural remains over the area, while minimizing the
destruction of the site.
The original plans for excavation was for 64 (1 x 1 m) testpits spread across
the entire untouched area of the archaeological site (c. 6400 m²), in order to get
a statistically viable material for analysis, and also to investigate in a direct way
the nature and distribution of the cultural remains, to serve as information for
future cultural heritage management considerations. The considerable amounts
of cultural material that were encountered restricted the number of excavated
pits to seven in 2002 and nine in 2003, all in all 16 pits which is exactly a quarter
of the total amount. We chose to begin in one part of the hill, which means that
all sampled testpits in the eastern quadrant of the hill are now excavated, while
the remaining three quadrants remain untouched.
17. Grid with random sampled testpits for the
2002-2003 excavation.
À¦˜Ìª¾ÎȾ¤¡ñ®¡¾Ì§÷´
È ¢÷©Àºö¾ªö¸µÈ¾¤¦¿Íñ®
¡¾Ì¢÷©£í̯ó 2000 Œ 2003.
The methods used for these excavations were similar to those used in the 1995
season, that is technologically as simple as possible, but for conservation there
was a change of approach from the first excavation. Slightly wiser from the experience of encountering such vast amounts of material in 1995, it was arranged
so that conservator Marion Ravenscroft could be involved already in the fieldwork, preparing for later reconstruction, packing and storage of finds at the Laos
National Museum. She writes:
18. Lao Pako concrete fixpoint in
the bottom right of the picture, with
excavation staff in the background
measuring testpits for the 2002
excavation.
À¦ö¾¦ò´ñ¤ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ ê†À¯ñÌÀ£ˆº¤
Ͼ¨µø¢
È ¾É ¤ì÷´
È À®œº¤¢¸¾¢º¤»ø®²¾®,
¡ñ®²½Ìñ¡¤¾Ì ¢÷©£íÌ¡¿ìñ¤¸ñ©Áê¡
Íд¡¾Ì¢÷©£íÌÃ̯ó 2002.
79
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
The conservation component of archaeology in situ is still so often overlooked
and therefore, the Lao Pako Project provided an excellent opportunity to implement conservation treatment from the actual point of excavation and introduce
some basic conservation procedure to local staff. During fieldwork it was possible to effectively stabilise metal artefacts that tend to rapidly deteriorate as soon
as they are excavated. Oversee the washing of sherds and undertake some immediate consolidation of the more fragile material. Finds were registered and packed
in a method that would greatly simplify further procedure back at the Museum in
Vientiane (Marion Ravenscroft, in Källén et al. 2002).
This approach to conservation proved successful for this case, where we could
work actively with artefact analysis already during the fieldwork, which enabled
a more active and dynamic excavation approach. Thus not only the artefact preservation benefited from field conservation, but also the excavation procedure as
a whole. For more specific details on excavation methods and results, see the
unpublished report Lao Pako Project: Excavation 2002 (Källén et al. 2002).
Concurrent with the 2003 excavation, the communication with the local community concerning the value of ancient things, of spirits and of the meaning of
Lao Pako, was again intensified. General talks with staff and villagers, visits and
interviews have resulted in the chapter Creating Reflections of this book.
All finds from the 16 testpits excavated in 2002 and 2003 were recorded in a
database and left for storage in the Laos National Museum in Vientiane. In 2002
some of the finds were displayed in a permanent exhibition at the museum, Lao
Pako: a glimpse of the prehistory of Laos (see figure 12a-b). At the very end of the
project in 2003, the remaining ceramic vessels that were excavated in 1995 but
never reconstructed at the time, were properly recorded and reconstructed to the
extent possible. The various information pieces collected during these four excavation- and survey seasons all work together to create the image of Lao Pako
presented in this book.
80
THE EARTH
THE EARTH
STRATIGRAPHY, SOIL AND DATING
19. North-South transection of Lao
Pako at x = -55.
êò©ÀÎõºŒêò©ÄªÉ ꆱ¤ñ À¦˜Ìªñ©°È¾Ì
¢º¤ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ ê† x=- Œ55.
The Lao Pako stratigraphy 1 is shallow compared with other excavated sites on the
Khorat Plateau. Settlement sites here often have long and complicated chronologies, and the complex stratigraphic sequences often reach a thickness of several
metres. Lao Pako is different. T he archaeologist’s main reason for using
stratigraphy, i.e. the dating of different phases in the history of the site, is of
minor importance for Lao Pako. Instead the stratigraphy here reveals only one
phase, a short but intense history of usage. The artefacts and structures intermingle in a constant crossover between materials, shapes and depositional contexts, horizontal and vertical. Instead, a closer look at stratigraphy, soil and dating can in this case provide an insight into the compressed complexity of the site.
SOIL DETAILS
The soil in the upper layers of the excavated site is fine without natural inclusions of gravel or larger stones, although often disturbed by termite nests. The
soil is a well sorted fine silt, homogenous in colour, described with reference to
the Munsell Soil Colour Chart as:
Dry:
Moist:
light brownish gray
grayish brown
(10YR 6/2)
(10YR 5/2)
Under the cultural layer, which appears approximately 0.5 metres down and
varies in thickness, the sterile soil is similar in colour to the topsoil but can be
81
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
described as a sandy clay with yellowish inclusions. About 1.5 - 2.0 metres down
begins a layer of packed concrete-like sterile soil interspersed with small (on
average 30-60 mm in diameter) lumps of laterite 2.
A series of pH tests have shown that the soil is slightly or even significantly
acid. In the 1995-96 excavation, the tested soil had pH values between 5.5 and
6.0. In the 2002 season, the analysed samples showed an acidity of pH 4.0 to 4.4.
The analyses have been carried out in a fieldwork context, and future analysis in
a proper laboratory might give more absolute results. A significant acidity of the
Lao Pako soil would explain both the almost complete absence of human- and
animal bone material on the site, and what appears to be a leaching of pottery
wares, which could well be due to an acid environment.
STRATIGRAPHY AND EXCAVATION
A stratigraphic sequence has been developed during the course of the three archaeological excavations at Lao Pako. In the 1995 excavation, the prior knowledge of stratigraphy and dating was nil. Thus the excavation was carried out in
spits of 0.1 to 0.2 metres in thickness. The cultural material was collected according to these spits, and the stratigraphic sequence was in that case reconstructed
at the end of the excavation while drawing the stratigraphy from the trench walls.
In the subsequent excavation of testpits in the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the prior
knowledge of the site stratigraphy led us to a different spit approach. In general,
there is at Lao Pako a layer of topsoil, varying in thickness between a few decimetres and up to a metre, containing almost no cultural material. The material
from this topsoil layer have been collected and labelled spit ‘LI’. Beneath the
topsoil is the cultural layer, which varies in thickness and complexity between the
different trenches. The materials from this cultural layer, identified as rich in
cultural material of different kinds, has been collected in spits with a thickness
of approximately 0.1 m each, that is ‘LII’ – ‘L??’, depending on the thickness of
the cultural layer (see stratigraphy drawings in appendix III). Under the cultural
layer is a sterile soil, a sandy clay with yellow inclusions, into which pits have often
been dug from the level of the cultural layer. Under this sterile sandy clay appears a soil interspersed with small lumps of laterite. This layer is hard and almost impossible to excavate with ordinary archaeological methods. This layer was
only excavated, and then with a pick, in the cases where pits containing pottery
vessels had been dug down so deep into this otherwise completely sterile compact layer (figure 20).
20. Excavation of sterile laterite strata in T38.
¡¾Ì¢÷©£íÌÀ«ò¤§˜Ì©òÌê†À¯ñÌ©òÌ®ðì¦
ò ©
÷ ¯¾¦½¥¾©±÷È̪Ⱦ¤ÅÃÌÍд 38.
82
THE EARTH
LAYERS
The topsoil generally contains scattered potsherds of more or less recent origin.
Both old earthenware and very recent stoneware and Chinese porcelain are found
in this layer. The presence of earthenware pottery, identical to that found deeper
in the cultural layer, indicates that materials have travelled vertically between the
layers, either by recent human intervention, animal movements in the soil, or as
a consequence of natural soil processes. It is likely to be due to a combination
of these factors. The topsoil varies in thickness between 0.3 to 0.6 m, and is often
disturbed by termite nests, marked with a T in the drawings. In a few places in
the sequence, for instance in the stratigraphy of testpits T35 and T36, there are
thin charcoal lenses in the topsoil, indicating a historical clearance of the site.
This is probably the result of slash-and-burn clearance in connection to the
Phonkham villager’s garden here a couple of decades ago.
Beneath the topsoil is the cultural layer. It has the same soil structure as the
topsoil, but contains more cultural material such as potsherds, fired clay, metallurgy materials, charcoal and miscellaneous artefacts. This cultural material is also
clearly of a different character than the topsoil’s, with exclusively earthenware
pottery, and other artefacts of prehistoric character. The cultural layer does not
generally differ from the topsoil in colour; thus it is only distinguishable on the
basis of its material culture contents. In some parts of the site the cultural layer
is dense and easily detected, while in others it is hardly visible during excavation.
The amounts of potsherds collected from each level in the 2002 excavation, illustrated in figure potsherd distribution, indicate that there are two denser levels at
an average depth of 0,7 and 1,0 metre below the surface.
800
700
600
400
300
200
100
21. Potsherd distribution in the 2002 excavation.
À¦©À±õº¤Ä¹ ê†Á°È;¨ÃÌ¡¾Ì¢÷©£í̯ó 2002.
1,
8
1,
7
1,
6
1,
5
1,
4
1,
3
1,
2
1,
1
1,
0
0,
9
0,
8
0,
7
0,
6
0,
5
0,
4
0,
3
0,
2
0
0,
1
pcs
500
Depth from surface (m)
83
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
From the cultural layers there are pits dug down containing complete pottery
vessels. The pits are generally only just wide enough to fit the group of vessels,
and are filled with a mix of cultural material and the sterile layers which the pits
cut through. This filling is often indistinguishable from the cultural layer, other
than that the pit filling generally is slightly more porous than the packed layers
around. The cultural layer differs in thickness and composition between different parts of the hill, in correspondence with the horizontal spread of cultural
materials over the hill, as indicated by the plan drawings. The cultural layer is both
thicker, has a higher density of cultural material, and is more complex on the
slightly more elevated central part of the hill (e.g. square E2, T15 and T22 (see
appendix III and figures 22 and 23)), than down towards the southeast slope (e.g.
T46 and T47). The cultural layer is thicker and denser on top of the hill, but the
frequency of pit depositions is equally high down towards the slope. In some of
the excavated squares and testpits, it is possible to distinguish one or two more
compact horizons in the cultural layers, only distinguishable on the basis of their
higher density of cultural material. In square E2 and in testpit T21, parts of the
cultural layer appear to be saturated with a rich or oily substance, leaving the soil
greasy and slightly darker in colour. The rich or greasy soil is in both these
trenches associated with metallurgy material such as fired clay and tuyère fragments.
Below the cultural layers and pits is a layer of sterile soil with small yellow
inclusions, seen as spots with a diameter of a few centimetres in the trench wall.
Under this sterile layer is one with inclusions of laterite (see above). Only very
seldom have the pits with buried pottery cut down into this layer, which is hard
and compact.
22. Lao Pako cultural layers: an example from T15.
84
§˜Ì©ò̸ñ©ê½Ì½ê¿¢º¤ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ ªö¸µÈ¾¤¥¾¡Íд 15.
THE EARTH
23. Lao Pako cultural layers: an example from T22. §Ì©Ì¸ñ©ê½Ì½ê¿¢º¤ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ ªö¸µÈ¾¤¥¾¡Íд 22.
DATING
Three charcoal samples from the 1995 excavation have been dated with the 14 C
dating method at the Laboratory for Isotope Geology at the Swedish Museum
of Natural History, Stockholm (for details on calibration and sample context, see
Karlström & Källén 1999:41ff). Separate calibration and co-calibration of the
results gave a dating of the cultural layer in square E2 to a maximum period of
time between AD 350 and 600. These radiocarbon dates are reconfirmed by a typological comparison with the material culture of contemporary sites on the
Khorat Plateau, such as Ban Chiang late period X (White 1990:125) and the iron
associated occupation levels at Ban Na Di (Higham & Kijngam 1984:30-34).
A study of Lao Pako pottery tempered with rice husk has proven it possible
to extract charred organic remains from the ware. This opens up for future more
fine-tuned dating of discrete vessels, which has not been possible to fit within
the scope of this present project.
STRATIGRAPHIC CONCLUSION
The Lao Pako stratigraphy is shallow and represents a relatively short period of
usage, during which no major changes in the usage of the site nor the choice of
materials can be traced. In some parts in the central part of the hill, the cultural
layer is thicker and has a higher density. In the area of higher density, the cultural layer occasionally contains one or two compact horizons of potsherds and
other cultural material. These are likely to represent events, or brief periods of
intense use of the site, in an otherwise continuous usage spanning over a few
centuries during the 4 th to 6 th century AD. In the central part of the hill, where
85
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
24. Examples of iron-pottery interrelations at lao Pako (see also
stratigraphy in appendix III).
ªö¸µÈ¾¤¢º¤ÀÍñ¡ŒÀ¦©À£ˆº¤®ñÌ©òÌ
À°ö¾ê†´£
ó ¸¾´¡È¼¸¢Éº¤¡ñÌ
(À®…¤»ø®²¾®Ä©Éê† êɾ¨À͘´).
86
the cultural layer is thicker and more complex, it is stratigraphically clear that the
pit depositions of pottery and other material is contemporary and parallel with
the iron production. This is shown as in the examples in figure 24, both in the
overlapping of compact horizons in the cultural layer with very dense iron production layers and pits for pottery deposition in square E2, and in a pit deposition of a single lump of iron slag, shown in the trench wall of square D1. In the
periphery of the hill, toward the southeast slope leading away from the river, the
shallow cultural layers contain almost no evidence of iron production, only scattered potsherds. But the pit depositions seem to be distributed homogenously,
albeit in clusters, over the central as well as the peripheral part of the hill.
Having said this, there is a need for a few additional words on stratigraphy.
In the stratigraphic method, archaeology visualises and solidifies its ideology of
linear time. In philosophical considerations of time, there has been a general
distinction between measured and experienced time, and much thinking has been
devoted to how these two are related to each other. Measured time is often associated with mathematics and traditionally with natural science, while humanists have been mostly concerned with experienced time and the relationship
between the two. I have argued in the Introduction chapter that I here wish to treat
time as a human dimension, unfolding in human action. This is generally in contradiction with the stratigraphic method, because through its origin in geology
the stratigraphic method works to conceptually naturalise strata produced by
humans. Inherent in stratigraphy is an assumption that past times in some sense
exist, frozen in the strata, there to be excavated, prehistory to be unveiled. It
follows that a utopian case of unaltered, we could say virgin layers, would practically take us back in time, to actually be able to sense the past, as it was. This
is, of course, an illusion. When archaeological strata, as they always are, are
decomposed, altered, disturbed, or even missing, it is often explained with accounts for the various disturbances that may have caused a deviance from this
ideal utopian archaeological vision, i.e. an undisturbed prehistory there to be
uncovered. I wish to take a clear stance against such an excavation ideology, and
anyhow, I have not found any reasons to work extensively with stratigraphy in
the interpretations of Lao Pako. The comparatively shallow layers have been more
useful for studying contemporary relationships of material culture and depositions.
THE THINGS
THE THINGS
A thing is, in one sense, an object out there,
and in another sense, a thing is an issue very
much in there, at any rate a gathering.
— Bruno Latour 2003
Things are essentially what archaeologists deal with: artefacts and physical structures having endured through time. We call them material culture, and the study
of it has, albeit approached from different angles, always been at the centre of
the archaeological enterprise. Due to its inconspicuous yet dominant role through
the history of archaeology, the approach taken to material culture is an important compass indicating ideological orientation. Thus, before we take a closer look
at the Lao Pako things, I will begin with a brief introduction to the use and study
of material culture in archaeology and the approach I have chosen for this study.
Material culture as a concept has a long history in archaeology and ethnography, with its first reference in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1843 (Buchli
2002:2). Referring to the common distinction between three schools of thought
in the history of archaeology, the first culture-historical school used material
culture to create typological sequences, from which chronologies were derived,
and change was explained partly by evolution and partly by diffusion. Things were
separated from their contexts and focus was primarily on form. Typological sequences mapped changes in artefact for ms based on biological analogies of
changes in the development of mushrooms or the like (Shanks & Tilley 1987:79f).
The find context was used secondarily to group forms together in cultures, according to the associations recorded from closed contexts such as hoards or burials.
Artefact types were further considered to be expressions of the mental templates
of their makers, and artefact cultures were quite unproblematically equated with
human ethnic groups (Shanks & Tilley 1987:80f).
With the processual, or ‘new’ archaeology in the 1960s came the realisation
that artefact cultures could not be directly correlated with ethnicity, and that the
distribution of material culture was due to a complex set of factors. One of the
processual archaeology’s front figures, Lewis Binford, described in his classic
paper Archaeology as Anthropology (Binford 1962) material culture as an extrasomatic
means of adaptation, an interface between people and the environment. Things had
in this view either a direct utilitarian function, or a social function in terms of
group identity. Processual archaeology thus typically describes material culture
either in terms of style or function as separable from each other, and in understand87
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
ing the past, primacy is almost exclusively granted to function. Michael Shanks
and Christopher Tilley have consistently argued that processual archaeology
reduced the meaning of material culture to function (1987:86ff). As an offshoot
of processual archaeology, an influential and critical branch of material culture
studies developed within Marxist studies in Europe and the United States (Glassie
1999:73; Buchli 2002:10f). It was in that partly scientific, partly political and
idealistic movement that the next critical school of material culture studies was
born.
The postprocessual critiques to processual archaeology have been formulated
from many different angles. First and foremost it is a critique on the reductionist
view of material culture almost exclusively in ter ms of function, and have
brought a renaissance of the study of things, an appraisal of the significance of
material culture and the materiality of cultural life (e.g. Hodder 1989; Buchli 1995;
Tilley 1989,1999). Recent studies of material culture in archaeology have moreover become a link to both museum- and material culture studies in social anthropology (cf. Buchli 2002). This is an alternative to processual archaeology’s connections to functionalist and neo-evolutionary anthropology, and consequently
material culture studies have often been formulated by postprocessual archaeologists as a critique towards those very aspects of processual archaeology. I find
myself at home in this latter group of material culture studies, and so I acknowledge great but complex interpretative potentials of material culture, reaching
beyond issues of function and identity. Henry Glassie (1999:47) has described
material culture as comparable with music, or poetry rather than history:
The story belongs to temporal experience. It moves in one direction, accumulating associations sequentially. The artifact belongs to spatial experience. It unfolds
in all directions at once, embracing contradictions in simultaneity, and opening
multiple routes to significance (Glassie 1999:47).
Moreover, as interpreters of material culture we must accept, says Glassie, ‘the
strange responsibility of putting into words that which is not verbal’ (ibid.). Such
a responsibility inevitably demands a critical awareness and explicitness about
how we use material culture to understand human society.
For my own approach, I concur on a general level with Igor Kopytoff, developing an argument of Émile Durkheim, that human societies reproduce the social
structure of its people in the way they order their things, and that this order is
culturally created through discrimination and classification of an endless array
of singular things (Kopytoff 1986:70, 90). But when it comes to the very essence
of material culture, I am more inclined to follow the view expressed by Glassie
88
THE THINGS
above, that material culture is also embracing societal contradictions and works
to open up multiple associative routes to significance (cf. also Shanks & Tilley
1987:86). My approach here is akin to the large body of post-structuralist studies of material culture produced in archaeology foremost in the 1990s. Moreover, I see a problem in the cur rent largely unproblemized attitude to the
materiality of material culture. While there was often in earlier traditional archaeological studies a focus on material forms in richly illustrated volumes, the significance of material culture is today almost completely verbalized and objectified,
leaving out all that is ambiguous, enchanting and promiscuous. In other words,
and speaking with Victor Buchli: ‘[t]he erotics and attendant politics of this
materiality are inadequately discussed’ (Buchli 2002:14). One aim of my study
of Lao Pako is in accordance with this argument, to contribute to a reappraisal
of the sensuality of things. In this sense, my approach is closer to one inspired
by phenomenology that appreciates sensuality and embodiment in material culture, which has emerged mainly in Anglo-Saxon archaeology from the late 1990s
and onwards (e.g. Hamilakis et al. 2002).
One branch of recent material culture studies has focused on temporality –
the life cycles of the artefact – and many of its leading voices have dwelled on
arguments raised in the now classic The Social Life of Things (Appadurai (ed) 1986,
and there in particular Kopytoff 1986). Referring back to what has been said here
in previous chapters about time and temporality, an approach that enhances the
life cycle(s) of the artefact is of particular interest for this study. As opposed to
an entirely linear appreciation of time, where an artefact is nailed to a fixed date
and place of origin and is thus in a sense reduced to origin, this approach aims
to see the artefact as a product of its entire time of existence – its life (Shanks
1998). Such an approach works to appreciate use and wear as part of the creation of the object, and thus puts an emphasis on the context as a creative composition (cf. Glassie 1999:82). The lifetime of an object also includes the time
when it has become an archaeological artefact, and been incorporated in scientific- or museum collections. One can say that the life of the object continues
after centuries asleep, or that it enters into an entirely new life cycle in its new
guise, that is of little significance for this case. More important here is the contextual view of fragmentation, incompletion and decay not as imperfections, but
as important parts of the life of the artefact:
The decay of an artefact is a token of the human condition. The fragment, the
mutilated and incomplete thing from the past, brings a sense of life struggling
with time: death and decay await us all, people and objects alike. In common we
have our materiality (Pearson & Shanks 2001:93).
89
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
With this perspective, conservation and reconstruction must be acknowledged
as an active and deliberate process of materialization, which produces rather than
conserves (Buchli 2002:14 following Latour 1999). This is the perspective I have
adopted approaching the Lao Pako material culture, where I wish to communicate the materiality and sensuality of these things, in an active reconstruction
aiming not for originality, but to place them back in our present (cf. Shanks &
Tilley 1987:116). However, this is complicated considering the essential Buddhist
notion of the impermanence of matter, with great similarities to the argument presented by Shanks and Pearson above, where the decay of the material world is a
constant reminder of death and thus a crucial part of any celebration of life (cf.
Karlström forthcoming) 1. The people in Laos who are affected by the archaeological
investigations at Lao Pako, that is both on the national level and in the local
community, are generally driven by Buddhist, animist, communist and capitalist
ideas, in fluid hybrid forms with varying concentration on either of the four parts.
While Buddhism makes a philosophical point in the impermanence of matter,
animism (meaning that things are alive) can be used to argue against the celebration of decay inherent in such a notion (Karlström forthcoming) . Negotiations about
the impermanence of matter is therefore inevitably part of the social reality
surrounding the Lao Pako archaeological project, and it can rightly be argued that
such a notion is fundamentally incompatible with the scientific principles of
conservation applied in this project. It leaves us in the midst of a paradox, which
I suggest leads all the way down to the very foundation of the archaeological
discipline. The approach taken here is by no means dissolving the paradox, but
it can contribute with an illumination of the social dynamics at work.
Finally we turn to another paradox in our dealing with things, which is not in
any sense solved here, only at best illuminated. It is presented by Bruno Latour
in the citation at the beginning of the chapter, where he develops a discussion
on Heidegger’s influential distinction between objects – or Gegenstand, and the
thing. Latour claims contrary to Heidegger that the two must meet, and that the
scientific and technical object must also be appreciated for its rich and complicated, complex and entangled qualities as a thing. Only then can science be lifted
from what he calls the matter-of-factual to become matters of concern (Latour 2003).
I strive to make Lao Pako and its things a matter of concern in Latour’s sense,
fully aware that I will not succeed. Because, as Latour writes himself: ‘no matter
what we do, when we try to reconnect scientific objects with their aura, their
crown, their web of associations, when we accompany them back to their gathering, we always appear to weaken them, not to strengthen their claim to reality’
(2003:12). Ultimately we are left with this paradox in the structure of science,
90
THE THINGS
and with no claims to a solution I have chosen to highlight it rather than to
conceal or ignore it.
THE LAO PAKO MATERIAL CULTURE
In my own opinion, the Lao Pako material culture is fantastic and quite outstanding. It is beautiful to my eyes,
and the subtle sophistication of its structure has on more
than one occasion given me sudden shudders when I have
met them, the artefacts. This chapter builds the foundation for the two following and I will start here with the
most fragmented presentation of the Lao Pako artefacts
as individuals, only to use the individualised things for
understanding the contextual complexity of deposition
in the next chapter : Contexts. For me, an individual –
sensual – appreciation of single artefacts is crucial for
any sensible contextual analysis.
In all this arguing for an appreciation of the sensuality of things, there is one further important aim of a text
about a specific site’s material culture. It must be organised in a format that can be recognised and used by the
archaeological community, for it is through a formalisation of method and explanation codes that the scientific
society is created and recreated. Some call this objectivity, but I prefer to see it in terms of formalisation to the benefit of the scientific society. The format of this presentation makes the foundation for comparisons with other known sites on the Khorat Plateau, following in the chapter
Looking Out.
The formalisation necessary for the maintenance of the scientific community
must, however, in each single case be balanced against the overall aims and questions of the specific study, in order to create meaning. Thus, in the case of Lao
Pako, each set of artefacts will be analysed and described in a code following the
current archaeology tradition of Mainland Southeast Asia, whereas the focus on
different categories will be dictated by the aims and questions of this particular
study. This leads up to an interpretation of the prehistory of this site in Insights,
the last chapter in this study of prehistoric Lao Pako.
My study of the Lao Pako material culture has a clear focus on ceramics,
although it is only one of a number of possible choices at hand 2. There are,
however, several reasons for the choice of ceramics in this case. First and most
25. J217
91
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
importantly, the ceramics have always stood out to me as the most extraordinary
and dominant feature of this particular site. It is by far the most numerous and
intricate of the material culture categories represented there, and it will subsequently be granted most attention. It is also my firm belief that a thorough analysis of the composition, use and symbolism of ceramics at Lao Pako is crucial for
a wider understanding of this particular site, as I will argue in the following two
chapters. Other artefacts once used for metallurgy or textile production, or yet
others such as bronze jewellery, iron knives, stone adzes or glass beads will also
be described and briefly discussed in this chapter, but the ceramics remain in
focus.
CERAMICS 3
The ceramic material from the three excavation seasons of 1995, 2002 and 2003
has been documented, collected and analysed in two discrete analytical groups:
sherds and complete vessels. The 76 recovered complete vessels 4 have clearly been
intentionally deposited in pits, while the potsherds are found scattered on the
former ground surface and in the pit fillings. In some of the excavated trenches,
the stratigraphy shows two clear horizons of packed potsherds, seeming to represent events where ceramic vessels may have been deliberately crushed and
spread on the ground.
26. Christian Vinterhav and Phimmaseng Khamdalavong analysing potsherds in January 2002.
£ëò©¦½Àª¨ ¸òÌÀªó Áì½ ²ò´½Á¦¤ £¿©¾ì¾¸ö¤ ¡¿ìñ¤¸ò À£¾½À¦©À£ˆº¤¯˜Ì©òÌÀ°ö¾ À©õºÌ 1/2002.
92
THE THINGS
The sherds have been collected according to the excavation layers of each
trench respectively. A first analysis of sherds was undertaken in the 1995 excavation (Källén & Karlström 1999) and based on that knowledge, a second more
thorough analysis of ware composition, decoration and shape was done as an MA
Thesis study by Christian Vinterhav during the 2002 excavation (see Källén &
Vinterhav 2003). All results on potsherd analysis presented here are based on
Vinterhav’s unpublished study, where he sorted and registered sherds originating from seven testpits. In total, 5175 sherds 5 with the total weight of 47 kg were
analysed focusing on shape, colour, temper and decoration. These analyses aimed
to establish a range of high-resolution technical facts about the Lao Pako ceramics, to be used both for comparisons with other ceramic cultures in the area, and
to create a classificatory system to use for documentation and analyses of the
interred complete vessels and their relation to the sherds left on the ground.
SHERD SHAPES
All sherds have been divided into categories of base, body or rim.
The occurrence of base, body and rim sherds proved to correlate well with the same three sections of a restricted or unrestricted ceramic vessel. The body sherd category is the largest
(88%) while the amounts of base (2%) and rim (10%) sherds are
considerably smaller. It should be taken into account that only
sherds established with certainty to belong to the base or rim
sections of a vessel were classified as such. In unclear cases, the
sherds were noted as body sherds and as a result the size of this
category may be slightly exaggerated. Nevertheless, the sherd
shape statistics indicate that all of the three major pot-, jar- or
bowl sections are represented as would be expected from an even
distribution in the material.
The rim sherds were further classified according to a rim category guide (see figure 28), where only six of 31 matched categories counted more than 20 sherds. The two most common of
these were type Q (93 pcs) and type V (82 pcs). Most of these
sherds originated from vessels with thin, fine sand tempered
ware. This was also the case with sherds of type X (48 pcs) and
Y (42 pcs). Type L (56 pcs) on the other hand, was represented
by sherds with varying characteristics: sand-, grog-1-, grog-2- and
organic tempers, with wares ranging from thin to fairly thick.
Sherds of rim type M (49 pcs) had the same range of tempers as
well as rice chaff, and the wares were generally thicker.
27. Git Sisongkham sorting sherds in February 2003.
¥ò© ¦ó¦ö¤£¾´ ¡¿ìñ¤Á®È¤¯½À²©À¦©Ä¹ À©õºÌ 2/ 2003.
93
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
28. Lao Pako rim types.
»ø®Á®®¢º¤Ä¹ À͉¾¯¾Â¡.
TEMPER
The Lao Pako ceramics have been described by the project conservator Marion
Ravenscroft as follows:
The greater majority of ceramics retrieved from the Lao Pako site may be described as ‘soft body’ ceramics and therefore, are quite fragile. The body or fabric of these ceramics tends to be very soft and quite friable which is typical of
low temperature, open firing techniques. A variety of different materials were used
to temper the fabric and depending upon the tempering material employed, some
ceramics are slightly more robust than others (Marion Ravenscroft in Källén et
al. 2002).
94
THE THINGS
All ceramics, sherds and complete vessels alike, have been divided into eight
different types of temper, solely based on an ocular field examination by Christian Vinterhav and myself. Samples from these type categories have been sent to
Sweden and Sri Lanka for microscope examination and thin section analysis, and
from those analyses I have established eight temper categories: fine sand, coarse
sand, laterite, rice chaff, organic, grog-1, grog-2 and none. Various mixes of these different temper categories are common in both the examined sherds and complete
vessels. For the sherd statistics a simple approach was taken, recording only what
appeared to be the dominating temper category in each sample’s specific blend,
whereas for the complete vessels, each blend has been described in detail, although only judged from an ocular field examination.
A thin section analysis performed by Dr Anders Lindahl and Pia Sköld at the
Ceramic Research Laboratory, Department of Quaternary Geology, Lund University, Sweden has provided more detailed information, in particular about tempers (see Appendix IV). First and foremost, it is clear that a range of different
tempers has been used in the ceramic production at Lao Pako. It can be described
as if different temper elements have been used alone or in combinations to temper the clay. According to Anders Lindahl’s examination of the thin sections, the
eight identified categories can be described as follows:
FINE SAND This ware is typically very thin and is,
among the complete vessels, used exclusively for small
pots. The clay has a low iron contents, and was either
tempered only with very fine sand, or more likely with
no temper at all, if the sand was a naturally occurring
element in the clay. The composition of the fine sand
tempered ware is so distinctive that it can be concluded
that the clay has a different origin than the other wares.
29. Temper: fine sand.
¡¾Ì°½¦ö´§¾¨ì½º¼©À»ñ©Ã¹ÉĹ´ó£¸¾´Á¢¤.
COARSE SAND The ware tempered with coarse sand
appears also to be made of a quite distinctive clay with
a high iron content. The granules of quartz and feldspar occur in a wide range of sizes, reaching from tiny
to larger in an even blend, indicating that they are a
natural component of the clay. This ware has often inclusions of laterite granules.
30. Temper: coarse sand.
¡¾Ì°½¦ö´§¾¨¹¨¾®.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
LATERITE
Laterite inclusions in the Lao Pako ceramics occur either as sparse inclusions of relatively large sized
granules or as sand-like tiny laterite g ranules. Anders
Lindahl suggests that laterite is likely to occur naturally in
the clay, and should therefore not be treated as a temper. I
will, however, include it as a temper category, because the
inclusion of laterite varies greatly between the different
wares, something which indicates intentionality, and I interpret these ceramics and their tempers more broadly than
from a strictly functional point of view.
31. Temper: laterite.
¡¾Ì°½¦ö´: Áìñ¡Àªó쾨.
RICE CHAFF
The wares tempered with rice chaff are
often crude and thick, with a high density of rice chaff. The
rice chaff occasionally contains whole charred grains of
rice. The chaff has, when fired, left cavities in the clay as it
shrunk when it became charred. This, which is clearly visible in the thin sections, gives a porous and light ware. Often
there appears to be more rice than clay in this wares, and
as they are often poorly fired, the result is a very fragile
crumbling ware. The wares tempers all appear to be made
of a clay of the same origin.
32. Temper: rice chaff.
¡¾Ì°½¦ö´: ¡ñ®¢šÁ¡®.
ORGANIC
The organic category differs in a basic ocular examination from the wares tempered with rice chaff.
It is not so crude and thick, and contains proportionally
more clay, resulting in a more robust ware. However, it
contains also rice chaff. There may also be other organic
materials included in this temper. The wares with rice chaff,
grog and organic tempers all appear to be made of a clay
of the same origin.
33. Temper: organic.
¡¾Ì°½¦ö´: ¡ñ®¦¾Ìºò̧ó.
96
THE THINGS
GROG-1
There are two types of wares that have been
tempered with grog Grog-1 appears to have a smooth texture with no great differentiations in colour. This temper
appears to originate from crushed fired clay of the same
kind as the rest of the ware, and occurs most often as a
temper alone. The wares with rice chaff, grog and organic
tempers all appear to be made of a clay of the same origin.
34. Temper: grog-1.
¡¾Ì°½¦ö´: ¡ñ®ÀÍö¾-¬1.
GROG-2 This second type of grog temper is more common on Lao Pako than the first, and is the most common
temper used in the larger complete vessels with appliqué
and incised decorations. The grog is visible in thin sectons
as inclusions of a paler material with a smooth and blurred
texture, indicating that the grog was made of a vitrified
kaolin clay.Inclusions of this crushed partly vitrified kaolin clay, often in combination with tiny charcoal and laterite
inclusions, result in a fairly robust and dramatic looking
white, black, and red ware. Occasionally grog-2 type wares
also contain rice chaff. The vitrified kaolin clay could be
obtained from crushed imported stoneware pottery, which
is highly unlikely in this case considering the complete absence of such materials on the site, or from the fine white
clay that is found in abundance around the iron production
area, which could very well have been partly vitrified in the
metal production process. I consider this latter explanation
to be the most likely. The wares tempered with rice chaff,
grog and organic tempers all appear to be made of a clay
of the same origin.
35. Temper: grog-2. ¡¾Ì°½¦ö´: ¡ñ®ÀÍö¾-¬2.
NONE
The wares with no temper at all are often difficult to differentiate from those with fine sand, and occur
only very rarely.
The organic and rice tempered wares have often got a thick black core, separated with clear margins from a thin whitish, reddish or brownish surface. Grog
tempered wares on the other hand, has a lighter tone (grey/brown) to its thinner core and the margins between surface and core are less clear. The difference
in ware colour between rice and grog tempered wares could either be explained
97
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
by reactions of mineral included in the two latter types of ware, or by different
firing procedures (Rye 1988:114ff; Orton et al. 1993:132ff). A majority of the fine
sand tempered ware is whitish, but there are examples of black, brown and red
coloured sherds as well. In general, these sherds have no darker core, but it should
be taken into account that this ware type is very thin, thus needing less firing in
order to get thoroughly burnt. Coarse sand tempered ware is thicker and often
reddish. There are two types of laterite temper in the Lao Pako material; one is
distinguished by sparse inclusions of relatively large sized granules and the other
type has a sand-like constitution of tiny laterite granules. The former is often
included in whitish or reddish, grog- or organic tempered ware and is clearly
visible on the interior and exterior surfaces. The latter, which is not so common,
gives a dark reddish/brownish ware with no visible core.
It might be worthwhile to notice that studies of contemporary pottery production in Laos and Northeast Thailand have shown that a mixture of clay and
rice chaff, shaped as balls that are fired and pulverized, works as a temper in
earthenware pottery (Cort & Lefferts 2000:64, see also figure 36a-c which are
from Ban Maaw near Khon Kaen in Northeast Thailand 2002). This is another
combination of the grog- and rice chaff elements that have been used as tempers in the Lao Pako ceramics, and considering that both use a so-called paddleand-anvil technique to shape the vessels there may also be further similarities
between these ancient and contemporary production technologies.
36a-c. Ban Maaw 2002. Photo courtesy of Andreas Karinen. ÎßâËÈæË 2002
98
THE THINGS
For Lao Pako, all except the latter of the eight temper categories were represented in all seven test pits and throughout all layers with the organic type being
most common (see figure 37). The amount of sherds tempered with grog-1 or
any of the two sand types (fine or coarse) was also notably large compared with
the complete vessels’ wares, where grog-2 temper is by far the most common.
Even though there is a great variation in the use of temper, only minor differences can be seen when comparing sherds within any one of the eight temper
types. This suggests that the variation is a result of great know-how and an established ceramic tradition rather than of experimentation in the manufacturing
process.
1200
1000
T46
800
T38
T37
600
T36
T35
T28
400
T27
200
ER
O
TH
N
E
N
O
G
RO
G
-2
IC
O
RG
A
N
RI
CE
LA
TE
RI
TE
G
RO
G
-1
SA
N
D
CO
A
RS
E
FI
N
E
SA
N
D
0
37. Temper distribution in potsherds from
the 2002 excavation.
ìñ¡¦½Ì½À¦©À±õº¤Ä¹ê†Á°È;¨¥¾¡¡¾Ì
¢÷©£í̯ó 2002.
COLOUR AND SLIP 6
The colour classification system is based on a division of the ware into five
different sections: interior slip, interior surface, core, exterior surface and exterior slip. In the sherd analysis of 2002, a generalizing code for information on
ware colour, slip presence and black core presence was applied: [colour] – [SL
or noSL] – [BC or noBC] 7. For the complete vessels recovered in the 2002 excavation (J101-J115), the colour of all five parts of the ware were additionally
documented following the Munsell Soil Color Chart (see the next chapter on Complete Vessels for details). Black coating or ‘fire clouding’ appears on many of the
sherds (see figure 38). This can be caused by differential access to air in the firing process (Rye 1988:119). Quite a few of the sherds, mostly tempered with
99
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
organic material, were entirely coloured black, possibly produced by a reductive firing process (ibid.). Since it turned out
during the course of analysis that the colour variation was so
great within one and the same unit – sherds and complete
vessels alike – so that the colour information was of no use
for any of our analyses, we did not proceed to record specific ware colours in detail after the 2002 excavation season.
A majority of the Lao Pako ceramics have slipped surfaces (see figure 39). Analysing the presence of slip in the
Lao Pako ceramic culture from the potsherd material was
complicated by that the slip is often restricted to limited sections of a complete vessel (see next chapter on Complete
38. Fire clouding on sherds from J107.
Vessels). Moreover, the wares have in many instances been deteriorated by the soil
À¦©À£ˆº¤¯ñÌ©òÌÀ°ö¾ê†®ì
Ò ½º¼©¥¾¡
climate and in our cleaning procedure, so that the surface is gone. The conserJ 107.
vator writes: ‘the red slip decoration is often quite fugitive in water creating problems during the washing process 8. The stability of red slip decoration appears to
be dependent upon the success of the firing’ (Marion Ravenscroft in Källén et
al. 2002). Bearing all this in mind, a 39% occurrence of slip on the analysed sherds
indicates that slipped ceramics was quite common at Lao Pako. The slip most
often appears in variations of red with a few exceptions in yellow and brown
colour. A red slip could be obtained using iron ore from laterite found in abun39. Red slip on white ware (J215).
dance in this area, and which could be used as a ferriferous base for red slip. The
¢ñ©ÀÍûõº´: ¢ñ©¦óÁ©¤¯öÌ¢¾¸ (J215).
slip has apparently been applied prior to firing, which is evident from line- and
zigzag decorations having been incised after the application of slip (see figure
40). On the characteristic screw head appliqué jars, red slip has been applied onto
the exterior upper body, which has further been decorated with incised- and
appliqué decorations, and also to the interior surface of the rim and neck, down
to the shoulder (see figure 41), with the interior body and base unslipped, but
often with dripping traces. We will return to the issue of slipped interior surfaces
in the following chapters.
Some ware categories were noted to have a higher frequency of slipped surfaces; grog-2, grog-1- and organic tempered wares in particular, but also wares
tempered with rice chaff. The latter exclusively with slip on its exterior surfaces.
No sand tempered wares with slip were found in the sherd material. Of three
general methods of applying slip to a surface: dipping, pouring and wiping (Rye
1988:41f), wiping is the most probable method used for the Lao Pako ceramics.
40. Red slip with incisions on neck
This is indicated by the uneven edges of the slipped areas and the absence of
exterior (J105).
dripping on unslipped exterior surfaces.
¢ñ©¦½Á©¤Ä´É»º®À§õº¡µøê
È £
† ²
ð ¾®
̺¡ÏÓ (J105).
100
THE THINGS
DECORATION
Decorated sherds and vessels have been classified into twelve categories, based
on the documentation and find material from the 1995 Lao Pako excavation
(Källén & Karlström 1999:15ff) which was slightly revised after the 2002 excavation. The twelve identified categories are: appliqué, striped, zigzag, appliqué-stripedzigzag , painted, cordmarked, incised, dots, ridge, combed, ridge-chequered-combed and finally other.
Perhaps the most distinctive of these, not as frequent in the sherd material
as on the complete jars, is the appliqué (see figure 42). The uniform style of this
decoration on many of the large complete jars typically consists of two bands
of appliqué around the shoulder of the jar. Attached to the lower of the bands
are two or four small knobs that resemble screw heads and which are symmetrically placed around the jar. In almost all cases, the bands as well as the screw head
knobs are combed and appear with a combination of striped and zigzagged incisions on a red-slipped surface. On the lower body of these appliqué jars appear in some cases a painted red-on-buff decoration. This is almost exclusively
on vessels with well-preserved wares, whereas vessels with deteriorated wares
often have only the appliqué decoration. Thus this difference might be due to
different reactions to the soil climate, which in some cases have dissolved the
ware surface. There are four known varieties of this typical screw head appliqué,
where type A is the most common and the rest
occur more rarely.
41. Red slip on neck interior (J104).
¢ñ©¦óÁ©¤µøê
È £
† ²
𠾨̺¡¢º¤ÏÓ
(J104).
Type A has two high-relief bands of appliqué
around the shoulder of the jar, two marked screw
heads and the bands ending in rounded upward
curls. In one recorded example, the bands instead
end in downward curls.
Type B has one band of appliqué around the shoulder, flatter than Type A, and two screw heads, considerably smaller than Type A. The curls are extended, similar to Type C, and end where the curl
meets the band around the shoulder of the jar.
Type C is similar to Type A, with two high-relief appliqué bands, but instead has four
smaller screw heads and extended curls whose ends meet in an ongoing pattern around
the upper body of the jar.
Type D is almost identical to Type A, with two appliqué bands and two screw
heads with rounded upward curls, but the combing of the appliqué bands is quite
different and performed from two angles, resulting in ridge-like bands.
42. Screwhead appliqué, clockwise:
type A, B, C and D.
¡¾Ì¯½©×®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤©É¸¨¡¾ÌÎó®
¡ö¸Ìº©, ê†Î÷Ìįª¾´À¢ñ´êò©
Á®® A, B, C Áì½ D.
101
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44. Striped decoration (J108).
¡¾Ì¯½¦ö´ªö¡ªÈ¾¤©É¸¨
쾨Ìò¸´õ.
45. Appliqué – striped – zigzag
(J214).
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤©É¸¨¡¾Ìªò©
»ø®Ìš¸´õÁ®®§ò¡Á§¡ (J214).
46. Painted decoration (J1).
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤©É¸¨¡¾Ì
꿦ó (J1).
43a-c. Three variations of zigzag.
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤ ꆴó 3 »ø®Á®®
¢º¤ §ò¡Á§¡.
47. Cordmarked decoration.
¡¾Ì¯½¦ö´ªö¡ªÈ¾¤©É¸¨ì¾¨¢º®
À§õº¡.
102
In the analysed sherds as well as on some complete vessels, the three different decorative elements that often accompany the appliqué: stripes, zigzag and
painted decorations occur alone (see figures 43-46). There are also some examples of complete jars (e.g. J214) with combed designs in combination with an
appliqué-striped-zigzag and painted decoration.
By far the most common decoration type in the sherd material is the cordmarked (see figure 47). The cordmarked wares are in general tempered with sand
or rice chaff. The marks vary greatly from clear to smudged, and from fine cords
to coarse. With only a few exceptions the cordmarks on the analysed sherds have
a horizontal orientation, whereas there are also vertical, diagonal and patch-like
cordmarks present on the complete vessels. It can be argued that this type of
decoration has functional purposes; such as improving the surface grip or stabilising the structure of the vessel. A majority of the rice chaff tempered ceramics in the Lao Pako find material is cordmarked and in this case the purpose could
quite possibly have been to improve the durability of the vessel. On the other
hand, examples of jars and pots of the same material, with cordmarks exclusively
on the shoulders indicate a strictly aesthetical value.
THE THINGS
Other more rarely occurring decoration types found exclusively on one or a
few sherds are chequered incisions or combed marks in combination with ridges,
incised geometrical patterns and stamped dots and diamond shapes (see figures
48-51). Of these, the examples of incised geometrical designs found on a few
analysed sherds, stand out among the rest. It is uncertain whether or not these
have originally belonged to ceramic vessels or if they belong to another kind of
ceramic object. These incised designs are quite powerful, and only appear on three
different sherds in the total material.
48. Decoration: dots.
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤©É¸¨: ¥Ý©Å.
51. Stamped diamond shape.
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤©É¸¨¯½©ñ®©É¸¨»ø®Á®®
Á¹¸ÌÀ²ñ©.
49a-c. Three variations of incisions.
50a-b. Ridge and chequered decoration.
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤©É¸¨¦¾´»ø®Á®®¢º¤»º®À§õº¡.
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤©É¸¨À¦˜ÌÌøÌê†À¯ñÌ쾨¦ñ®¦öÌ.
Prehistoric ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia were often produced by what
has been called the paddle-and-anvil technique, which is also widely used for production of earthenware pottery in parts of Northeast Thailand and Laos today.
Leedom Lefferts and Louise Cort, who have studied contemporary earthenware
technology in this particular area have pointed out that the term paddle-and-anvil
is a simplification, and that there is no single or universal ‘paddle-and-anvil’
technique that defines earthenware production all over this vast area (Lefferts
& Cort 2000:204). Basically, the paddle-and-anvil method can be described as
beginning with a ‘pre-for m’, which is further shaped by adding more clay or
moulding it into a rough vessel shape, which is expanded and shaped into final
shape by beating with a paddle on the exterior surface while the vessel is moved
around a mushroom shaped clay anvil on the inside. However, Lefferts and Cort’s
investigations convincingly demonstrate that there is a great variation in the
paddle-and-anvil work processes studied, from acquiring raw materials, to shaping
the pre-form, the final shaping of the vessel, drying and finally firing the ceramics
103
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(Lefferts & Cort 2000). The analysis of the Lao Pako ceramics
does not reveal any details concerning the exact techniques used
to produce the different vessels. Nevertheless, the shapes of the
largest jars, here described by Marion Ravenscroft, strongly indicate that they have been produced with some paddle-and-anvil
method:
The ceramics of Lao Pako do vary in style somewhat however,
perhaps the most typical example of the Lao Pako vernacular is
that of Jar 17 excavated during the 1995/96 season. Including
its rim, Jar 17 is estimated to be approximately 600 mm in height
with an extremely rounded form and a heavy, fluted rim. The fabric of the ceramic at its greatest circumference is only 2.5 mm –
3.5 mm thick. Thus it is fair to say the body of many of these
ceramics is extremely thin and fragile in proportion to their size
and also in proportion to their heavy rims (in Källén et al. 2002).
52. Ban Maaw 2002. Photo courtesy
of Andreas Karinen.
ÎßâËÈæË 2002.
53. On-site pottery reconstruction.
¢É¾¤Î‡¤¢º¤ÏÓêÄ
† ©Éª£
Ò õÌÃÏÈ.
104
The thin but surprisingly strong walls of the largest appliqué
vessels, is a clear indication that they have been produced with a
paddle-and-anvil method, which produces thin but strong large
vessels as the ware is compacted when it is beaten into shape (Mourer 1984:32).
For the Lao Pako ceramics, it often also appears as if the base, body, and neck
parts of the vessels have been joined together rather than been shaped from one
single preform, since the vessels have a tendency to crack in horizontal ruptures
along both the junction between base and body, and at the shoulder. However,
at present it is impossible to go into any further detail on the manufacturing of
these ceramics.
COMPLETE VESSELS
In the course of the 1995-2003 excavations at Lao Pako, a total of 76 complete
ceramic vessels have been recovered and reconstructed. Initially, in the 1995
excavation, we had no prior knowledge of the site and what find material we were
to expect. When it was realized how much ceramics, or rather, the number and
state of complete vessels we were dealing with, conservator Marion Ravenscroft,
at the time positioned at the Laos National Museum in Vientiane as part of an
AVA (Australian Volunteers Abroad) program, was tied to the project. Since then,
Marion Ravenscroft has been involved in all excavations and has been in charge
of conservation, reconstruction and display of the Lao Pako artefacts at the Laos
National Museum. The focus on ceramics, and particularly on complete ceramic
vessels that you see in this book, is something which has developed within the
THE THINGS
project through time since the first excavation in 1995, along with our growing
sense of its great variation and interpretive potentials. The results that are presented here must thus be read keeping in mind that the vessels from the first
excavation lack in detailed contextual information compared with those from the
2002 and 2003 excavations. The vessels from the two latter excavations (J101J115 and J202-J223) have been recorded, cleaned and reconstructed in connection with the excavation, while those from the 1995 excavation (J1-J53) were only
partly recorded at the time of excavation, and were not cleaned and reconstructed
until 2003, after having been handled and moved around in pieces during the
course of seven years at the National Museum in Vientiane. Thus there is a considerable difference as to level of detail, in particular regarding contextual information, between these two groups of vessels. Nevertheless, we made the
decision to record and reconstruct every discrete vessel as far as possible, and
they will be presented here one by one, before we move on to analyse the Lao
Pako ceramic tradition as a whole.
J1
x = -29,30
y = -11,00
z = 99,91 - 99,59
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué(A)-striped-zz-painted
Rim type: BB
J1 is a large jar with a rounded body, tall everted
neck and heavy rim. The base is missing. The
vessel is decorated with screw head appliqué,
and incised lines and zigzag in a red slip on the
upper body. There are also clear traces of a
painted red decoration. The ware colour ranges
from red to buff, and it is grog 2- tempered with
laterite inclusions.
The jar was placed upside down, covering J17
mouth-to-mouth. Parts of the jar was exposed
prior to excavation, which is probably why the
base was missing.
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J2
x = -16,10
y = -32,72
z = 99,59 - 98,98
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: HH
J2 is the largest vessel found at Lao Pako, with
a tall flared neck and heavy rim. The body and
base ar e covered by horizontal cr ude
cordmarks, although most is worn off. The ware
is rice tempered, brittle with a buff coloured
surface and a thick black core. It is very thick
at the neck and base, with a marked angle between the thick neck and the thinner body section. Total reconstruction was not possible
When excavated, J2 contained J15, J28, J31 and
J25 (possibly a bowl, disappeared from storage).
Reconstruction showed that J15 was the neck
section of J2, which had fallen into the jar leaving the rim hanging on the shoulder. Excavation
drawings reconfirm that relation.
J3
x = -34,45
y = -12,90
z = 100,05 - 99,93
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 1
Decoration: incised
Rim type: H
J3 is a wide-bodied jar with a for the Lao Pako
pottery unusual shape, ware and decoration. An
incised decoration around the neck have more
rounded ‘peaks’ than the ordinary sharp zigzag
incisions. The ware is reddish and grog tempered without slip, and is heavier than that of
other vessels. The whole feeling of the jar in106
THE THINGS
dicates that it is part of a different ceramic tradition.
Only parts of the jar were found and reconstructed, most of the base but only a small part
of the rim. It was found high up in the layers
with no contextual relations to other jars or
finds.
J4
x = -19,55
y = -12,33
z = 100,00 - 99,90
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: incised
Rim type: Ö
J4 is a large pot of good quality ware. It has a
rounded wide body and a tall flared neck. The
ware is red and tempered with grog 2. The
entire surface is covered in dark red slip, and
the neck is decorated with impressionistic irregular line- and multiple zigzag incisions. Only
parts of the vessel were recovered for reconstruction.
The pot was found together with J7 and J18
(not excavated), on top of J7.
J5
x = -20,55
y = -13,70
z = 99,80 - 99,40
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: appliqué(B)-striped-zz
Rim type: cut?
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J5 is the neck and upper part of a wide-bodied
vessel of a good quality ware. The rim appears
to have been cut off. The surface is covered in
a red slip and it had a one-band appliqué with
a ‘knot’ where there is usually a screw head, and
an incised decoration with parallel lines and
multiple zigzag. It is similar to the typical Lao
Pako appliqué jar, but still different in the morphology of its only band, the curls and the knot.
The ware is red and grog-2 tempered. Original
drawing by Marion Ravenscroft.
Found alone but close to other pottery depositions.
J6
x = -21,15
y = -13,60
z = 99,70 - 99,35
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: appliqué(B)-str-zz-painted
Rim type: HH
J6 is a rounded medium sized jar, with straight
neck, flat bottom and a well preserved surface.
The ware is buff coloured and grog 2 tempered.
The upper body is covered in red slip and is
decorated with a one-band appliqué with a small
screw head and large curls. Under the appliqué
there is an incised decoration of parallel lines
and a large multiple zigzag. and incised decorations. There are also painted decorations, which
are only partly visible on the lower body. All
decorations as well as the shape are different
from the majority of the Lao Pako jars. Original drawing by Marion Ravenscroft.
Found on top of J34, with its rim down, covering the other vessel.
108
THE THINGS
J8
x = -20,20
y = -13,25
z = 99,76 - 99,43
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: LL
J8 is a thin-walled small jar with a thick rounded
base and straight neck and rim. The ware is rice
tempered with a pale buff coloured surface and
black core. It has a fine cordmarked decoration
from the shoulder down the body and base.
Four rows of cordmarks closest to the neck are
horizontal, the rest vertical. Only the base and
neck-and rim sections could be partly reconstructed, thus the drawing is a rough sketch.
Found with J10 inside.
J9
x = -20,30
y = -12,60
z = 99,66 - 99,42
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (A)
Rim type: H
J9 is a large rounded jar with an angular rim on
an everted flared neck. The ware is buff coloured and tempered with grog 2 and laterite.
The surface is very worn but traces of red slip
on the interior surface of the rim and neck indicates that J9 was originally a typical appliqué
jar with red slipped upper body and incised
decorations. Only parts of the vessel remain,
and a complete reconstruction was not possible.
Original drawing by Marion Ravenscroft.
The jar was found in a messy deposition with
109
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three other vessels: J19, J20 and J22. The exact
relations between these jars are unclear. At the
time of reconstruction, the three vessels were all
mixed up, and were randomly numbered.
J10
x = -20,45
y = -13,35
z = 99,70 - 99,65
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: coarse sand
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: KK
J10 is a small delicate pot where only the rim and
neck section remains. It has a whitish hard and
light ware, tempered with coarse sand. A beautiful and sharp cordmarked decoration covers
the shoulder and upper body. Four rows of
cordmarks closest to the neck are horizontal, the
rest vertical. The neck was originally covered in
red slip, almost all of which is worn off. Only
the rim and neck section was reconstructed.
The pot was found inside J8.
J11
x = -29,90
y = -11,60
z = 100,05 - 99,62
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: appliqué (A) -striped-zz
Rim type: BB
J11 is a large rounded jar of deteriorated buffcoloured and grog 2 tempered ware. Originally
it had a dark red slip, which now remains only
as flakes on the interior surface of the neck. The
upper body is decorated with two parallel bands
of appliqué, two screw heads, parallel incised
110
THE THINGS
lines and zigzag. In the storage there was no
base to match the reconstructed rim and neck.
Possibly it has dissapeared prior to excavation,
since it may have been exposed similarly to J1.
Original drawing by Marion Ravenscroft.
Found on top of J23, covering it mouth-tomouth.
J12
x = -28,57
y = -10,69
z = 100,01 - 99,65
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: incised
Rim type: FF
J12 is a small but tall jar. It has a rounded body
and flattened base, and a short everted neck, a
rather unusual shape for the Lao Pako pottery.
The grog 2 tempered ware is pale buff coloured
on the surface and has a black core. There is a
red slip on the upper body, as well as on the
interior surface of the neck. In the slip there are
three bands of parallel incised lines parted by
two rows of zigzag.
The jar was found with the mouth down on top
of the collapsed J14.
J13
x = -19,40
y = -13,25
z = 99,90 - 99,60
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (B?)
Rim type: -
111
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J13 is the lower part of a large jar, with a
rounded body and a dimple base. The ware is
buff coloured, and tempered with grog 2 and
lots of laterite generating red dots all over the
surface. Only parts of the decoration remain: a
combed appliqué decoration (type B?) with long
curls. Neither neck nor rim were recovered.
Original drawing by Marion Ravenscroft.
J13 was found in the trench wall. It is not certain how much was originally excavated.
J14
x = -28,62
y = -10,70
z = 99,77 - 99,67
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: organic
Decoration: incised
Rim type: L
J14 is a large jar with rounded body, slightly flattened base and narrow neck. The ware is pale
buff with a black core and organic temper. The
entire exterior surface is covered in red slip and
has incised lines and one row of zigzag around
the neck. The base section was originally documented as J14, and the neck and rim as J30.
Original drawing by Kanda Keosopha.
J14 (including J30) constituted the bottom of a
group of jars placed in a pyramid formation.
112
THE THINGS
J17
x = -29,30
y = -11,00
z = 99,65 - 99,10
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: organic and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (A)
Rim type: BB
J17 is a tall rounded jar, with a central hole in
its flattened base. It has an organic- and laterite
tempered ware, buff coloured with a worn surface. It is decorated with a two-band appliqué
including two screw heads and slightly irrecular
curls. The red slip remaining on the interior
surface of the rim and neck indicates that J17
was originally a typical appliqué jar with red
slipped upper body and incised decorations.
It was found as the main jar with its base down,
with J1 on top covering the opening.
J19
x = -20,20
y = -12,30
z = 99,64 - 99,35
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and organic
Decoration: appliqué (A)
Rim type: HH
J19 is a tall and thin-bodied jar in a poor state
of preservation. The flattened base has a central hole, chamfered towards the interior. The
ware has a grog 2- and organic temper, a black
core and originally a whitish-buff surface that
is entirely worn off. A very worn and comparatively small screw head appliqué decoration was
partly recovered. Original drawing by Marion
Ravenscroft.
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Found in a messy deposition with three other
jars: J9, J20 and J22. The exact relations between
these jars are unclear. At the time of reconstruction the three vessels were all mixed up,
and were randomly numbered.
J20
x = -20,20
y = -12,30
z = 99,70 - 99,30
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: none
Rim type: BB
J20 is a large jar with a wide flared heavy rim.
The base is flat and has a central hole, 15 mm
in diameter.The ware is buff coloured and tempered with grog 2 and laterite. No decoration
could be distinguished. Only the rim, part of
the neck and the base were recovered, and no
complete reconstruction was possible.
Found in a messy deposition with three other
large jars: J9, J19 and J22. The exact relations
between these jars are unclear. At the time of
reconstruction, the three vessels were all mixed
up, and were randomly numbered.
J22
x = -20,20
y = -12,30
z = 99,70 - 99,30
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: striped-painted
Rim type: J22 is a jar of unusual shape with a very narrow
orifice, rounded body and flat base. No rim was
recovered. It has a grog 2- and laterite tempered
114
THE THINGS
ware, buff coloured with a red slip covering the
upper body. Under an incised decoration with
two areas of parallel lines, there is a clear but
partly deteriorated painted decoration in red on
buff.
Found in a messy deposition with three other
large jars: J9, J19 and J20. The exact relations
between these jars are unclear. At the time of
reconstruction, the four vessels were all mixed
up, and were randomly numbered.
J23
x = -29,32
y = -11,60
z = 99,70 - 99,20
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (A)
Rim type: J23 is a large rounded jar with a thin flat and
slightly dimple base. The ware is pale buff and
tempered with grog 2 and laterite. It has a twoband appliqué decoration with two screw heads
and traces of red slip. The surface is very worn
but traces of red slip indicates that J23 was
originally a typical appliqué jar with red slipped
upper body and incised decorations. No rim was
recovered. Original drawing by Marion
Ravenscroft.
It was placed bottom down, containing J42, J43
and covered mouth-to-mouth by J11.
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J26
x = -28,50
y = -10,70
z = 100,08 - 100,01
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: organic or grog
Decoration: painted
Rim type: T
J26 is a small rounded pot, buff-coloured of an
organic or grog tempered ware. A painted
decoration in red can barely be seen, but consists of bands forming an intricate pattern of
partly overlapping large zigzag around the body
of the jar. The entire pot was reconstructed.
It constituted the top of a pyramid formation
with J14 and J12 underneath.
J28
x = -16,20
y = -32,65
z = 99,57 - 99,15
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: none
Rim type: FF
J28 is a tall large jar of a good quality well-fired
ware. The shape of the vessel is almost tubular,
only slightly rounded restricting it, and with a
flattened base. The ware is red and grog 2-tempered. A red slip has originally covered the entire exterior surface. No other decorations were
distinguished. Original drawing by Kanda
Keosopha.
Found in good shape inside J2.
116
THE THINGS
J29
x = -30,02
y = -10,32
z = 99,91 - 99,85
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: organic and laterite
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: V
J29 is a small rounded pot of a heavy and relatively thick ware. The ware is grey-brown in
colour with organic and laterite temper. The pot
is decorated with horizontal cordmarks from
the shoulder down. At the rounded base, the
cordmarks are more ‘patched’.
Found alone in a deposition high up in the layers.
J31
x = -32,47
y = -16,17
z = 99,43 - 99,32
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: V
J31 is a small rounded pot of a rather thick
ware. The ware is pale buff or almost white in
colour and tempered with fine sand. It has a
decoration of horizontal cordmarks from the
shoulder down covering body and base. The
straight neck and rim has an unusual distinct
shape.
Found at the shoulder of J2.
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J35
x = -31,15
y = -14,35
z = 99,56 - 99,43
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: incised
Rim type: CC
J35 is a small and delicate pot, recovered in a
very fragmentary state. It is rounded with a thin
body section and rounded base. The ware is pale
buff or white and tempered with fine sand. The
decoration consists of two parallel incised lines
around the neck. Only the rim and neck section
could be reconstructed, body and base are
sketched.
Found in a deposition of four vessels of differing sizes: J35, J36, J37 and J39.
J36
x = -31,37
y = -14,40
z = 99,81 - 99,64
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: appliqué (A) -striped-zigzag
Rim type: EE
J36 is a small but tall jar. Only fragments were
preserved, thus the shape could only be vaguely
reconstructed to have been almost tubular and
slightly rounded with a small rim. The ware is
red and tempered with grog 2. The upper body
is covered in red slip, and is decorated with a
two-band appliqué, screw head(s) and curls of
an unusual shape (cf. J104, also comparatively
small and with similar curl shapes)
Found in a deposition of four vessels of differing sizes: J35, J36, J37 and J39.
118
THE THINGS
J37
x = -31,10
y = -14,50
z = 99,56 - 99,38
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: incised
Rim type: B
J37 is a small, thin and delicate pot. The shape
is rounded with thin body section and a slightly
flattened and thicker base. It has a demarcated
angular connection between the neck and the
shoulder. The ware is pale buff, possibly with a
slip in the same colour, and is tempered with
fine sand. It is decorated with an incised line
around the neck. Only parts of the vessel were
recovered.
Found in a deposition of a group of four vessels of differing sizes: J35, J36, J37 and J39.
J38
x = -31,50
y = -13,25
z = 99,55 - 99,45
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (D)
Rim type: BB
J38 is a large jar, partly of a good quality ware.
The ware is buff and tempered with grog 2 and
laterite. The decoration is an unusual form of
appliqué, only seen on this vessel. The appliqué
bands have been combed from two sides to
create a ridge. It has a screw head beneath which
there are two delicate curls separate from the
appliqué bands. There is also a worn off incised
decoration of lines and zigzag in red slip. Original drawing by Marion Ravenscroft.
119
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The rim, neck, base and the appliqué curls were
originally recorded as J38, whilst the rest of the
jar was called J49. In reconstruction it all turned
out to belong to the same jar and the original
deposition therefore contained three vessels:
J38, J47 and J48.
J39
x = -31,30
y = -14,40
z = 99,45 - 99,28
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: organic
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: L
J39 is a round wide jar with a thin upper body
and rounded base. The ware has a whitish surface with black core and organic temper. The
neck is undecorated, while body and base are
covered with a patched cordmarked decoration.
Only parts of the rim, upper body and base
could be reconstructed.
It was found in a deposition of four vessels of
differing sizes: J35, J36, J37 and J39.
J40
x = -32,20
y = -14,60
z = 99,55 - 99,48
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: J40 is a small, thin and very fragmentary pot.
The ware is pale buff and tempered with fine
sand. It has a very fine horizontal cordmarked
decoration from the shoulder and down over
the body. No rim or clear base sherds were re-
120
THE THINGS
covered, only the shoulder and tiny thin fragments of the body. Original drawing by Marion
Ravenscroft.
Found alone, far down below the cultural layers.
J42
x = -29,70
y = -11,55
z = 99,33 - 99,20
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: coarse sand
Decoration: striped
Rim type: Ö
J42 is a small jar with flattened angular shape.
It has an extended body and narrow orifice. The
ware is bright white, thin and brittle, and is tempered with coarse sand. The entire body was
originally covered in dark red slip, and there are
traces of incised lines around the neck. Original drawing by Marion Ravenscroft.
Found on the bottom of the large jar J23, together with J42. The vessels contained nothing
else.
J43
x = -29,70
y = -11,70
z = 99,40 - 99,28
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: incised
Rim type: Ö
J43 is a small rounded pot in a good state of
preservation. The ware is pale buff and grog 2
tempered, and the entire exterior surface is covered in red slip. It is decorated with parallel incised lines and zigzag around the neck. Almost
121
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the entire vessel could be fitted at reconstruction. Original drawing by Kanda Keosopha.
The pot was found on the bottom of the large
jar J23, together with J42. All were covered by
J11. The vessels contained nothing else.
J47
x = -31,30
y = -13,50
z = 99,50 - 99,35
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: sand-laterite
Decoration: incised
Rim type: Ö
J47 is a small thin jar with extended angular
body and slightly flattened base. The ware is
white and tempered with sand and laterite. The
upper- and mid rim sections are very thin, resembling eggshell. The entire outside surface
has originally been covered with dark red slip,
and was decorated with incised lines and zigzag
around the neck.
Found deposited together with J38 and J48, on
the side of J38 seeming to be stuck between the
group of larger jars and the pit wall.
J48
x = -31,60
y = -13,24
z = 99,35 - 99,00
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2-laterite
Decoration: appliqué (A)
Rim type: cut?
J48 is a large and tall jar, of a remarkably good
quality ware. It was tempered with grog 2 and
laterite. The rim appears to have been cut off.
122
THE THINGS
The dimple base has a central hole with a diameter of 12 mm. It is decorated with a distinct
two-band appliqué, with two screw heads and
a worn-off incised decoration of parallel lines
and probably also zigzag. Original drawing by
Marion Ravenscroft.
Found base down deposited together with J47
and J38.
J51
x = -21,10
y = -13,60
z = 99,45 - 99,40
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: incised
Rim type: L
J51 is a small rounded pot, of which only the
rim and parts of the upper body remains. The
rim is thick and heavy, with an angular connection to the rounded thin body. The ware is buff
coloured and tempered with fine sand. It has a
red slip on the shoulder and neck, which appears to have reacted with the ware and gone
‘bubbly’. It is decorated with one incised line
around the base of the neck. Original drawing
by Marion Ravenscroft.
The pot was found during reconstruction, and
was apparently originally deposited inside J34.
J52
x = -19,30
y = -12,95
z = 99,55 - 99,55
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: none
Rim type: L
123
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J52 is a small rounded pot with a slightly flattened base, thin body and flared rim, with a
marked angle between the neck and shoulder.
The ware is buff coloured and tempered with
fine sand. It has no decorations and no slip, but
there is a black slip-like residue on the base
exterior surface.
Excavation documentation is lacking, but according to the bag coordinates it was found
alone.
J53
x = -19,82
y = -13,65
z = 100,01 - 100,01
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: organic
Decoration: none
Rim type: GG
J53 is a bowl with a slightly flattened base. The
ware is red with organic temper. The upper surface is covered in red slip. Most of the bowl has
been recovered.
It was found alone, but close to several other
groups of vessels. The bowl was originally registered as F64.
J101
x = -74,43
y = -42,64
z = 99,60 - 99,51
Shape: unrestricted (plate)
Temper: organic and laterite
Decoration: none
Rim type: EE
Colour1: 5/6:10R| 8/3:5YR| NG/: 2,5Y| 7/4:7,5YR |—
124
THE THINGS
J101 is a wide plate with complete rim, but
where most of the centre is missing. The ware
is pale buff or whitish, and tempered with an
organic temper. The upper surface and the rim
is entirely covered by a thick layer of red slip,
while the outside surface is unslipped. Drawing
by Christian Vinterhav.
The plate was placed upside down, together
with J102, as a lid on J104 which contained an
infant burial. The central part of the plate as
well as parts of the bowl J102 and the rim of
J104 were lost in an identified accidental disturbance from recent construction work at the resort.
J102
x = -74,43
y = -42,64
z = 99,60 - 99,51
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: none
Rim type: GG
Colour: 4/6:10R| 8/3:5YR| 6/2:10YR| 7/6:5YR| 4/
6:10YR
J102 is a small earthenware bowl, found upside
down on top of J101 covering J104. Only two
thirds of the rim section remain. The ware is
pale buff or white and grog 2 tempered. The inand exterior surfaces are both covered in red
slip, although worn on the exterior. Drawing by
Christian Vinterhav.
The bowl was placed on top of the plate J101,
as a lid on J104 which contained an infant
burial. Parts of the bowl, the plate J102 and the
rim of J104 were lost in an identified accidental disturbance from recent construction work
at the resort. Small pieces of laterite were found
in the top level of the bowl, just to the north,
and J103 was attached to its rim on the south
side.
125
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J103
x = -74,50
y = -42,88
z = 99,57 - 99,51
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: none
Rim type: L
Colour : ——| 8/4:7,5YR| 8/4:7,5YR|
8/4:2,5YR| ——J103 is a small and thin pot with a smooth
rounded shape and slightly flattened base. The
ware is pale buff or whitish and undecorated.
It was tempered with fine sand. The exterior
surface of the base is covered by a thick black
layer resembling soot. Drawing by Christian
Vinterhav.
The pot was deposited on the south side of
J102, on top of the deposition with J104 containing an infant burial. It seems to have been
put leaning against the pit wall.
J104
x = -74,40
y = -42,62
z = 99,60 - 99,34
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: appliqué (A) -striped-zigzag
Rim type: H
Colour: 4/6:7,5R| 7/6:5YR| NG:7,5YR|
7/6:5YR| 4/6:7,5R
J104 is a rather small and delicate appliqué jar
with a rounded body, tall neck and flattened
thick base. The ware is pale buff and grog 2
tempered. The upper body was originally covered in red slip. The jar is decorated with two
bands of appliqué and two small screw heads
with extended and assymetrical curls. Above
126
THE THINGS
and below the appliqué bands are five groups of
incised parallel stripes and zigzag, barely visible
on the worn surface.
This jar was the central vessel containg an infant burial, deposited together with J101, J102
and J103. Parts of the rim and neck was destroyed in an identified accidental disturbance
from recent construction work at the resort.
J105
x = -61,56
y = -51,60
z = 100,01 - 99,64
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (A) -striped-zigzag
Rim type: H
Colour : 4/6:10R| 7/8:5YR| 6/1:5YR|
7/6:5YR| 4/6:10R
J105 is a large and tall jar with a rounded body,
flat base, tall neck and heavy rim. The ware is
pale buff- and tempered with grog 2 and
laterite. The surface is well preserved and covered in dark red slip on the upper body of the
exterior surface, and the entire interior surface.
It is decorated with two bands of appliqué, two
screw heads (of which only one was recovered)
with stretched curls. Above and under the
appliqué bands are parallel incised lines in six
groups of eleven lines, and large double or triple zigzag incisions.
Found bottom up, covering J106 mouth-tomouth. Only parts of the body were recovered.
127
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J106
x = -61,64
y = -51,58
z = 99,74 - 99,19
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: appliqué (C) – striped-zigzag
Rim type: M
Colour : 4/6:10R| 6/6:5YR| 4/2:5Y| 7/
4:7,5YR| 4/6:10R
J106 is a barrel shaped, only barely restricted jar
with an everted heavy rim. The ware is buff, soft
and porous, and tempered with grog 2. It is
decorated with appliqué (type C), four screw
heads and with the curled ends of appliqué
streched to meet the next in an continuous pattern around the shoulder of the jar. The upper
body is covered in red slip with incised zigzag
and line decoration. It has a 15 cm wide band
of what appears to be soot on the outside surface approximately 2/3 up on the body. Drawing by Christian Vinterhav.
Found bottom down with another incomplete
vessel (J112) inside, and covered mouth-tomouth with J115 placed bottom up.
J107
x = -61,87
y = -51,10
z = 99,72 - 99,51
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: -/Q
Colour: —| N2,5:7,5YR| N2,5:7,5YR| 6/
6:5YR| 4/4:2,5YR
J107 is a rounded jar with a thick rounded base,
128
THE THINGS
found in a fragmentary state. Possibly it originally had a rim that is now worn off, or else the
rim is of type Q. The ware is soft and porous,
black with a red slipped reddish surface and is
tempered with rice chaff. The entire exterior
surface is covered with horizontal cordmarks,
and on some parts there appears also to be a
painted red decoration, which is difficult to distinguish from the red slip. There are also clear
production marks. Drawing by Christian
Vinterhav.
The jar was placed alone and contained an infant burial.
J108
x = -61,28
y = -51,63
z = 99,51 - 99,30
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: grog 2 and organic
Decoration: incised
Rim type: CC
Colour: 4/4:YR| 7/3:10YR| N3/:2,5Y| 5/
4:7,5YR| 4/8:7,5R
J108 is a delicate bowl with a foot ring and
everted rim. The ware ranges in colour from
pale buff to brown, is quite soft and tempered
with grog 2 and organic material. A thick red
slip covers both interior and exterior surfaces,
and the exterior is decorated with groups of
vertical parallel lines. Drawing by Christian
Vinterhav.
Only parts of the vessel were recovered, and
they were stuck on the body of Jx8, together
with J115.
129
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J109
x = -71,48
y = -59,80
z = 99,31 - 98,83
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: M
Colour : ——| N2,5:7,5YR| N2,5:7,5YR|
6/6:5YR| 4/4:2,5YR
J109 is a large globular jar with rounded base
and everted neck and rim. The ware has a black
core and a reddish surface, and is tempered with
rice chaff. Compared with other wares tempered
with rice chaff, this is of exceptionally good
quality. The body is decorated with fine horizontal cordmarks from the shoulder down. Drawing by Christian Vinterhav.
The jar was placed in a pit together with the
similar jar Jx4, both with the base down, and
with a spade-like iron- or slag object (F57) at the
rim level of J109.
J110
x = -71,20
y = -59,12
z = 99,20 - 98,80
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: M
Colour:
——| N2/7,5R|
7/4:7,5YR| 6/6:5YR
N2/7,5R|
J110 is a wide bodied jar of poor quality ware
with significant loss and surface deterioration.
It appears to have been similar in size and shape
to J111, but could not be reconstructed due to
the soft ware quality. The ware has a black core
and dark buff or orange surface, and is tem-
130
THE THINGS
pered with rice chaff. It has horiz ontal
cordmarks from the shoulder down. An orange
slip is still partly covering the exterior of the
rim and neck, but may originally have covered
the entire exterior surface. Drawing by Christian Vinterhav.
Placed bottom up, mouth-to-mouth with and
on top of J111. The fragmentary state make it
difficult to establish the exact relation. Probably
the jars Jx1, Jx2, Jx3 were also deposited in the
same pit, on top of the two larger. All vessels
appear to be empty.
J111
x = -71,28
y = -59,25
z = 99,02 - 98,66
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: C
Colour: ——| N2/:7,5YR|N2/:7,5YR|N2/
:7,5YR| 6/2:7,5YR
J111 is a large jar with a rounded body, a thick
and almost pointed base, and a straight slightly
everted neck and rim. The ware is black and
porous, tempered with rice chaff, and a thick
brown slip is covering the entire exterior surface. It has horizontal cordmarks on the upper
body and possibly the lower body. The body
and base was fragmentary, while the rim and
neck was better preserved. Drawing by Christian Vinterhav.
Placed bottom down and covered mouth-tomouth by of J110. The fragmentary state makes
it difficult to establish their exact relations.
Probably the jars Jx1, Jx2, Jx3 were also deposited in the same pit, on top of the two larger.
All vessels appear to be empty.
131
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J112
x = -61,70
y = -51,60
z = 99,49 - 99,35
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: none
Rim type: Ä
Colour : 5/6:10R| 6/8:2,5YR| 5/1:5Y|
6/8:2,5YR| 5/6:10R
J112 is a simple bowl of which only parts were
recovered, only in two pieces. The ware is of
good quality, red and well fired, and tempered
with grog 2 and laterite. A red slip originally
covered both interior and exterior surfaces, but
is now very worn on the exterior. Drawing by
Christian Vinterhav.
Found inside J106, in the center and approximately 15 cm above the bottom of the larger jar.
J113
x = -67,10
y = -64,00
z = 99,11 - 99,03
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: cordmarked
Rim type: Å
Colour:
——| 4/1:5YR| 4/2:10YR|
6/6:5YR| 6/6:5YR
J113 is a pot with a round extended body,
slightly flattened base and everted neck and rim.
It was recovered in a very fragmentary state.
The ware is thin and brittle, grey or brownish
in colour and tempered with fine sand. There
are traces of a red or orange slip on the lower
body, which may originally have covered the
entire exterior surface. It has a field of fine
cordmarks, patch-like with alternating directions, on the upper body just below the shoul132
THE THINGS
der. Soot covers large parts of its interior, and
smaller patches on the exterior. Drawing by
Christian Vinterhav.
Found alone, and could either have been interred against the wall of the same pit as J114,
Jx5 and Jx6, or alone in a very shallow pit.
J114
x = -67,56
y = -64,00
z = 98,97 - 98,80
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: none
Rim type: M
Colour: 5/6:10R| 7/4:7,5YR| N3:7,5YR| 6/
4:7,5YR| 4/8:7,5R
J114 is a simple bowl with a flattened base,
found in one piece. The ware is pale buff on the
exterior and black on the interior surface, which
is also slightly deteriorated. It is probably tempered with grog 2. All surfaces are covered in
red slip. Drawing by Christian Vinterhav.
Was probably interred leaning against the wall
of the same pit as Jx5 and Jx6.
J115
x = -61,30
y = -51,64
z = 99,51 - 99,30
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: none
Rim type: L
Colour: 5/4:2,5YR| 6/4:7,5YR| N2:7,5R| 7/
4:7,5YR| 5/6:2,5YR
J115 is a pot of an unusual shape for the Lao
Pako ceramics. It has a foot-ring, extended body
133
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
and a narrow orifice. The ware is quite brittle
and ranges in colour from pale buff to almost
black with a black core, and is tempered with
grog 2. The entire exterior and the interior surface of the rim and neck, all but the pedestal,
have originally been covered in a light red or
orange slip. Drawing by Christian Vinterhav.
Found stuck on the body of Jx8 with J108.
J202
x = -64,51
y = -40,14
z = 99,78 - 99,53
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (C) – striped-zigzag
Rim type: II
J202 is a large rounded jar with a thick flat base.
The ware is hard and heavy, blackish in colour
and tempered with grog 2 and laterite. A dark
red slip covers the upper body exterior as well
as the rim and upper body interior. Two bands
of appliqué (type C) run around its shoulder,
with four screw heads and extended curls approaching each other.
Surrounding the appliqué is a field of incised
lines and large zigzag, clearly applied after the
application of slip and appliqué.
Found in a pit deposition that also contained
J204, J205, J206 and J207.
J203
x = -55,00
y = -62,25
z = 98,94 - 98,60
Shape: unrestricted (lid)
Temper: coarse sand
Decoration: none
Rim type: I
134
THE THINGS
J203 is a hat-like lid with a cylindrical top and
angular junction to a broad ‘brim’. It has a thin
and bright orange ware, tempered with coarse
sand, and was originally covered in dark red slip.
Found deposited together with J209. The vessel was found in an approximate angle of 80
degrees from the horisontal. It appears as if the
two vessels were dumped in a narrow pit, in a
part of the site that has only very shallow cultural layers and neat deposits.
J204
x = -64,43
y = -40,15
z = 99,86 - 99,75
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: organic
Decoration: none
Rim type: E
J204 is a simple bowl with a marked rim. The
ware is hard and pale buff with a black core and
organic temper. It is covered in red slip on both
interior and exterior surfaces. The ware appears
to be similar to that of J202.
Found in a pit deposition that also contained
J202, J205, J206 and J207.
J205
x = -64,53
y = -40,04
z = 99,92 - 99,84
Shape: unrestricted (cup)
Temper: coarse sand
Decoration: none
Rim type: J205 consists of parts of what appears to be a
cup, but it may also have been the top of a lid
(cf. J203 and J210). It has an almost cylindrical
135
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
shape, with no clear rim. The ware is dark, almost black and tempered with coarse sand. It
is covered in red slip on the exterior surface.
Found in a pit deposition that also contained
J202, J204, J206 and J207.
J206
x = -64,28
y = -40,12
z = 99,80 - 99,76
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: incised
Rim type: B
J206 is a small and thin-bodied pot with a
straight thick neck and the rim everted at an
angle. The ware is pale buff and tempered with
fine sand. There are also traces of a buff slip
and an incised line at the junction between the
shoulder and neck. Only the upper part of the
vessel was recovered, disabling a complete reconstruction.
Found in a pit deposition that also contained
J202, J204, J205 and J207.
J207
x = -64,42
y = -40,10
z = 99,58 - 99,43
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2, laterite and organic
Decoration: appliqué (A) – striped-zigzag
Rim type: cut?
J207 is a medium sized jar with rounded body,
flat base and straight neck. The rim appears to
have been removed post-firing, leaving a
smooth edge. The ware is buff and tempered
with grog 2, laterite and organic temper. It is
136
THE THINGS
very thin at the widest part of the body, and the
base has traces of dross or slag on the exterior
surface. It has a rather small appliqué (A) decoration with two screw heads. There are remains
of red slip on the interior surface of the neck,
and in combination with a worn exterior surface
this suggests that it was originally slipped and
incised in a typical manner.
Found in a pit deposition that also contained
J202, J204, J205 and J207.
J209
x = -55,00
y = -62,32
z = 99,80 - 99,52
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: cordmarks
Rim type: F
J209 is a delicate bowl with a rounded shape and
a distinct rim. The ware is pale buff, almost
white and tempered with fine sand. On the base
it is decorated with unclear and rather coarse
cordmarks, while the area below the rim is
undecorated. Original drawing by Marion
Ravenscroft.
Deposited together with J203, and it appears as
if they were dumped rather than arranged in a
pit.
J210
x = -42,29
y = -28,12
z = 99,74 - 99,66
Shape: unrestricted (lid)
Temper: grog 2 and organic
Decoration: incised
Rim type: EE
Hat-like lid with a cylindrical top and a smooth
137
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
junction to the ‘brim’. It has a hard and heavy
ware with buff-coloured surface and black core,
with grog 2 and organic temper. The entire
exterior surface is covered in red slip and decorated with incised parallell lines in groups of
eight, meeting in a cross on the top. The interior surface of the brim is also covered in slip,
but has no decorations.
Found in a pit deposition, in situ functioning as
a lid for J214. The similarities of ware and appearance of the two vessels suggest that they
were made to fit together as one body. Inside
J214 were also J220 and J221, and on top of
J210 were J213 and J219.
J211
x = -46,78
y = -43,43
z = 99,91 - 99,83
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: organic
Decoration: none
Rim type: Q
J211 is a small jar with a flat and angular shape.
It has a very thin body, where the upper body
is slightly concave, a rounded thin base and a
heavy rim. The ware has a bright white surface
and black core, with an organic temper and
disintegrates into ‘flour’. The ware was so deteriorated, that no complete reconstruction was
possible. The shape has been reconstructed
from single sherds and in situ photos.
Found beside J212, in a neat deposition where
the two jars had been placed rims up beside
each other. A thin bowl, J224, was found on top
of the jar with its base up.
138
THE THINGS
J212
x = -46,86
y = -43,14
z = 99,86 - 99,81
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: coarse sand and laterite
Decoration: none
Rim type: Q
J212 is a thin jar with an angle at its equator and
a rounded thick base. It has a deteriorated white
ware, tempered with coarse sand and laterite. At
least the upper body and rim has originally been
covered with an orange or red slip, of which
only traces remain.
Found beside J211, in a neat deposition where
the two jars had been placed rims up beside
each other and J224 was covering J211.
J213
x = -42,46
y = -28,31
z = 99,67 - 99,52
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: incised
Rim type: Q
J213 is a small and thin pot with rounded body
and base, and an angular junction between its
shoulder and the comparatively heavy rim. The
base is thin with finger impressions on the inside. The ware is pale buff and tempered with
fine sand, and it has probably a slip in the same
colour as the ware. The decoration consists of
one/two incised lines at the shoulder-rim junction.
The pot was found on the brim of J210, i.e. in
the same deposition as J214, J210, J219, J220
and J221.
139
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J214
x = -42,23
y = -28,15
z = 99,68 - 99,24
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: appliqué (A) -striped-zigzagpainted
Rim type: cut?
J214 is a large tall jar with a slightly everted neck
and a dimple base with central hole. The rim
appears to have been removed post-firing leaving a smooth edge. The ware is very thin at both
body and base, but thick at the junction between them. It is buff-coloured with a black
core, and the ware is in parts badly deteriorated
or dissolved. It was tempered with grog 2 and
organic temper.The upper body is covered in a
dark red slip on both interior and exterior surfaces. Around the shoulder run two bands of
appliqué (A), with two screw heads, and around
it on the upper body is a striped-zigzag and
combed decoration. On the lower body there
are traces of a painted red-on-buff decoration
with waved bands. Original drawing by Marion
Ravenscroft.
The central jar in a pit deposition with J220 and
J221 inside it, J210 covering it and J213 and
J219 on top of it all.
J215
x = -28,39
y = -20,36
z = 100,29 - 100,15
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: fine sand
Decoration: incised
Rim type: II
J215 is a globular pot with a thin body, thick
base and narrow orifice. The ware is white and
140
THE THINGS
the exterior surface is covered in dark red slip.
It is untempered or tempered with a very fine
sand. On the shoulder just below the rim is an
ir regular decoration of incised lines (2-4)
around the pot. The base is not level, and the
pot is slightly tilted. The pot gives a somewhat
odd impresion. Original drawing by Marion
Ravenscroft.
Found on top of J216 in the deposition containing J216, J217, J215, J222 and possibly also
J218. Only parts of the vessel were recovered,
and they were found scattered around the other
vessels.
J216
x = -28,41
y = -20,30
z = 100,27 - 99,94
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (A)
Rim type: BB
J216 is a rounded jar with tall flared neck and a
heavy rim. The ware is buff and tempered with
grog 2 and laterite. The exterior surface is deteriorated, but a red slip on the interior surface
of the neck indicates that there was originally
slip also on the exterior. On the shoulder there
are two bands of appliqué (A) with two screw
heads. The interior surface of this jar is interesting with considerable ‘smearing’ and finger
impressions at and around the base. The red slip
on the interior of the neck has left much dripping, adding to a hasty impression.
Found with its base up covering J217 mouth-tomouth, in a deposition also containing J215,
J222 and possibly J218.
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J217
x = -28,00
y = -20,57
z = 100,22 - 99,67
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: grog 2 and laterite
Decoration: appliqué (A) – striped-zigzag
Rim type: M
J217 is a round and delicate jar with a thin body,
flat base and heavy rim. The buff ware is wellpreser ved and tempered with g rog 2 and
laterite. The upper body is covered in a red slip
on both the interior and exterior surfaces.
Around the shoulder run two bands of appliqué
(A) with two screw heads, and around it is a well
preserved incised decoration with parallel lines
and zigzag. The base is not level, leaving the jar
slightly tilted. Original drawing by Marion
Ravenscroft.
It was found below J216, at the bottom of the
pottery group containing J216, J217, J215, J222
and possibly J218.
J218a
x = -28,34
y = -20,62
z = 100,09 - 99,60
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff and laterite
Decoration: cordmarks
Rim type: J218a is the upper part of a jar with a straight
neck and rounded body, where the rim is either
lost or removed. The ware has a pale buff surface and black core, and is of very poor quality, tempered with rice-chaff and laterite. The
withered surface bears traces of diagonal
cordmarks from the shoulder down, and there
are clear traces of a dark red slip on the neck.
The jar could only be partly reconstructed.
142
THE THINGS
The two jars J218a and J218b were recorded as
one during excavation, but in reconstruction it
showed to have at least two different necks of
identical ware. They were found just beside a
group of vessels with J216, J217, J215 and J222.
J218b
x = -28,34
y = -20,62
z = 100,09 - 99,60
Shape: restricted (jar)
Temper: rice chaff and laterite
Decoration: cordmarks
Rim type: HH
J218b is a jar with a thick neck and heavy rim,
thin rounded body and a thick almost pointed
base. The poor-quality ware has a pale buff
surface and black core, and is tempered with
rice chaff and laterite. The withered surface
bears traces of diagonal cordmarks. The jar
could only be partly reconstructed.
The two jars J218a and J218b were recorded as
one during excavation, but in reconstruction it
showed to have at least two different necks of
identical ware. They were found just beside a
group of vessels with J216, J217, J215 and J222.
J219
x = -42,14
y = -28,20
z = 99,70 - 99,65
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: grog 2 and organic
Decoration: none
Rim type: V
J219 is a footed bowl that was recovered in a
good state of preservation. The ware is buff
with a black core, with grog 2 and organic temper. The entire interior of the bowl is covered
143
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
in red slip, applied onto half of the exterior of
the rim. The exterior surface and the foot has no
slip.
Found in pieces scattered around the top of
J210, placed on top of the deposition with J214,
J210, J220 and J221, along with J213.
J220
x = -42,18
y = -28,22
z = 99,48 - 99,26
Shape: restricted (pot)
Temper: grog 2 and organic
Decoration: striped-zigzag
Rim type: Ö
J220 is a globular pot with demarcated short
neck and slightly flattened base. The buff ware
with black core is of good quality, with grog 2
and organic temper. The entire exterior and the
interior of the rim and neck is covered in dark
red slip. On the neck there is a field of incised
parallel lines and zigzag decorations.
Found complete in a deposition at the bottom
of J214, together with J221- also complete, and
metal artefacts (F2003:180 and F2003:181).
J221
x = -42,20
y = -28,00
z = 99,42 - 99,28
Shape: restricted (cup) and unrestricted (cup)
Temper: grog 2
Decoration: none
Rim type: C
J221 is an urn-like cup with flat base and a bowllike lid, both intact. The ware is buff coloured
with a black core, tempered with grog 2 and
organic temper. The cup has a red slip on the
144
THE THINGS
exterior, and slip traces on the much more deteriorated surface of the lid suggest that it has
also originally been covered in red slip.
The cup and the bowl/lid were found in situ on
the bottom of J214, suggesting that they had
been deposited together, with the bowl as a lid.
Inside the cup was a whitish ash-like soil.
J222
x = -28,30
y = -20,35
z = 100,29 - 99,91
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: grog 2 and organic
Decoration: none
Rim type: H
Flat bowl with a marked rim and a thin flattened
base. The ware is dark buff with grog 2 and
organic temper. Both interior and exterior surfaces have originally been covered in red slip,
that has now partly turned dark purple.
Only parts of the bowl were recovered, found
scattered on top of J216 and inside J217.
J223
x = -29,00
y = -20,30
z = 99,96 - 99,74
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: grog 2, organic and laterite
Decoration: none
Rim type: JJ
J223 is a bowl with a marked rim and slightly
flattened thick base. The ware is light red and
tempered with grog 2, organic and laterite. Both
the interior and exterior surfaces are covered in
red slip.
145
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Found in good shape, almost complete against
the body of Jx12, obviously deposited in the
same pit.
J224
x = -46,70
y = -43,36
z = 99,91 - 99,87
Shape: unrestricted (bowl)
Temper: organic
Decoration: none
Rim type: Q
J224 is a small and thin simple bowl. The ware
is brittle, white or pale buff, with black core and
organic temper. The interior surface has originally been covered in a red or orange slip, which
is now badly deteriorated.
Found in a neat deposition with J211 and J212,
both with their rims up beside one another. J224
was not identified during excavation due to its
ware’s similarity with J211, but is visible on in
situ photos. It was found base up on the shoulder of J211.
All these pots, jars, bowls, cups and lids are individuals to me. In my mind,
the drawing of any particular vessel can never be separated from the feeling of
its ware: soft, heavy, brittle… its shape: rounded, delicate, wild… details like a
drop of slip in the wrong place, a fingerprint in the clay or a nail imprint in the
cavity just below the rim… and then its relations to other vessels and artefacts
in the same depository unit. All these sensual and associative factors should work
together with the information represented in the simple schematic drawing, dressing it in some sense to compose every unique vessel. The stripped schematic
drawings can, however, be grouped together in a number of different ways to
create archaeological order.
Firstly, I have divided all vessels into temper groups (see figures 54a-c). It appears that the three categories grog-2, rice chaff and sand are exclusive in relation
to each other, whereas the grog-1 and organic temper can occur alone or in combinations with other tempers, and laterite is never found alone, but only in blends
with the others. Moreover, we can see an immediate relation between some char146
THE THINGS
acteristic shapes and decorations, and the temper of the ware. Vessels tempered
with rice chaff are always cordmarked, while cordmarked decorations are also
found on wares tempered with sand and organic temper, but never with grog-2.
All screw head appliqué jars, with only one exception, have grog-2 tempered
wares, and sand tempered ware is exclusively found in small pots (and one lid).
And finally, as if they followed a different logic, bowls as well as mid-size pots
and jars with incised decorations occur in all temper categories except rice chaff.
54a. Complete vessels with grog-2 tempered wares.
²¾§½Ì½ê†´£
ó ¸¾´¦ö´®øÌ °½¦ö´©É¸¨¡ñ®ÀÍö¾-¬2.
147
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
54b. Complete vessels with rice-, organic-, and grog-1 tempered wares.
²¾§½Ì½ê†´ó£¸¾´¦ö´®øÌ °½¦ö´¡ñ® ¢šÁ¡É®, ¦¾Ìºò̧ó, ÀÍí¾.
148
THE THINGS
54c. Complete vessels with sand tempered wares.
²¾§½Ì½ê†´£
ó ¸¾´¦ö´®Ì°½¦ö´¡ñ®§¾¨.
Secondly, all complete vessels whose shapes could be firmly established
through reconstruction were arranged in a typological scheme, following the
shape distinctive criteria presented by White and Henderson for sites in Northeast Thailand (see above, White & Henderson forthcoming) 1. The vessels are in this
scheme (see figure 55) arranged from simple to complex, in a diagonal pattern
from the top left to the bottom right. There are a few apparently uniform groups,
such as simple bowls, and jars with appliqué (A) design. Curiously, there are even
more fall-outs, in particular on the fringes and in the centre of the diagonal
pattern, where distinctive shape boxes in many cases contain only one or two
vessels.
Creating this typological scheme gave me first a feeling of satisfaction. All
of a sudden, there was structure and an air of uniformity over the material. At
second glance, there was a growing sense of unease. Where was the sensuality
of these ceramics now? I had to ask myself what the purpose was of my typology. Did it really work to understand Lao Pako and its things? No, rather, this
scheme is satisfying the demands of the scientific community and my own urge
for structure, at the expense of the odd vessels that were squeezed into boxes
with others, which have quite a different feeling to them. Returning to the basic
assumption about material culture I made at the beginning of this chapter, that
human societies reproduce the social structure of its people in the way they order
their things, I must ask myself what this boxed typology says about me and my
society. For these pots, like with people categorized into forced homogeneity, I
am sure that there is much more to them than can be illustrated through such a
149
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
55. Lao Pako complete
vessels typology.
²¾§½Ì½ê†´£
ó ¸¾´¦ö´
®øÌ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡.
150
THE THINGS
56. Lao Pako complete
vessels typology revised.
²¾§½Ì½ê†´£
ó ¸¾´¦ö´
®øÌ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡.
151
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
scheme that only works to simplify. In an attempt to demonstrate what I mean
with other possible ways to associate and understand these vessels than the sanctioned archaeological division into distinctive shape categories, I have created a
second, revised typology (figure 56). Feel free to add your own associations and
comments.
LINKING VESSELS AND SHERDS
The pits in which most of the complete vessels have been deposited are dug from
depths corresponding with the two dense sherd levels at approximately 0,7 m and
1,0 m below the surface (see chapter The Earth). The results from Christian
Vinterhav’s pottery analysis (Källén et al. 2002) as we will see strongly suggest
that the people of prehistoric Lao Pako were one or several groups of people
connected by a common culture, and it can therefore be assumed that the miscellaneous sherds as well as the deposited vessels derive from the same material
culture context. There are, however, differences between sherds and complete
vessels worth considering, and which suggest that sherds on the ground and
buried complete vessels belong to different conceptual contexts within this group
of people.
There are strong links between ware quality and temper, and other features
such as decoration, colour and slip in both sherds and complete vessels. These
quite apparent links between the sherd material and the complete vessels indicate a similarly structured ceramic culture. The grog-2 tempered ware is the most
common among the complete vessels, and its other characteristics on the complete vessels are also found on the same type of ware in the sherd material. This
ware is typically decorated with appliqué and incised stripes or zigzagged lines,
often in combination. The surface is mostly whitish or reddish, and red slip is
common, particularly on the upper body and the neck interior on large jars. These
basic characteristics are equally shared by grog-1 and organic tempered wares,
which are also represented among the complete vessels as well as in the sherd
material. Moreover large granules of laterite are often included in otherwise grog2, grog-1 or organic tempered wares. This combination is common in the sherd
material as well as in the ware of the complete vessels. The rice chaff tempered
ware is outstandingly uniform in both types of ceramic material. It has a thin,
whitish, reddish or brownish exterior surface with slip, while the core and interior surface is completely black. These sherds have almost always horizontally
oriented cordmarks, while the complete rice chaff tempered vessels show varying orientations of the cordmarks. For all cordmarked ceramics, sherds and vessels alike, the marks are often covering most of the shoulder and body.
Sand tempered ware is more common in the sherd material than in complete
152
THE THINGS
vessels, especially in consideration of the difference in size between the small
sand tempered vessels and the large ones tempered with grog-2 or rice chaff. This
fact does not only mark the most important difference between the two types of
ceramic find material, it also accentuates other differences in the statistics. The
decorative features which are not present on any of the complete vessels but
indeed on sherds of sand tempered ware are: ridges alone or in combination with
chequered or combed marks. In the chapter on shape, dealing with rim types, it
was noted that six of these were represented by more than 20 sherds (L, M, Q,
V, X and Y). Four of these types are represented among the complete vessels,
but none of them is dominating. Moreover, four of these rim types in the sherd
analysis (Q, V, X, Y) were mostly tempered with fine sand. Of these four types,
two are not even represented in the complete vessels.
A few decoration types are also found exclusively in the sherd material, as
mentioned above: incised geometric designs, ridges with chequered incisions and
single cases with stamped dots and diamond shapes. Christian Vinterhav concludes his ceramics analysis with the following:
When taking all of the similarities and differences into account I find that the
similarities convincingly show that the sherd material derive from vessels made
with the same technology and which share the same morphology as the complete
vessels. A few decorative features in the sherd material indicate a variation not
quite equalled among the complete vessels, but this is not surprising as the sherds
represent a more extensive material (Vinterhav in Källén et al. 2002:42).
The sherd material and the complete vessels must thus be seen as parts of the
same cultural context. The statistical differences between them should therefore
be understood as reflections of a difference in attitude to different tempers and
decorations in the contexts of sherds left on the ground and pit depositions,
respectively.
TEXTILE PRODUCTION
Two categories of artefacts that we associate with textile production have been
found at Lao Pako: spindle whorls 2 and clay seals. A total number of 44 spindle
whorls were recovered, of which 30 were found in the cultural layers. Even
57. Deposition of ten decorated
spindle whorls (F1995:231).
¡¾Ìêñ®«ö´¢º¤ìÞ¡À®¾½¯˜Ì±É¾¨ 10
Îȸ¨ (F1995:231).
153
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
58. Spindle whorls from the 2003
excavation.
ìøÀ®¾½¯˜Ì±É¾¨Ä©É´¾¥¾¡¡¾Ì¢÷©£íÌ
2003.
59. Spindle whorls from the 1995
excavation.
ìø¡À®¾½¯˜Ì±É¾¨¥¾¡¡¾Ì¢÷©£í̯ó
1995.
154
though all of these were found one by one, and with no clear contextual connections with other artefacts or structures, it is clear that they tend to group together
in some parts of the site, while other parts have no finds of textile production
character (see plan drawing in Appendix II). Similarly, the four clay seals were
all found in the cultural layers, and in the same areas where the spindle whorls
also appear. The remaining 14 spindle whorls were, quite differently, found in
depositions together with pottery vessels, and with clear structure and intention
to the arrangements. These deposited spindle whorls are mostly decorated (see
figure 57 and the top left specimen in figure 58, in contrast to the undecorated
ones found in the cultural layer. The decorations consist of incised whirl patterns,
lines and in one case of impressed dots around its equator.
The spindle whorls are made of fired tempered clay, and the fabric varies
between the items. Some are in good condition, while others are deteriorated and
appear to be almost dissolved by the soil climate. Yet others are black and crumbled as if they have been exposed to fire in a hear th. In some cases (e.g .
F2003:137, F2003:153), the surface is smooth and appears to be burnished.
Shapes vary greatly from annular and biconical to conical or a cut cone shape.
The sizes also vary, diameters between 24 and 40 millimetres, and the height
between 13 and 35. The shape variation between the spindle whorls found in the
1995 excavation was examined creating a diameter/height ratio (K ällén &
Karlström 1999:32f). The ratio varied considerably between 1:1 and 2:1, a variation which had no contextual explanation.
The clay seals, including so-called stamp rollers, have exclusively been found
in the cultural layers. Three are cylindrical rollers, one with a zigzag pattern, one
THE THINGS
with concentric circles and one with straight lines around the cylinder. The latter of these was only half and in poor condition when it was found. The first two,
with zigzag and circle patterns, have both got holes bored at the ends approximately 5 mm in from each side, whereas the last with straight lines has had a hole
all the way through. As has been argued earlier (Källén & Karlström 1999:35),
the lack of holes bored all the way through excludes the possible use of these
first two rollers as beads. Rather they must be regarded as seals, with similar
function as the disc-shaped seal with a double flower- or star pattern, where the
inner circle has 9 rays and the outer has 14. This seal is made of red well fired
oxidized clay, while the rollers are dark grey or black in colour. It is not known
what these objects, present on prehistoric sites all over the Khorat plateau, may
have been used for since there are so far no imprints found on any preserved
materials. It can be assumed that they were used on impermanent materials, of
which there is a wide range of plausible possibilities: wood, bark or cortex,
leather, human skin, food, textile… Thus the clay seals are here placed in the
textile production category only due to the lack of better alternatives.
60. Stamp rollers (F1995:44 and
F1995:48).
¡¾¥¿¸ö¤¡ö´ (F1995:44 Áì½
F1995:48).
61. Stamp roller (F2003:127).
¡¾¥¿¸ö¤¡ö´ (F2003:127).
62. Clay seal, diameter 30 mm
(F2003:105).
¡¾¯½©ñ®©òÌÀ°ö¾ (F2003:105).
BEADS
All beads but one found at Lao Pako are made of glass. They vary in size, shape
and colour, translucent and opaque. The non-glass one is of cornelian: large,
spherical, semi-translucent and amber coloured. The majority of them are, however, small and made of opaque orange glass with rounded or flat disc shapes.
A total number of 346 beads have been found at Lao Pako, in 17 discrete contexts. Two of the contexts contain the majority of them: 182 tiny cylindrical
translucent dark blue and rounded opaque orange beads with three larger translucent green ones in an infant burial context (F2002:33), and 137 disc-shaped
opaque orange and rounded translucent blue, strung together and found alone,
deposited in a pit (F2003:92). In some other cases (e.g. F2002:53 and F2003:87)
a few small opaque orange beads are found together in a group, but not as belonging to the same original object. The rest of the beads, some fragmentary, are
found in the cultural layers and many as stray finds in the screen.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
63. Glass beads from the 2003
excavation. The upper part of the
figure shows two different detail
versions of all beads found 2003
except F2003:92, which is shown on
a string below. The arrows indicate
which group of beads the detail
refers to.
ìø¡¯ñ©Á¡É¸¥¾¡¡¾Ì¢÷©£íÌ 2003.
64. Glass beads (F2002:27).
ìø¡¯ñ©Á¡É¸ (F2002:27).
156
65. Glass beads (2002:53).
ìø¡¯ñ©Á¡É¸ (2002:53).
THE THINGS
Table: Beads found at Lao Pako in the 2002 and
2003 excavations.
When you think about it, ‘beads’ is a rather peculiar find categ ory. Vast
amounts of archaeological research are devoted to the origin and dating of beads,
while their contexts, functions and symbolic importance on the site where they
were found are only rarely discussed. Beads have instead proven most useful to
establish firm conceptual connections between prehistoric sites and regions, and
to nail sites and features to certain time periods - two of the main objectives of
late 20 th century archaeology. It is as if beads are of another realm, a sort of metaartefacts floating above the physical contexts, and solitarily creating prehistoric
political structures. For the archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia, the origin
of beads has been instrumental in the argumentation for and against a so-called
indianization of the mainland (for a historical location and critique of the
indianization concept, see Stargardt 1990:40ff). Since none of those discussions
fit in the aims and objectives of this study, I will here keep to a brief presentation of the beads found at Lao Pako, and will return in the following chapters
to their contextual importance for the understanding of the Lao Pako site.
157
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
66. Slag in situ in the north-east
corner of trench E2.
¢šÀÍñ¡ÁÍȤ꿺ó©ê†µê
Èø ¾¤êò©ª¾
À¸Ìºº¡¦¼¤ÀÎõº¢º¤Íд E2.
67. Tuyères in situ with a large
smooth pebble in trench E2.
¢šÀÍñ¡ÁÍȤ꿺ó©ê†µê
Èø ¾¤êò©ª¾
À¸Ìºº¡¦¼¤ÀÎõº¢º¤Íд E2.
68a-b. Reconstructed tuyères.
¡¾Ì¦º´Á¯¤£õÌÃÏÈê¦
Ò ®
ø ìö´.
158
METAL AND METALLURGY
Metals and metallurgy are present at Lao Pako in two distinguishable contexts:
production and deposition. These two analytical contexts are, however, linked in
the physical contexts of the site. We will return to this latter issue in the next
chapter, and will here use production and deposition as discrete groups to describe artefacts and structures.
There is clear evidence of metal production at Lao Pako (see also Källén &
Karlström 1999:26ff). Large amounts of bowl shaped iron slag, tuyères, dross on
pebbles and pottery vessels, scattered iron objects and fired clay, show that there
have been prehistoric iron working activities on the site. There are also large
amounts of iron slag exposed on the ground on the eroding southeast slope of
the hill. These types of remains are found in different parts of the excavated
areas, but in particular in one area around the northeast corner of the 1995 trench
E2 [x = -31, y = -12]. Here the soil is darker than ordinary and has a richer texture to it, and lumps of slag are found in situ on an imagined former ground level
(see figure 66). Broken tuyères are found at the same level, where there are also
iron objects scattered around. The tuyères are made of white or buff coloured
clay with a slightly wider opening at one end and a rounded one, often covered
in metallic substances, probably leading into the hearth or furnace (see figure 68).
The iron objects found around this area on the ground level are in general small
and with no distinctive shapes, resembling knives, rods or fragments of the same.
In other parts of the site similar objects are found, but not as concentrated and
in the complete state that we see in the corner of trench E2. Since there are at
this stage no evidence of built furnace constructions, but only some remains of
fired clay in what appears to be some sort of minor structures (see figure 69), I
will for now suggest that the Lao Pako iron production was performed in small
scale, and only with forging of already smelted bloom. The many bowl-shaped
THE THINGS
slag lumps may be a result of the use of claylined small pits for heating the bloom, and
where the slag is found at the bottom, assuming its characteristic bowl shape. This is,
however, only a fair guess which may well be
revised in the light of more structural evidence and analyses in the future.
In addition to these evidences of iron
working, there are also vague indications of
bronze working at Lao Pako. Some pieces of
slag has been found that are much smaller
and have a different texture than the bowl
shaped iron slag, and which also show a tendency to g reen cor rosion (see K ällén &
K arlström 1999:27). There are also fragments of what could be casting moulds in
the material, for example find F2003:83 – a
small footed ‘cup’ made of crude sand tempered clay with a pointed hollow space inside, which was found split in two halves (see
69. Structure of fired clay in T14 (size 1 x 1 m.).
figure 70). However, these meagre indica£¤¦É¾¤¢º¤Àªö¾Ä³ÃÌÍд T14.
tions are not enough to draw any conclusions
about bronze working at Lao Pako.
The metal objects found at Lao Pako are either of bronze or iron. This conclusion is based on basic ocular examination, since no metal objects or samples
were allowed to be taken out of Lao territory for analysis. The iron objects are
difficult to mistake for other materials, but the bronze could in theory be of pure
copper or any copper alloy with a green corrosion. In practice, and then in particular considering their similarities with other objects known to me made of
bronze from the region at large, they may quite safely be considered to be of
bronze. Hopefully it will be possible to conduct detailed material analyses of both
bronze and iron from Lao Pako in the future. For now, we will keep to a discussion on shape and context.
70. Possible mould fragments.
À¯ÌįĩÉêÀ† ¯Ì»ø®Á®®ê†Áª¡ºº¡.
159
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Iron objects are mostly found in the cultural layers, but also occur in depositions. Often they are so badly affected by corrosion, that the original shape of
the object is difficult to distinguish. All iron objects from the 1995 excavation
were taken to Mahosot hospital in Vientiane to be radiographed with the weak
equipment for ordinary hospital use. The resulting pictures showed only diffuse
cores of metal inside the mantle of corrosion (see Källén & Karlström 1999) and
gave as expected no further information on structure or manufacturing techniques. The majority of iron objects appear to be rods (F2003:186), or small
knives (F2003:141), complete or fragmentary. There are also a couple of simple
arrowheads (F1995:21), and two larger hollow objects (F2002:57 and F2003:97)
which may be small spades (F2002:57 is 185 mm long) or in the case of F2002:97,
a spear head. These two latter larger objects were found on top of two different
pottery depositions, and some of the other iron objects have been found inside
deposited jars, or at rim level of jars in depositions. In an infant burial in J104
were a number of unidentifiable and badly corroded iron objects in the set of
grave goods. Two of these objects appeared to consist of a couple of thin iron
pipes attached to each other. Corrosion made it impossible to establish their
shape more specifically. We will return to the depositional contexts of iron objects in the next chapter.
71. Iron scrap (F2003:186).
À¦©ÀÍñ¡ (F2003:186).
72. Iron knife (F2003:141).
73. Iron arrow head (F1995:21).
´ó©ªó©É¸¨ÀÍñ¡ (F2003:141).
74. Iron objects (F2003:86, 167, 79, 81 and 84).
¹ö¸ìø¡¦ºÌꆰ½ìò©©É¸¨ÀÍñ¡ (F1995:21).
¸ñ©«÷²ñÌê†À»ñ©©É¸¨ÀÍñ¡ (F2003:86, 167, 79,
81 Áì½ 84).
160
THE THINGS
76. Iron objects (F2003:184).
¸ñ©«÷²ñ̪ò©É¸¨ÀÍñ¡ (F2003:184).
75. Iron objects (F2003:146, 138, 181 and 185).
¸ñ©«÷²ñ-ꆪó©É¸¨ÀÍñ¡ (F2003:146, 138, 181,
Áì½ 185).
77. Hollow spear head of iron
(F2003:97).
¹ö¸¹º¡, êÒ´»
ó ø ªò©¸
É ¨ÀÍñ¡
(F2003:97).
78. Iron or slag object (F2002:57), to
the right featured in situ on top of
J109.
¸ñ©«÷ÀÍñ¡ Íõ ¢šÀÍñ¡ (F2002:57)
¸¾¤µø¦
È ¸
È ÌÎɾÀ®œº¤¢¸¾´õÃÌÁÍȤ꿺ò©
Àêò¤¯¾¡ÏÓ (J109).
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
79. Bronze container (F1995:49).
²¾§½Ì½êº¤¦¿ìò© (F1995:49).
80. Bronze ring fragment
(F2003:158).
¡Éº¤Á¢Ì꺤¦¿ìò© (F2003:158).
In contrast to the iron artefacts, the bronze artefacts are almost exclusively
found in closed contexts. There is one exception in the tiny brittle container
(F1995:49), with a shape similar to a Dong Son kettle drum. The base consists of
a disc, 23 mm in diameter and decorated by a star with eight rays covering at least
two concentric circles at the periphery. The body is rounded with four small ears
on the side and inside is a charred substance stuck to the walls. It was found in
the cultural layer, and its function is as of yet unknown. There are four other
fragmentary bronze artefacts (F2003:158, F2003:172 and F2003:183), all three
probably originally parts of bangles or anklets, which were found in the same
excavation trench (T15), crowded with shallow pit depositions. It was thus impossible to establish firmly whether these three bronze objects were part of a
deposition or found in the cultural layer.
81. Bronze ring fragment (F2003:172).
82. Bronze object (F1995:215).
¡Éº¤Á¢Ì꺤¦¿ìò© (F2003:172).
¸ñ©«÷²ñÌ꺤¦¿ìó© (F1995:215).
The remaining bronze artefacts were all found in closed deposited contexts.
The tiny F1995:215 may be a handle or an ornament, and it was found in a pit
deposition inside J2 in trench E2. Most of the bronze artefacts are ornaments,
like F2002:32 and F2002:35, four almost identical child sized bronze bangles.
They were found in two pairs in the same infant burial context in J104, and they
have all the same incised decoration. On one of the four bangles, the meeting
ends have not been rounded like on the other three. All four bangles have to
varying degree been affected by corrosion. Another child sized bronze bangle,
F2002:44, was found in the infant burial in J107. It was affected by corrosion,
but appears to have had the shape of a full circle. It has a smooth and rounded
surface without incised decorations. Its inner diameter is c. 36 mm and the outer
c. 42 mm. In the J104 infant burial were also two sets of almost identical child
sized bronze anklets, F2002:36. Each set contained four anklets and all eight have
a flat circular shape, with a hammered outside face (see figure 86). Also part of
the J104 infant burial, F2002:25 and F2002:31 are fragments of a helix shaped
162
THE THINGS
83. Bronze bangle (F2002:32).
¡Éº¤Á¢Ì꺤¦¿ìò© (F2003:32).
84. Bronze bangle (F2003:180).
¡Éº¤Á¢Ì꺤¦¿ìò© (F2003:180).
85. Bronze bangle (F2002:44).
¡Éº¤Á¢Ì꺤¦¿ìò© (F2003:44).
86. Bronze anklet (F2002:36).
87. Bronze helix ring (F2002:25 and 31).
¡Éº¤Á¢Ì꺤¦¿ìò© (F2003:36).
ª÷É´¹ø꺤¦¿ìò© (F2002:25 Áì½ 31).
88. Bronze bells (F2002:54).
¡½©…¤êº¤¦¿ìò© (F2002:54).
89. Bronze bowl fragments, with soil in situ (F2002:52).
À¦©¦È¸Ì¢º¤²¾§½Ì½ê†ª©
ò ¸
É ¨êº¤¦¿ìò©¡ñ®©òÌ
ÃÌÁÍȤ꿺ò© (F2002:52).
163
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
finger ring made of a long flat rod. The rod has slightly narrowing ends, and was
originally 226 mm long and around 0,7 mm thick. It has been wound four and a
half rounds to make the ring. With the infant burial in J107 followed also five
small bronze bells, F2002:54. The bells were severely affected by corrosion and
very brittle. They could only be partly reconstructed after cleaning, enough to
make reconstruction drawings (see figure 96). The infant burial in J107 also contained the remains of a bronze bowl, F2002:52. It had an approximate diameter
of 105 mm, and was decorated with incised parallel lines just below the rim. The
state of preservation for the bowl was very poor, so that only parts of one side
and the rim was intact. Its exact original look is thus not known.
We will return to discuss the contextual importance of these artefacts in the
next chapter, and the similarities to artefacts from other sites in the chapter Synthesis.
STONE
A great variety of stone objects and artefacts have been found at Lao Pako. The
largest group consists of pebbles of varying sizes (see figure 90). Some have wear
marks from pounding or other usage, and some have dross on the surface. Most
of these large rounded pebbles were found adjacent to the presumed iron working
area in the corner of trench E2, and some have probably been involved in that
process, judging from the presence of dross and their positioning close to slag
and tuyères. Some stone objects are more difficult to establish the use of, such
as flakes with slightly worn edges that could well have been used as scrapers
(figure 91).
90. Worked pebbles from the 1995
excavation.
À£ˆº¤Ã§É¹óÌÄ©É´¾¥¾¡¡¾Ì¢÷©£íÌ
1995.
91. Scraper. À£ˆº¤¢÷©£íÌ.
164
THE THINGS
Another distinctive category is whetstones (see figures 92 and 93). They are
all made of fine sandstone. Some of these objects have a characteristic look almost that are otherwise common in coastal settlements in Vietnam. Their function in this context is not certain, but they may very well be whetstones.
93. T-marked stone (F2002:42)
À£ˆº¤´õ¹óÌ»ø®ªö¸ T (F2002:42).
92. Whetstones (F1995:79, 166 and 182).
¹ó̱öÌ´ó© (F1995:79, 166 Áì½ 182).
Only one piece of stone jewellery has been found at Lao Pako, a quarter of
a stone bangle (F2002:16). It is made of green polished stone, and the crosssection is rounded on the outside and flat on the inside (figure 94).
94. Fragment of a stone bangle found in 2002.
À¦©¡Éº¤Á¢Ì¹ó̲ö®Ã̯ó 2002.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Finally, a total number of five stone adzes were found in the excavations (see
figures 95 and 96). They are all made of a soft white limestone, four are very small
while one is considerably larger. Two are shouldered adzes, while three have a
simple shape. They all seem to be broken or only halfway executed, and the edges
are not particularly sharp.
95. Stone adze from 1995.
¢ñ¸Ì¹óÌ¥¾¡¯ó 1995.
96. Stone adzes from the 2003
excavation.
¢ñ¸Ì¹óÌ Ä©É´¾¥¾¡¡¾Ì¢÷©£íÌ 2003.
166
CONTEXTS
CONTEXTS
Against the principle of the impermanence of matter, in the last chapter we have departed from decay and heterogeneity, and moved with the artefacts, the things,
into a new [part of their] life cycle to be dissected, cleaned and reconstructed in
drawings and photos approaching their individual original
appearances. What we have done is in accordance with science, speaking with Pearson and Shanks: ‘The past is to be purified in a staunching of decay; death is held in check. The
task is given to science. Science is applied to clean up the
wound and sterilise’ (2001:92). The things have now firstly
been treated and described individually, and then been rebuilt
and put into neat order to make archaeological sense. And
there we will now leave the actual physical things to be incorporated in the collections of the Laos National Museum in
Vientiane. Some of the more complete ones have been put on
display in the permanent exhibition Lao Pako – a glimpse of the
pr ehistor y of Laos, while the more fragmentar y items are
packed and stored awaiting future revivals.
We will now move on and make use of the things to recreate contexts which render them meaningful in an interpretation of the Lao Pako site. The already individualised things
– separated from their contexts as they were extracted from
the ground, having been placed back in our present through
acts of cleaning, documentation and reconstruction – will
now be used to form units based on infor mation on their
relations and placement in the ground at the time of excavation. The aim of this exercise is to trace the actions of the Lao
Pako people, and from them the ideas which then gave meaning to the things.
Based on stratigraphy and spatial relations of the excavated site, I have distinguished two discrete and structurally different kinds of deposition. Both are
the remains of the activities that created the archaeological site around 1500 years
ago. The first consists of things and structures which were out in the open, on
the ground surface. Quite different from those are sets of things carefully arranged in pits below the ground. I will later argue that these two depository
modes are conceptually different and are reflective of different mindsets, and
therefore I separate them as two sub-groups in this presentation. We begin with
the things on the ground.
97. Laos National Museum 2004.
Photo courtesy of Anna Karlström.
ê¹Ö²²
Ø ê
Ø ½²×ÌÁ¹È¤§¾© 2004.
167
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
THE GROUND
The former ground level is found from around 0.5 metres down to one metre
below the present surface. The things that were lying on the surface when Lao
Pako was used around 1500 y ears ag o ar e thus to be found within this
stratigraphic layer. Moreover, the stratigraphy shows two layers within this, dense
with potsherds and other cultural material. As is indicated by the compilation of
potsherd statistics from the 2002 excavation, one denser level is found at the
approximate depth of 0.7 m and another at 1.0 m from the surface (see chapter
The Earth on stratigraphy and layers). These denser layers can be the result of
two periods of intensified use of the site, or may even represent two single events
where a lot ceramics were crushed and left on the ground with other things to
decay. No architectural structures such as post holes have been found so far, an
absence which indicates that there have been no buildings there, at least not on
the excavated parts of the site. The material on the ground can instead be divided
into three broad groups of (i) ceramics, (ii) textile production artefacts and (iii)
metallurgy remains.
The ceramics in the cultural layers, that is, the former ground level, were as
previously mentioned analysed by Christian Vinterhav as part of the 2002 excavation season (Källén et al. 2002:18-43). His analysis of 5175 potsherds retrieved
from seven testpits shows first of all that the major parts of a ceramic vessel are
evenly represented throughout the sherd material. Of all classified sherds, 10%
belonged with certainty to the rim, 88% to the body and 2% to the base sections
of a complete vessel. While there is no doubt a large number of base sherds
classified as belonging to the body section, due to that the most common bases
are rounded or only slightly flattened, these statistics reconfirm that all vessel
parts are represented in the cultural layer. Further there are no major differences
throughout the layer or between the different testpits concerning colour, tempering or decoration of the sherds. In conclusion, the ceramics on the ground,
which were recovered from one cultural layer comprising two dense horizons
representing either singular events or periods of intensified use of the site, are
homogenous in that they represent a great but even variation in shape, temper
and style that is typical for the Lao Pako ceramics.
Most of the artefacts that are related to textile production have been found
in the cultural layer, and have thus been lying on the ground at the time when
the site was in use. Although the group of textile related objects – spindle whorls,
stamp rollers and one clay seal – is fairly homogenous as we could see in the last
chapter, there is a clear divide between the objects that have been out in the open
on the ground and those that have been deposited in pits. Even though I will go
168
CONTEXTS
into more detail about the pit depositions below, it can already be concluded that
only a few of the spindle whorls have been deposited, alone or in groups, in pits.
The remaining spindle whorls together with the three stamp rollers and the clay
seal have been out in the open, on the former ground surface. While the spindle
whorls deposited in pits are often decorated and finely executed (see below),
those that were on the ground are never decorated, they are often broken or burnt
and they are quite uneven in size, shape and style compared with each other. All
textile related things; spindle whorls, rollers and a seal, have a distinctive pattern
of distribution in the cultural layer. They occur solely in some parts of the hill,
as is indicated in the excavation plan, which coincides with remains from metallurgical activities. Other parts are empty of both metallurgical and textile related
things.
Metallurgical activities are in this case traced by structures of fired clay (see
figure 69) and a darker ‘rich’ soil in the cultural layer, where there are also lumps
of slag, charcoal, fragmentary or complete tuyères and occasionally iron objects.
At this stage of the investigations at Lao Pako, we have only very limited knowledge about details of the metallurgical activities. The physical structures that become of metal production occupy a much larger space than has been covered by
the excavations so far. Thus it is only possible to identify the presence or absence
of metallurgical activities through the presence or absence of these ingredients
in the cultural layer. As already mentioned above, the metallurgical activities
appear to be limited to certain parts of the excavated area, and these coincide
with the presence of textile related artefacts.
In only one case do we have an indication of how the metal production was
organised. In the northeast corner of the largest excavation trench, E2 that was
excavated in 1995, was an area with a dark and ‘rich’ soil, where large amounts
of slag were found together with tuyères, fired clay and iron objects. A drawing
of horizontal and vertical relations on the next page shows clearly that most of
the tuyères found in situ were placed in a shallow pit (at 99.50-99.70) together
with a large pebble, slag and fired clay. There are no iron objects in this pit.
Around the shallow pit, and in particular to the north of it are fragments of
tuyères, slag and small iron objects scattered around on what should have been
the ground surface at 99.80 – 100.10. The iron objects are found in the periphery, while the slag and tuyère fragments are closer to the centre. At present,
greater specificity concerning the metallurgical activities at Lao Pako is not
possible.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
98a. E2 metallurgy: horizontal
distribution.
¡¾Ì¦º´Á¯¤£õÌÃÏꆲ¸
ö ²ñÌì½¹¸È¾¤
Âì¹½ Áì½ ¸ñ©«÷²ñÌê†À»ñ©¥¾¡Âì¹½
¸ò꽨¾ Íд E2 ¢÷©£í̯ó 1995.
98b. E2 metallurgy: vertical
distribution.
¡¾Ì¦º´Á¯¤£õÌÃÏꆲ¸
ö ²ñÌì½¹¸È¾¤
Âì¹½ Áì½ ¸ñ©«÷²ñÌê†À»ñ©¥¾¡Âì¹½
¸ò꽨¾ Íд E2 ¢÷©£í̯ó 1995.
170
CONTEXTS
PITS
Beneath the ground where people walked 1500 years ago among scattered potsherds, spindle whorls and iron slag, there were things buried in pits. Stratigraphy
and excavation plan drawings alike show that pits were probably dug all over the
investigated area, which is a quarter of the total site. They are different in size
and depth and contain an array of different things, united foremost by the extraordinary consideration and thoughtfulness expressed in the arrangements.
These pits represent moments in time, as it was decided that these particular
things belonged together as units when they were arranged as one and parted
from the visible world through the closure of the pit. Furthermore, the contents
of the pits are neatly structured yet not standardised. Often as we will see, its
logic is not in any sense straightforward using the structure and terminology of
common explanation in archaeology. Altogether this gives us a fine opportunity
to trace the intentions of the people that used Lao Pako, and give an insight into
their world of meanings. I will here present examples of different arrangements
that have occurred in the excavations so far. In the next chapter they will be
discussed further in depth and will be used to interpret the site and the meaning
of its things.
ceramics
In most cases, the pits contain ceramics. Often there are groups of ceramic vessels arranged in pits, apparently with no contents of the vessels. To be able to
account for the possibility that any contents of the vessels have dissolved in the
soil climate, the soil has been tested in several ways. Three different types of soil
analysis: macrofossil analysis (Källén & Karlström 1999:49), phytoliths (Bowdery
1999) and phosphate analysis of soil from inside and outside empty vessels, have
been unable to establish any differences between the soil inside the apparently
empty vessels and that outside of them. Thus with this we must assume that they
were interred with no contents. The vessels or sherds occur in combination with
other materials, or alone, just as they are:
J215, J216, J217 and J222
– a reoccur ring fo r mation with two
screw head appliqué jars with the largest
on top. One bowl and one small pot of
a different temper are found on top of
the group. The photo shows the bottom
jar J217 uncovered.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
J105, J106 and J112
– similar to the group above, but with
the bowl found inside the bottom jar.
This may be due to the top jar collapsing
from the pressure of the earth. Pieces of
its rim were found beside the bowl inside, as shown in the photo.
J110 and J111
– two jars of rice tempered ware with the
smallest on top. Large rice tempered and
cordmarked jars have also been found in
pairs elsewhere (cf. J218a and b)
J211, J212 and J224
– unusual deposition of three thin and
fragile vessels. Two angular pots with
their rims up, like a pair of eyes, and a
thin bowl of the same ware slid slightly
to the side.
J203 and J209
– another unusual deposition of a hat
shaped lid made of a thin sand tempered
orange ware with traces of slip, and a
cordmarked thin but large bowl of a fine
sand tempered ware. Both vessels are
quite rare in shape, and appear to have
been leaning against the wall of a narrow
pit.
172
CONTEXTS
Another kind of pit deposition with only ceramics holds a collection of sherds
that does not form any complete vessels, or even larger parts of a vessel. Often
it is possible to distinguish a large number of different vessels of the same type
among the sherds in one collection. The most distinctive such collection found
so far we have called C2 and it was found during the 2003 excavation in testpit
T20. It consists mainly of sherds of three kinds: (i) bowls with red slip, (ii) rims
of small pots with sand tempered ware, and (iii) pieces of one jar with an elaborate appliqué and painted decoration. The bowl rims in the photo furthest to the
left all represent different vessels, as do the sand tempered pot rims in the central photo, while the appliqué decorated sherds to the right all appear to belong
to the same vessel. All sherds have been placed together in one single pit.
It also occurs that pottery vessels are found in depositions together with other
materials. One such example is:
J202, J204, J205, J206 and J207
– this group of vessels were found in an
intricate formation with a number of
small iron objects and one large hollow
iron spearhead or dagger, all at rim level
of the bottom jar. On top of the entire
g roup were one large and rounded
carnelian bead and one spindle whorl
with perforations around its equator.
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burials
Human burials form a special kind of deposition of ceramic vessels with other
materials. In three cases we have classified pit depositions as human burials. In
the first, found at the bottom of J104, there were remains of radius and ulna
bones from an infant together with an elaborate set of grave goods, including
tiny infant sized bangles and anklets, which has led me to interpret it as an infant burial. Two more depositions of vessels together with iron- and bronze
objects, most importantly perhaps are the child sized bronze bangles that were
found in all three contexts, have led me to believe that they may be burials as well,
even though all bone in that case were dissolved in the acid soil climate.
J104 (with J101, J102 and J103)
At the bottom of this rather small jar decorated with screw head appliqué were
the remains of an infant burial. The very top of the vessel group has been destroyed in an accidental dig at the tourist resort, so the top of the ‘plate’ covering the jar was missing at the time of excavation. This could thus possibly have
been a hat shaped lid like that covering the burial in J214. The burial context was
however still in situ, with two pairs of tiny bronze bangles (F2002:32 and
F2002:35), of which one had the radius and ulna bones preserved in situ. Just
beside those was one helix shaped bronze ornament (F2002:25 and F2002:31),
possibly a finger ring and in such case of adult size. There were also a collection
of glass beads: tiny translucent dark blue cylindrical beads and opaque rounded
red ones (F2002:27), together with three larger beads of translucent green glass,
one biconical and two cylindrical (F2002:33). Further there were two sets of four
bronze anklets (F2002:36), and the find context shows that they were most probably interred four anklets in a row on each of the infant’s legs, with the legs joined
together in the grave. For more exact descriptions of these singular artefacts,
please return to the previous chapter dealing with The Things.
There appears also to have been a number of iron objects among the grave
goods, which were too dissolved by corrosion to be able to decide the exact
shapes of. However, the positions of the iron objects that were found in and
around the main jar are rather curious. Five of the iron objects were found at the
bottom of the burial jar, while three were found at rim level just outside the same
jar. A possible scenario which could have produced such remains is that some of
the small iron objects were interred together with the infant and the rest of the
grave goods at the bottom of the jar, while a couple were placed just by the jar
at the time of filling the grave. This indicates the importance of iron in the burial
ritual, perhaps even a special significance of iron as material rather than its shape
as discrete objects.
174
CONTEXTS
175
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
J107
In a rather different vessel than that in the case above, another possible infant
burial was found. J107 is a fragile and rather large jar, of a poor quality rice
tempered and cordmarked ware. It was found in the corner of a testpit and was
completely collapsed. At the bottom were a number of artefacts. First of all there
was a tiny bronze bangle (F2002:44), affected by corrosion similar to a small
176
CONTEXTS
bronze bowl (F2002:52) that was placed upside down at the bottom of the jar.
It was so badly affected by corrosion so that it almost completely disintegrated
when the soil inside it was removed. Further, there were a few beads (F2002:53),
small and rounded of dark translucent blue glass, and rounded opaque red ones,
just like in the burial presented above. And finally there were five tiny and fragile bronze bells (F2002:54), which similar to the bowl and the bangle were badly
affected by corrosion. The bells could only be reconstructed in drawing after all
soil had been removed. The bells may just as the bangle be characteristic of an
infant burial, since there is traditionally a wide-spread connection between infants and bells in ornaments used in Mainland Southeast Asia today.
J214 (with J210, J213, J219, J220 and J221)
This well-preserved deposition is built around the large and beautifully decorated jar J214. At the bottom of the jar were two smaller
vessels covered with dark red slip: one pot and one small lidded urn.
Just beside the opening of the tilted pot was a child sized bronze
bangle (F2003:180) and a badly corroded iron object. The rim of the
jar was cut off, and it was sealed by a hat shaped lid decorated with
incised parallel lines. On top of it all were one small and thin pot of
sand tempered ware, and a bowl with a foot ring, covered on the inside by a red slip. All vessels except the sand tempered pot (J213)
appear to be made of the same ware.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
textile production
In three different contexts, spindle whorls were deposited with ceramic vessels.
The first case has already been presented above, where one single spindle whorl
(F2003:93) with perforations around its equator was deposited in a pit together
with five ceramic vessels, a carnelian bead and a number of iron artefacts. In
another case, three spindle whorls (F1995:135-7) were deposited beneath the base
of the small cordmarked pot J29 (see photo below), alone in a pit not very deep
under the ground. Finally, an extraordinary deposition of ten spindle whorls
(F1995:231, see photo below) with incised whirl decorations was found under the
base of a small ceramic vessel (J50), buried alone in a pit. A curious detail is that
the majority of spindle whorls deposited in pits were decorated, while those on
the ground are with only one exception undecorated.
metallurgy
Metal and metallurgy also occur in pit depositions. While bronze is almost exclusively found in pit depositions with ceramic vessels and most often in burial
contexts, iron appears to be different. It is commonly found in the cultural layer,
which means that it has been lying on the ground, and is directly associated with
other metallurgy materials such as tuyères, fired clay and slag. When iron objects
occur in pit depositions, they are treated differently than bronze. Iron does occur on the bottom of burial jars together with other grave goods but is often, as
was noted in the case of J104 above, also scattered around the rim level of the
deposited vessels. Owing to heavy corrosion it has been difficult to establish any
clear shapes of the iron objects, but it appears as if those found scattered around
ceramic vessels in pit depositions are in small pieces with no distinctive shapes.
178
CONTEXTS
As was indicated above, this can be interpreted as a ritual importance of iron as
material rather than as discrete functional objects. This interpretation is further
supported by the contextual interrelations between slag and ceramics. On several of the complete vessels that have been reconstructed, such as J207, there are
clear traces of contact with metallurgical activities. In the case of J207, the entire exterior surface of the base is covered in dross, showing that it must have
been exposed to splashes of liquid metallic residues. In another case, a deposition of four rather small vessels (J35, J36, J37 and J39) were placed in a pit adjacent to the main metallurgy area in the large excavation trench E2, and on top
of the vessels there was a neatly placed lump of slag. Further, there is one example in the stratigraphic sequence of the western wall of square D2 (see appendix III), where a lump of slag has been placed alone at the bottom of a deep
pit.
curious depositions
Finally there are two pit depositions without ceramics that need to be mentioned.
T he first of these contain a rather larg e but soft shouldered stone adze
(F2003:159). It was found alone, far down below the cultural layer, standing up
with the edge pointing down in the ground.
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The second is a deposition of 137 beads (plus fragments) in a row as strung
on a string. At one end there are cylindrical orange opaque glass beads, which
become smaller and smaller as they approach the other end. They are 125 in all.
After these are 12 translucent rounded beads of dark blue glass, of the exact same
diameter as the smallest orange ones.
180
RITUAL SPACE
RITUAL SPACE
As we move on with the interpretation of Lao Pako as a prehistoric site, it becomes more complicated. In the current consensual archaeological understanding of the late prehistory of Mainland Southeast Asia, iron production is dealt
with exclusively in terms of industry, whereas pottery is often treated as art, or
as a display of wealth or status when recovered as grave offerings, or as functional containers being part of discrete manufacturing traditions. According to
these frames, the late prehistoric societies in this area have primarily been understood as economically maximizing production units with their subsistence
base in rice agriculture that were involved in extensive trade networks. Since my
archaeology has an expressed interest in the individual human, the local, and the
particular, I have quite intentionally worked on a detailed level of analysis. This,
in turn, has revealed connections and relationships between different categories
of material culture, pointing to shortcomings in interpretive models based solely
on factors related to subsistence, function and industrial production for the interpretation of this particular site. Hence I need to create another intellectual
space in which to discuss the Lao Pako site in a way that can truly give it meaning.
Ritual, it is sometimes claimed, is used by archaeologists to explain that which
cannot be scientifically understood in terms of rationality. Like cult, ritual is a
word surrounded by mystique, it is connected with the sacred, something basically
and totally different from that which we experience as our mundane reality
(Eliade 1959:9f). Unlike the more general word cult, ritual is a scientifically construed concept that enables us to analyse such emotive and fundamentally symbolic forms of communication: activities which are irrational with respect to
science but rational in terms of its culturally internal coherence and purpose (Bell
1997:1,50; cf. Evans-Pritchard 1976:30). I have interpreted Lao Pako as a place
for the sacred. There, the sacred was manifested in the material world. Using
Mircea Eliade’s phenomenological framework for understanding ritual 1, I mean
that the sacred was experienced at Lao Pako through its manifestations in ordinary objects such as pots and iron knives: the irrational was thus rationalised in
these material media placing it in the borderland between the sacred and the
profane 2 (cf. Eliade 1959).
Well then, what was the sacred we can see reflected in the things that remain
today from the prehistoric rituals once performed at Lao Pako? And what were
these rituals? Can we indeed know anything about the rituals from the tiny material fragments that remain for us to interpret? I will return to these questions
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in the next chapter. This chapter will provide a framework, will show the possibilities to analyse a prehistoric ritual site to gain an understanding of the things,
and of the society behind the things. I will start off with a short introduction to
the use of ritual as a conceptual tool, and explain my choice of approaches in
ritual studies for the analysis of Lao Pako. Finally in this chapter I will present
an analytical framework for two of the major categories of material culture at
Lao Pako – pottery and iron production – to be understood as remnants of rituals
that took place 1500 years ago.
RITUAL AS A CONCEPTUAL TOOL
Ritual appeared as a conceptual tool for social science in the late 19th century (Bell
1997:1, 259). Catherine Bell (1997) distinguishes between three different frameworks for understanding and analysing ritual in anthropology and other social
science, developing during the 20 th century. The first she calls Myth or Ritual, and
describes it as occupied with questions of essence and origin. Scholars such as
William Robertson Smith, James Frazer, Sigmund Freud and Mircea Eliade
worked foremost to find one eternal essence of religion as well as its historical
origin (ibid.:3-22). Simultaneously, but with its peak later in the 20th century, the
Ritual and Society framework was developed focusing on questions of the structure and social function of rituals. This focus was part of the so-called structuralist and functionalist schools of anthropology with a wide range of scholars:
Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, Durkheim, Mauss, Rappaport, Bateson, EvansPritchard, Lévi-Strauss, Van Gennep, Turner, Geertz, Douglas… an almost endless list of names and perspectives that have been of great influence also to the
archaeological analysis of ritual. This framework study ritual in order to explain
the structure and organisation of society as a whole. The focus is here on the
social function of ritual in society (Bell 1997:ch. 2). Bell’s third conceptual framework is called Ritual Symbols, Syntax and Praxis. Many of the scholars associated
with the functionalist analysis of ritual have also been involved in this approach,
working to analyse the structure of ritual as an independent system of communication, organized like a language. With this focus it is argued that social organisation is theoretically secondary to ‘culture’, which is defined as a primary level
of meanings, values and attitudes (Bell 1997:61). Many of the central names for
this framework of thought have been of much influence to archaeology: LéviStrauss, Leach, Turner, Bloch, Douglas and Bourdieu, to mention but a few. While
the functionalist approach has been used more by archaeologists working within
a processual framework, the interpretative approach is, not surprisingly, found
mostly with those ascribing themselves to a post-processual archaeology.
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This scheme of scholars and approaches to the study of ritual, which is by
necessity much simplified, clearly shows that it is an issue of immense complexity.
As Bell also points out, her division of theoretical approaches to ritual is not to
be read as a simple evolutionary sequence (Bell 1997:88), and in any given contemporary study of ritual there is likely to be elements of phenomenology combined with functionalism and structuralism, as well as other views that have not
been accounted for here. These approaches are in no way mutually exclusive, and
it can be argued that the choice of approach says more about the interpreter and
her society than of that under study (cf. Bell 1997:xi). Furthermore, it must be
stressed once again that ritual is a conceptual tool (cf. Leach 1968:520), useful
in archaeology to make sense of material culture. From within any given contemporary society it is, however, almost impossible to distinguish that which is ritual
from life in general. One could not exist without the other, they are entangled.
Let us now return to Lao Pako and the Lao Pako archaeological project. Above
I have perhaps too easily categorised Lao Pako as a ritual site, without any further argument to strengthen my case. In the excavations so far, nothing has been
recovered that clearly indicates a settlement, i.e. that people have actually lived
on the hill. Instead, the material culture at Lao Pako is organised in (i) pit depositions of pottery-, glass-, stone- and metal objects, (ii) iron production, probably in clay-lined open furnace, and (iii) potsherds and artefacts on the former
ground surface. Important characteristics of ritual are formalism, traditionalism,
invariance, performance and sacral symbolism (Bell 1997:139-69). The Lao Pako pit
deposits have been formed in a repeated and strictly formalised pattern of deposition, spanning over at least two centuries. This means that they who were the
last to inter things in pits at Lao Pako before it was abandoned would have repeated an activity that had been performed also by the great grandparents of their
great grandparents. In these pit depositions we can thus see not only formalism,
which is akin to invariance, but also traditionalism. Further on in this chapter I
will argue that we have good reasons also to discuss issues of symbolism and
performance (cf. Carlson 1996:6) in the interpretation of Lao Pako, but for the
time being it is enough to characterize it as a ritual site based on the argument
above. In conclusion: the spatial organisation of pit depositions as apparently
covering the entire hill, in combination with the absence of postholes or other
remains of architectural structures, the presence of small-scale iron production
intertwined with the pit depositions, and not least the infant burials indicate that
this was a place for activities that can best be described and analysed in terms
of ritual.
Once we have defined Lao Pako as a ritual site, we must decide how to ap-
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proach it. The short history of ritual studies above is a list of anthropologists,
psychoanalysts and other scholars who deal with contemporary rituals, or historical eye-witness-accounts of actual rituals. It goes without saying that even though
the anthropological analysis of ritual as been criticized for its primacy on the
visual (Clifford 1988:31), anthropologists have had access to information on
details such as the movements and detailed spatial organisation of people and
things, words and sounds, smells, visual and other sensuous aspects of the very
ritual event, which are not to be traced in such detail through the archaeological
record (Hicks 1999:xxi). Archaeological interpretations of ancient rituals have
also been questioned as by anthropologist Edmund Leach, who wrote: ‘later
writers have felt entitled to make the most sweeping reconstructions of ancient
religious systems on the basis of slender archaeological residues of ritual practice’ (1968:521). Some archaeologists have shared Leach’s concerns, and accordingly there has been a tendency in archaeology to stop the interpretation of ritual
remains at what have appeared to be safe categorization into putatively universal categories such as ‘burials’ and ‘hoards’. I cannot see the reason of not using
the archaeological material for interpretation of ritual any more than other aspects of society – or may it be that the knowledge of other past rituals is potentially too challenging for our modern world view? I do not aim for my archaeology to be safe, but instead thought-provoking, debating and challenging. From
where I stand, I can see that archaeological remains in general have obvious
shortcomings compared with any anthropological documentation. But there are
also just as obvious and well-known assets to the archaeological documentation,
such as its potentially extended time frame, its specific and detailed material
focus, and the analyst’s ability to go back again and again to the material approaching it from different angles, as opposed to the anthropological documentation of the elusive and situational ritual event. Thus the real shortcoming is not
so much that a study of rituals in the past will never look like a study of rituals
in the present, but rather that archaeologists have applied the anthropological
description as the key to past rituals, instead of stressing the assets of the archaeological interpretation and let them enrich and challenge the interpretation of
contemporary rituals.
Just as it is practically impossible to separate the sacred from the profane, or
for that matter ritual from ordinary life, it is also problematic to divide rituals,
past and present, into types such as ancestral, mortuar y or fertility rites (Hicks
1999:xxiii). Any given ritual in real society will show elements of several of all
possible distinguishable ritual types. Nevertheless, conceptual categories are
useful for cross-cultural understanding and analysis of ritual. Based on our
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knowledge of the material culture at Lao Pako, combined with its socio-political setting 1500 years back as well as today, I have chosen to interpret Lao Pako
as a place for rites de passage, that is rituals which are connected with the human
life cycle, and here specifically birth and death (for a briefing see Bell 1997:94,
cf. also van Gennep 1960 and Turner 1967). In next chapter’s analysis, I have
taken inspiration from phenomenological as well as the structuralist approaches
to ritual. With phenomenology, in combination with an emphasis on performance, I wish to come close to the Lao Pako people to understand the rituals in
its most immediate sense, how they were lived. With my structuralist approach
I stand further away and remain analytically distant, in an attempt to understand
individual things as part of a greater order, that is ritual as reflecting a structure
of thought, a cosmology. In accordance with Stefan Bekaert writing on iron
production in Congo (Bekaert 1998), I see these two in theory fundamentally
differing approaches merely as different levels of analytical abstraction, or in
Bekaert’s words: multiple levels of meaning. Bekaert shows in a convincing study
that any given ritual can be lived, understood and explained in several meaningful ways, all true, depending on the perspectives of both the participant and the
analyst.
In conclusion, I will rely on anthropologically constructed frameworks for
understanding and analysing ritual in my interpretation of the Lao Pako material culture. My conceptual framework has a partly phenomenological and partly
structuralist emphasis. I wish to use these conceptual tools to enable the Lao Pako
site to show us the possibility of another, a ritual or symbolic, dimension to
prehistoric material culture, adding to the contemporary discourse of Southeast
Asian archaeology.
EMBODIED POTS
As we have seen, pottery in an outstanding variety of sherds and complete vessels is one of the most characteristic features of the Lao Pako prehistoric site.
A wide range of tempers and a great variation in shape and decoration testify to
a passionate attitude to pottery making. It has been predominant in archaeology
in general, and to no lesser extent in Southeast Asian archaeology, to use pottery almost exclusively to create chronological order, or ethnic groupings from
vast archaeological materials (cf. Pluciennik 1997:37). But for Lao Pako, it is
undoubtedly a key to deeper understanding to appreciate the use of pottery as
one of the main materials in the rituals once performed there. Vast amounts of
complete pottery vessels have been buried in pits, in intricate and careful formations, and in most cases completely empty.
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How can we understand the pottery formations at Lao Pako? The direct burial
association with the Lao Pako pottery that is evident through the occurrence of
infant burials opens for comparisons with other jar burials, with infants at Ban
Chiang (White 1982:28ff) and Ban Na Di (e.g. Higham and Kijngam 1984:435,
492, 495, 533-42; Higham and Thosarat 1998:81), and more generally as jar burials in covered urns from the Mun and Chi valleys in northeast Thailand that have
been described in a paper by Phasook Indrawooth (1997). It has been proposed
elsewhere that Lao Pako should be interpreted as such a jar burial site (e.g.
Sayavongkhamdy et al. 2000:104; Pautreau et al. 2001:33; Higham 2002:193). And
there are indeed similarities to a number of jar burial sites in Thailand described
by Phasook Indrawooth, which also date to the same period of time as the activities at Lao Pako. Interestingly, Indrawooth also reports a clear association
between jar depositions and iron working activities at these sites (1997:150). We
will return to the co-existence of iron production and pottery depositions on
these sites further south on the Khorat Plateau in the next chapter.
However, to put the Lao Pako site into the category ‘jar burial sites’ on the
basis of remains from infant burials in two, or possibly three out of the almost
one hundred complete jars uncovered so far, is not quite satisfactory. It simply
would not do justice to the complexity of the site, there seems to be more to read
out of the structure of these pottery depositions. There is a remarkable consistency in deposition patterns, suggesting a strong underlying structure regulating
action – a structure that gives an opportunity to discuss the intentions of the
people that created the site through these remains of their actions. To develop
this further, and in consideration of the limitations (a statistically small sample
with no direct comparative material from the surrounding areas) and assets (a
limited and well structured sample showing morphological and depositional
homogeneity) of the Lao Pako material culture, I will use the concept of metaphor as an analytical tool.
There is no ready and fixed definition of the term ‘metaphor’. The word – in
its Greek origin metaphora means ‘carrying over’ – has been and is used in a
number of different ways, in scientific analysis as well as in common speech. Here
I build my argument along lines worked out by scholars such as Raymond Gibbs
(1994) and Jonathan Culler (1981), which have been reworked to fit archaeology
and the study of material culture foremost by Christopher Tilley (1999, see also
Hodder 1982b). A common definition of metaphor is a term, image or object that
in a particular cultural situation comes to carry the meanings of another term,
image or object from another level of understanding or frame of reference. As
expressed by Christopher Tilley, it is ‘a form of compressed analogy’, reflected
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in examples such as the foot of the hill and he was a lion in battle (1999:5). Metaphors
are verbal, textual or material reflections of an underlying cognitive structure and
world view. This means that we all constantly use metaphors to understand the
world and to communicate that understanding to others around us. In other
words, the use of metaphors is a crucial element of all human cultural construction and communication. The metaphors we use in thinking and communication
reflect how we associate certain material objects with other objects, or with
people, personalities, roles etc. Furthermore, the use of certain metaphors have
been shown to be specific to certain cultural situations. Thus metaphors are
culture specific, and so the common use of a set of metaphors among a certain
group of people at a particular time reflects in some sense a shared world view
and cosmology (Tilley 1999).
In the case of the Lao Pako pottery, I will use the metaphor concept on two
different levels of analysis, to visualise established structures of thought. In order
to put the interpretation of the Lao Pako pottery into perspective, we will first
take a closer look at some metaphorical structures in the culture of contemporary Southeast Asian archaeology.
The use of the term jar burial site in the archaeology of Mainland Southeast
Asia appears to have started with the special issue on Sa-Huýnh pottery in Asian
Perspectives edited by Wilhelm Solheim (1959; also Janse 1959b:109). Prehistoric
jar burial sites were already known as quite common in insular Southeast Asia,
but here it was for the first time presented as a general phenomenon also on the
mainland (cf. also Solheim 1960). The term jar burial site has thereafter often been
used to describe sites with depositions of complete ceramic vessels, often from
the late prehistoric period, and in association with other remains, such as iron
production residues at sites mentioned by Phasook Indrawooth in an influential
paper on the subject (1997). Christopher Tilley has analysed the concept of
megaliths in European archaeology, as being a contemporary archaeological metaphor that unites under a single term what is in fact a number of rather different
lithic remains, all being ‘big stones’, from a vast period of time and an enormous
geographical area. This creates a unity that enables us archaeologists to order the
material, to compare and analyse it within common frames, which have evidently
never existed in prehistory (Tilley 1999:ch. 3).
I would argue that the concept of jar burial site is a comparable metaphor in
the archaeology of Southeast Asia, albeit not as powerful as the megalith one.
Such metaphors are, of course, essential for archaeological research, as they open
for an appreciation of similarities and a discussion of differences in light of these
similarities. Nevertheless, there is an inherent risk that the willingness to see
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similarities overshadows the differences at hand. Tilley writes about the concept
of megaliths: ‘[...] its very objectification in discourse as a separate entity leads
us to expect that we should be dealing with a unitary phenomenon’ (ibid.:97). This
expectancy of similarity may lead us to a reduced picture of jar burial sites in
Mainland Southeast Asia, as having their only value in the bone, metal and glass
remains buried in lidded jars, in close analogy with contemporary Buddhist cremation burials in the same area, in jars on secluded burial grounds. While creating such a picture, we are also disregarding other factors such as iron production and deposition of empty pottery vessels at the same prehistoric sites. Are
they really anomalies, all such findings?
As I have argued above, the Lao Pako pots are for many reasons not easily
squeezed into the concept of jar burial site. Instead, I will turn to other metaphorical structures to find a possible way of interpretation. The associations between
pottery vessels and human bodies are common and well-known from many parts
of the world (Barley 1984:99, 1994; Pluciennik 1997:50; Tilley 1999:8). One
expression of that almost universal metaphorical relation is that the terminology used to describe different parts of a pottery vessel in many languages are
identical to those for the human body: in English we talk about the neck, shoulder, body and foot of a jar. The same goes for both Lao (for example ¯¾¡ and
êÉ º ¤) and Swedish (with examples such as hals, buk and fot). The connection is
so obvious so that it is often overlooked, and the implications of such metaphorical connections between pottery and human bodies for the interpretation of
material culture have almost exclusively been investigated in African and South
American anthropology and archaeology. From many parts of Africa there are
recordings of direct metaphorical relations between pottery and the body (Barley 1994; Ibigami 1984) and more specifically the female body. There are in some
of the examples clear morphological indications of this pottery-body connection, with anthropomorphic vessels or with representations of single body parts
in the shape of the vessel. In other cases the vessels reported to having been used
as representations of bodies or parts of bodies appear to have no morphological similarities to that which it represents. Furthermore, pottery as almost synonymous with the earth is closely associated with the earth deities that are often
female (Barley 1994:47-58). Pottery making on the whole is in all African examples connected to a female sphere of society (ibid.:61f), as it has also been indicated in different contemporary contexts in Mainland Southeast Asia (Mourer
1984:28; Lefferts & Cort 1997).
In Southeast Asian archaeology, however, there has been almost no interest
at all in studying such metaphorical aspects of the production and use of pot-
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tery. Tilley’s words: ‘metaphor is linked with emotion and subjectivity and opposed to a disinterested and objective understanding’ (1999:4) gives a clue to
understanding why, considering that the processual approach which dominates
the archaeolog y of Mainland Southeast Asia explicitly aims for an objective
understanding of the past. In an anthology on African and Asian pottery from
1984, most of the papers dealing with African pottery evolves around pottery
symbolism (e.g. Barley 1984; Ibigami 1984), while the ones on Southeast Asia (Ho
1984; Mourer 1984) deal almost exclusively with technology, reflecting general
tendencies in these two archaeology traditions. This, of course, is not indicative
of a complete lack of pottery symbolism in the Southeast Asian past. There are
examples of direct morphological connections between pottery and human bodies also in Southeast Asia. In an excavation of a late prehistoric burial site in
Burma, a Burmese-French research team with U Pauk Pauk, Jean-Pierre Pautreau
and Patricia Mornais uncovered a grave that appeared to be a cenotaph, but instead contained a row of pottery vessels put together to take almost exactly the
size and shape of a human body 3. As another example, Euzebio Dizon has reported about a jar burial site in the Ayub Cave in the Philippines typologically
dated to the last few centuries BC and the first few AD, where the burial jars are
quite expressively anthropomorphic (Dizon 1993, 1996). The jars, which contained other smaller pottery vessels, bone and other grave goods, are shaped as
naturalistic representations of human bodies, most are adult female bodies with
breasts although there are also male bodies represented. The jars in this case seem
to represent individual bodies, since the character and facial expression is unique
for every jar (Dizon 1993:8).
The examples above should have made clear that we archaeologists never
produce metaphor-free pictures of pots or any other kind of material culture –
simply because metaphor is a crucial element of all human communication. Thus,
talking about metaphor in relation with the Lao Pako pottery is not a matter of
adding a new aspect to these things, but rather to visualise how these pots are
comprehended through the metaphorical structure of contemporary archaeology and ask whether this is likely to correspond with the way the objects could
have been understood in the past. Could it be that we have been missing an
important factor of why these pots came to exist in the first place? I would argue that it is possible. In the archaeology of Southeast Asia, pottery has foremost been understood as containers, bearers of developmental information and markers
of group identity. Such understanding is not in any sense ‘natural’, but culturally
constructed. While these aspects are no doubt important for our understanding
of the objects, there seems to be more to them.
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Using a metaphorical structure where
pottery is connected symbolically to the
human body is in my view a viable way to
bring meaning to the single objects at Lao
Pako and their str ucture of deposition.
With the body-, and specifically the female-body-metaphor applied to the Lao
Pako jars, we see the infant burial jars with
new eyes. Look at the beautiful jar 104! It
has rounded body, like a pregnant woman’s
belly, and with a nar row opening. The
screw head appliqué decoration – could
this be a stylised representation of the
female genitals? There are obvious morphological similarities with the vaginal
opening and the labia. In such a metaphorical structure, the jar with screw head
appliqué becomes as a metonym (cf. Tilley
1999:5f; Bell 1997:50f) for the female, the
99. Reconstruction of the pit deposimother, in the specific form of the belly of a pregnant woman. This means that
tion with J104 at the centre.
¡¾ÌÁªÉ´£õÌÃÏÈ¢º¤¡¾Ìêñ®«ö´Íд¢º¤ these infants were put back into the womb before being interred (cf. Ibigami
J104 ꆲ®
ö µøÀÈ £…¤¡¾¤Íд.
1984:111f; Hicks 1984). Such a symbolism should not be far-fetched at all, provided that these remains are viewed as part of a metaphorical structure more
similar to the ethnographic African examples discussed above, or indeed the
structures expressed in the anthropomorphic pottery from the Philippines and
the ‘pottery burial’ from Burma, than to the ‘jar burial site’-metaphor prevalent
in the contemporary Southeast Asian archaeology tradition. Thinking with this
metaphorical structure also opens up for a possible understanding of the majority
of apparently empty deposited jars. It is known from several diverse cultural
contexts that substances associated with childbirth, e.g. blood, birth waters, placenta and umbilical cord, are considered highly polluting, are surrounded by
100. Screwhead decoration on a Lao taboos, and have to be disposed of in a strict ritual, often as a burial (Parkin
Pako vessel.
1992:22, see also Bell 1997:97 for an example from Taiwan, Meskell 2002:81 for
¡¾Ì¯½©ñ®ªö¡ÁªÈ¤¹ö¸Ìº©Ã¦È²¾
New Kingdom Egypt, and Ibigami 1984:110 for Nigeria). Could it be that the jars
§½Ì½¢º¤ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡.
at Lao Pako were clay bodies used for ritual disposal of afterbirth?
It is my conviction that thinking with different metaphorical structures will
bring us further in the understanding of all the empty buried jars at prehistoric
sites all over Mainland Southeast Asia of which it has so far been impossible to
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make sense. In any case, it is clear that the elaborate structures of deposition that
remain after rituals at Lao Pako give us an opportunity to create an understanding of the use and importance of pottery during late prehistoric times that goes
beyond the ordering of pots, jars and sherds into technologies and chronologies.
IRON IN OTHER WORDS
The evidence is not so rich for the Lao Pako iron production as for the pottery
depositions, and arguments about the meaning of iron at Lao Pako are thereby
undeniably weakened. Nevertheless, I find it necessary to discuss iron production and approaches to the analysis and understanding of iron production in
general to create an intellectual space for us to be able to appreciate other dimensions of iron production than the technological and merely functional.
In a paper arguing for a wider appreciation of the symbolic dimensions of
potter y making, Nigel Barley wrote: ‘For the ethnocentric Westerner, working
metal is a purely secular, empirical activity that may entail an amount of ritual
dressing up. Burying the dead is, however, ‘pure’ ritual and so cannot be the basis
of a cross-cultural reality. It is not clear that African peoples [or people in any
other cultural context, my remark] see things in the same light.’ (1984:95). For
Barley in 1984, it was more difficult to argue for an appreciation of pottery symbolism in African archaeology than for the to him well-known ritual dimension
of metal work.
In the archaeology of Southeast Asia today, the situation is reversed. Again,
I would argue, the reason for this is to be found in the metaphorical structure
of the discipline. The extraordinary contribution to the archaeological understanding of metals and metallurg y on the Khorat Plateau by the Thailand
Archaeometallurgy Project (Pigott & Natapintu 1997; Pigott 1998; White & Pigott
1996, see also Bronson 1985), has created a strong functionalist discourse in metal
studies for this area. Copper-, bronze- and iron production have been studied
exclusively as industry with focus on technology, and analysed as a factor for socioeconomic development (e.g. Mudar & Pigott 2003). Even more than with Southeast Asian pottery studies, arguably due to this being a narrower research field,
this functionalist discourse in metal studies has become completely naturalised
and undisputed in the way we view the prehistory of the Khorat Plateau.
In a paper on iron slag depositions in Swedish Viking Age burials, Mats
Burström writes that the prevailing archaeological view of the iron production
process seen only in terms of technolog y and economy, is a projection of a
modern world view based on a scientific explanatory system, onto the past where
it is more than likely that the world was experienced and explained in other terms
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(Burström 1990, cf. also O’Connor 1975:190 and Haaland et al. 2002). Whilst I
do not in any way deny the importance of studies of technology and the social
function for our understanding of metals, I see also in accordance with Burström
that other possibly important dimensions of Southeast Asian metal work are left
unnoticed in this powerful and exclusive discourse.
In the field of anthropological studies, the ritual dimension of metal production is considered as an almost universal phenomenon. Nearly all known ethnographic and historical examples from outside of our contemporary industrialized
and capitalized world system of production, show a high degree of ritualization
surrounding all metal working activities (Eliade 1962; O’Connor 1975; Barley
1984; Burström 1990; Collett 1993; Herbert 1993; Rowlands & Warnier 1993;
Bekaert 1998; Haaland et al. 2002). Often, the production ritual is saturated with
sexual symbolism, and the smith is almost always considered to be endowed with
supernatural powers (Herbert 1993:12ff; Burström 1990:265). Stanley O’Connor
has written:
The iron worker assumes the role of time as he transforms the earth’s substances
into metal. With fire and the bellows’ urgent breath he brings ores to ripeness,
substituting his knowledge and human time for the pulse of life that moves transparent, a river of cosmic breath, through the rocks, the brooks, and the great
mountain, linking the ancestors and the living through the transforming power
of fire (O’Connor 1975:190).
A river of cosmic breath… The smith stands right on our modern boundaries between nature and culture, animate and inanimate, subject and object, and
the constant transgression of these boundaries works to weaken them (ibid.:179).
It is certainly not a coincidence that in Javanese, the smith is called mpu, the same
title that is given to the poet (ibid.:175).
Most recent anthropological studies on the symbolism and ritualization of
iron production have been carried out in different African contexts (e.g. Collett
1993; Herbert 1993; Rowlands & Warnier 1993; Bekaert 1998; Haaland et al.
2002). In parallel with the research on symbolic qualities of pottery discussed
above, this imbalanced research situation is likely to produce a biased picture of
symbolism in iron production to be exclusive for people living on the African
continent. Attempting to counterbalance this conceptual bias, I will briefly
present examples of powerful symbolism surrounding the production of iron
from three separate Asian contexts:
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In a concrete contemporary example of a production ritual from the Arun
valley in eastern Nepal, Gunnar Haaland, Randi Haaland and Suman Rijal
describes iron production as dependent on sacrificial rituals balancing male
and female symbolic elements. Prior to the smelting of the ore, there was in
this case a sacrifice of two ritually purified fowls, one hen and one rooster.
During the smelting procedure, happening only on Wednesdays, a second
rooster was sacrificed to the furnace, which was engendered and conceptualised as female. A third sacrifice was made in the smithy, where both tools
and work space were sprinkled with blood from sacrificed animals. The
transfer of blood is here analogous to transfer of life. The sacrifices in this
example serves as a medium to prevent misfortune, which is part of the
general conceptual structure among people in Nepal in general (Haaland et
al. 2002:50f).
Stanley O’Connor has written in a paper on symbolism in Southeast Asian
iron working, about the symbolism surrounding the kris. The Indonesian
kris, a distinct and well-known form of knife or rapier, is an object embedded in powerful symbolism, and is important to the extent that it is inseparable from the concept of person (O’Connor 1975:175). Initially in the
production process the ores are symbolically taken from the womb of the
earth, where they are believed to be subject to cosmic laws of birth, death
and decay. Thus the miner, smelter and smith are all interfering with the
cosmic process and are subject to ritual regulations. The production of the
kris is also surrounded by ritual offerings and ceremonial decorations of the
workspace. All through the life of the kris, it has a strong connection with
the realm of the ancestors, and it is subject to annual ritual cleaning and
special storage regulations. It has a dedicated place in cosmos, and plays a
pivotal role for the understanding of Javanese cosmology (O’Connor 1975).
Our third example is a Chinese story written by Chao Yeh in the 2nd century
AD. The story tells of a famous sword made for Ho Lu, the king of Wu from
514 to 496 BC, by the renowned sword smith Kan Chiang. In beautiful words
it shows the importance of the production ritual: ‘To make these swords,
Kan Chiang collected refined iron from the five mountains, the best metal in
the world […] He chose the right time and place, with the Yin and the Yang
in bright harmony, and the hundred spirits assembled to watch […]
(Needham 1980:516). And so iron production becomes poetry.
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101. Antropomorphic furnace from a
20th century African context.
Reproduced from South African
Archaeological Bulletin 1960/1.
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194
On a structural level, all these examples have an important gender dimension
to the production of metal. The common use of metaphors such as ‘raw’ and
‘ripe’ to describe different stages of the iron production process (e.g. O’Connor
1975:189; Needham 1980:521) points further to structural similarities with the
life cycle. Eugenia Herbert has described an example of sub-Saharan iron production as a transformative process which ‘invoke the human model as the measure of all things, giving pre-eminence to the two most salient aspects of lived
experience, gender and age […] uniting the living with the dead’ (Herbert 1993:5).
Ethnog raphic studies from as diverse places as Congo (Bekaert 1998), the
Cameroon Grassfields (Rowlands & Warnier 1993:524, 539ff), Western Sudan and
Tanzania (Haaland et al. 2002) as well as a summary of common conceptual structures surrounding iron-smelting in south- and east Africa (Collett 1993), all point
to a clear metaphorical connection between iron making, especially smelting, and
human procreation. The morphology of objects involved in the smelting procedure, their names, the choreography of the smith’s performance and the words
used to describe the procedure, are all sexual metaphors. The furnace is often
referred to as the womb and has the shape of a woman’s body and the tuyères
have the shape of male genitals. The smith performs in some cases in a choreography based on sexual movements, and the smelting procedure is described as
sexual intercourse. The metal is the baby, and slag is referred to as afterbirth.
There are often strong regulations and taboos based on timing, gender and age
surrounding the performative part of the ritual, which are similar to taboos and
regulations surrounding pregnancy and child birth (e.g. Meskell 2002:69).
Acknowledging the great variation of rituals surrounding iron production all
over the world, it can nevertheless be concluded that the examples cited here have
a reoccurring metaphorical structure for metal production involving issues of
gender and life cycle: procreation, life and death. Based on this conclusion, I
suggest that it is more probable that the people who produced iron at Lao Pako
1500 years ago had a metaphorical structure for experiencing and explaining iron
production related to that of gender, age and human procreation, than one based
on the principles of industry and capitalism. This eliminates the possible conceptual contradiction that iron was produced at the same time and place where
children were interred in jars with glass beads and jewellery. Structural similarities based on metaphors of gender and life cycle, between iron production and
jar deposition, make it only logical that they belong to the same place.
LAO PAKO 1500 YEARS AGO
LAO PAKO 1500 YEARS AGO
AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL SYNTHESIS
On the surface Lao Pako gives a modest impression; a small site on a small hill
that yields to us quite ordinary finds such as pottery, pebble tools, glass beads
and iron knives. The fact remains, however, that Lao Pako and its occupants were
a part of the world in these late prehistoric times. For the people who used it the
site was not peripheral, but the centre of their world. The artefacts provide
evidence of contact with other areas along the Mekong River, and the people who
used it were likely to have been aware and part of political and social forces in
the surroundings. They organized their community in relation to that outer world,
and the outer world also related to them. To do them justice, we must, therefore,
approach the archaeological record in a way that will acknowledge the site Lao
Pako and its people as being the centre of the world. So we will stay at Lao Pako,
looking out on the world around.
LOOKING OUT
How did the surrounding world seem to the people at Lao Pako? We shall, of
course, never be able to reconstruct their view of the world, but we can create
a picture of how it might have seemed. As a point of departure we will look at
what simultaneously happened in the surroundings, in the fourth to seventh
centuries AD. This period of time when Lao Pako was in use is commonly referred to as the Iron Age 1 in the archaeological narrative of Mainland Southeast
Asia. The Iron Age, beginning around 500 BC in this central part of the mainland
is characteristically described as an interim period with emerging centralisation
in chiefdoms, eventually leading up to the full development of states towards the
end of the first millennium AD. The preceding period, the Bronze Age, is like the
European equivalent often described as a mysterious golden age filled with rich
and elaborate material culture, while the Iron Age is expressionally low-profile but
technologically more skilled. European and Southeast Asian alike, the Bronze Age
is focused on ritual and described in terms of early civilisation, while the Iron
Age is depicted as industrial and ‘pre-state’. Charles Higham says about Mainland
Southeast Asia: ‘the Iron Age […] involves increased social and technological
sophistication that was to generate the development of indigenous states’
(2002:170). The archaeological knowledge we have about what was going on in
the surrounding Mekong valley and beyond during the period when Lao Pako was
in use, is derived from a number of investigated and excavated sites. For some
cases, mainly concerning the areas along the coasts of the mainland, there are
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also written Chinese sources.
Further to the north was the expanding and aggressive Chinese empire. During the Han Dynasty it had been in control of large areas and populations in Bac
Bo in present-day northern Vietnam, but now it no longer fostered such expansive designs towards the south (Higham 1996:332). Downstream the Mekong in
the delta near the coast, a large centre with many similarities to contemporary
Indian culture emerged in the first century AD. Major changes occurred there
during the period Lao Pako was in use. The site Oc Eo, which has revealed a large
amount of archaeological evidence corroborating Chinese historical accounts,
seems to have been the earliest political centre, until it was abandoned in the fifth
or sixth century (Higham 1989:245-254). Another political centre then grew
around Angkor Borei 2. These large centres showed great similarities to India with
similar political organization and religious elements, but were also in close contact with China, and had exchange contacts with the Roman Empire. The architecture was based on bricks and carved stone which, as well as the extraordinary
and rich material culture, provide evidence of participation in an extensive trade
network (ibid.). Related to the so-called Sa Huynh culture on the east coast, in
what is today central and southern Vietnam, we find the Cham civilization which
spoke an Austronesian language and had strong cultural connections to insular
Southeast Asia. Most scholars believe it probable that the Cham were in contact
with the Mekong valley which lies directly across the Truong Son mountain range
(Higham 1996:307). The enigmatic Plain of Jars with its huge stone jars, that were
dealt with in further detail in chapter Upstream, was dated by Madeleine Colani
(1932, 1935(II):123) to the same period when Lao Pako was in use. This area is
connected with Lao Pako via the Nam Ngum river, so the two places could from
a strictly infrastructural point of view easily have been in contact with each other.
The dating of the Plain of Jars cannot however be regarded as totally reliable,
since it is based solely on the typological sequence established in the 1930s.
There were also smaller communities not as centralized as the polities described above, which are commonly referred to as peripheral and has not been
granted much space in archaeological research. For instance, the northern upland areas of the mainland have not yet been subjected to much archaeological
enquir y. Nonetheless, examples are known in norther n Thailand (Higham
1989:61) of hunter-gatherer communities that kept their subsistence economy
throughout the first millennium AD, and even well into the 20 th century, without however living in isolation from the rest of the world.
All the above were part of the diverse world which surrounded the people at
Lao Pako. Not very far away were communities that are described in archaeologi-
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LAO PAKO 1500 YEARS AGO
cal literature as dominant and expanding civilizations, just as there were also
hunter-gatherers in interplay with other communities. Given the location of Lao
Pako on one of the major waterways in Mainland Southeast Asia, and the knowledge we have of contemporary dominant communities and even state formations
not far away, we can conclude that the people who occupied Lao Pako were exposed to and reacted to many different cultural influences. They should have been
well aware of the surrounding world, and organized their community actively in
relation and response to that world. The Mekong River is said to be the artery
of Mainland Southeast Asia. To this day together with its tributaries it is the main
route of transportation and communication (Sluiter 1993:17, 42). This has been
so at least as far back as the earliest written accounts can tell, and we have no
reason to doubt it has always been the case. Today large rivers are often used as
national and regional borders, which is something we have to disregard when
studying the prehistory in this area where the rivers rather have a strong connective quality.
In the river system immediately surrounding Lao Pako there is a number of
investigated archaeological sites from approximately the same time as Lao Pako
was in use, which are worth taking a closer look at (for a map, see figure 8). These
sites can be divided into two groups, the moated sites and those without moats.
The moated sites are mostly found in dry areas in the drainage basin of the Chi
river further south on the Khorat Plateau. Most archaeological investigations so
far on these moated sites have only involved surveys, and only a few have been
excavated, therefore they are surrounded by many uncertainties. These, while yet
insufficiently dated, seem to have appeared just before or at the same time as iron
working. Many moated sites of differing size were constructed, probably both
before and during the time Lao Pako was used. The most thoroughly investigated
are Ban Chiang Hian, Ban Kho Noi and Non Chai. They appear to represent large
settlements, and some were perhaps regional centres for smaller communities in
the surrounding area. Their systems of water control were evidently of great
importance, and more recent studies have been inclined to emphasise the aspect
of water control rather than defence as the primary idea behind the moat constructions (Moore 1988, 1992; Higham 1996:240ff, 2002:187f; O’Reilly 1997;
Welch 1997:71). The lack of thoroughly reported excavations from these moated
sites disables any deeper comparisons, but as regards the Ban Chiang Hian ceramics, the examined rims from the upper layers show remarkable correspondence to the rims found at Lao Pako (cf. Higham and Kijngam 1984:607ff). The
appliqué decoration also occurs at Ban Chiang Hian (Higham and Kijngam
1984:616). At Non Chai it is the later pottery decoration, or rather the lack of
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decoration with a preference for plain and cord-marked wares (Higham 1996:214;
cf. Bayard et al. 1985) that corresponds well to the majority of the Lao Pako
vessels. There was probably local iron smelting at both Non Chai and Ban Chiang
Hian, just as there was at Lao Pako.
In general, the known sites without moats show a continuity from the preceding Bronze Age, but their stratigraphic sequences indicate that major changes
occurred with the introduction of iron. New artefacts were introduced, as well
as new pottery, regarding both technology and style. It has been suggested in the
interpretation of the cultural sequence at the site Ban Na Di that these changes
were due to an immigration of people from the south, since there are striking
similarities with the material culture of the moated sites to the south (Higham
1996:231ff). As Helmut Loofs Wissowa (1993:327) has pointed out, to talk about
migrations as explanation for cultural change in this area, would be to oversimplify the complex relations between people and material culture (cf. Shanks and
Tilley 1987:ch.4). I suggest that explanations for change must be found within
the dynamics of these bronze- and iron using communities, without ignoring the
importance of external contacts. These Iron Age sites without moats are in some
respects similar and in others different to Lao Pako and the artefacts found there.
We will take a closer look at three of the most thoroughly investigated.
Ban Chiang is a mound-shaped settlement and burial site with a long sequence
of use from the early Bronze Age and into the Iron Age, which had its main period of occupation much earlier than Lao Pako. The initial use of Lao Pako was
contemporary with the very last activity at Ban Chiang, in the third or fourth
century AD. It is also in this late period – period LPX, dated from 200 BC to AD
300 (White 1990:125) – that we find similarities with the material culture at Lao
Pako (White 1982; Labbé 1985). Like in Lao Pako, the dominating find category
at Ban Chiang is ceramics. Although both sites reveal a great cultural focus on
pottery, and a highly developed artistic skill in manufacturing it, the Lao Pako
ceramics differ significantly from that of Ban Chiang period LPX (cf. Glanzman
& Fleming 1985). There are few similarities in vessel forms and the composition
differs, although there are similarities in some of the tempers used. The basic
manufacturing technique, with a moulded basal hemisphere and the upper body
and rim added with the paddle-and-anvil technique, appears to be the same (cf.
White 1982:31). The appliqué decoration which is very common at Lao Pako
occurs as well, albeit sparsely on the Ban Chiang pottery. It is, however, never
refined with the screw head and combined with incisions in red slip and occasionally with red-on-buff painted decoration as in Lao Pako ceramics. The relation is reversed with the exclusively red-on-buff painted ceramics which is very
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common at Iron Age Ban Chiang (Higham 2002:190f), whereas painted vessels
occur more as an exception in the Lao Pako material. All this indicates that there
are relations between these two pottery traditions, even though it has a distinctive local character at both sites. Other artefacts appear to have different relationships. The tiny bronze bells found with the infant burial in J107 directly
resemble bronze bells found at Ban Chiang (Labbé 1985:31f). One recovered
bronze bangle (ibid.:38) also resembles a bangle (F2003:180) found in an infant
burial at Lao Pako. Glass- and carnelian beads found at Ban Chiang and displayed
at the site museum outside Udon Thani are almost identical to beads found at
Lao Pako (cf. also Labbé 1985:44, 46, 68). Another specific artefact type that is
represented at both Lao Pako and Ban Chiang are the cylindrical or pointed seals
(also called clay roller or clay seal). In particular the Lao Pako roller with a zigzag
pattern is in almost total correspondence to rollers from the late period of Ban
Chiang (White 1982:54; Labbé 1985:49, 69). Spindle whorls are also almost identical between the two sites (White 1982:76; Labbé 1985:52). There are however
material categories such as clay figurines, clay pellets and clay anvils that are quite
common at Ban Chiang, but are not represented at Lao Pako.
The material culture of the similar site Ban Na Di is closely related to that
of Ban Chiang. Major changes occurred at Ban Na Di with the introduction of
working iron in the first centuries BC (cf. the late period of Ban Chiang (White
1982)). The radiocarbon dating of Ban Na Di is still uncertain, and no exact
chronological sequence of the different occupation layers has been established
(Higham & Kijngam 1984:30ff), but the levels associated with an iron-related
settlement should be roughly contemporary with the use of Lao Pako. These
levels also reveal the closest similarities to Lao Pako. Ban Na Di and Ban Chiang
are similar in the relation their ceramics show to the Lao Pako pottery. The same
manufacturing techniques have been used, but there are differences in shape and
composition of the fabric. The rim sections show a remarkable correspondence
with the Lao Pako rims, which may very well be the result of the use at both sites
of the paddle-and-anvil manufacturing technique. The complete vessels also show
some similarities to the Lao Pako vessels. At Ban Na Di, unlike Ban Chiang we
see a preference for the appliqué decoration (Higham & Kijngam 1984:312-322,
208ff). The appliqué vessels have been dated to around 500 BC and are considerably smaller than the Lao Pako ceramics. However, the dating, as I have argued
elsewhere, is rather insecure (Källén 2000) and the execution of the appliqué
resembles that of the larger Lao Pako jars. The shapes of the complete Ban Na
Di vessels are also more similar to Lao Pako examples than to Ban Chiang vessels. For example, both Ban Na Di and Lao Pako have round-based, softly con-
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toured jars with appliqué decoration immediately below the neck, and there are
many examples of cordmarked vessels and small pots covered with red slip
(Higham & Kijngam 1984). For other artefacts, the relationship is similar to Ban
Chiang. Tiny bronze bells are found also at Ban Na Di (ibid.:135), and the glass
beads (ibid.:80) appear from drawings to be almost identical to beads found at
both Ban Chiang and Lao Pako. Eight stamp rollers (‘clay seals’, Higham &
Kijngam 1984:148ff; Higham & Thosarat 1998:168) have been found at Ban Na
Di, all but one in the levels contemporary with Lao Pako. Similarly to Ban Chiang,
at Ban Na Di there are also many finds of clay figurines, clay pellets and clay
anvils that are not represented at Lao Pako. At this later phase of Ban Na Di,
burials consisted mainly of infants interred in lidded urns together with iron
knives, bronze bangles and occasionally a few glass beads on a separate part of
the burial ground. Although the ceramics are not in any respect as elaborate as
those of Lao Pako, and the depositions are to a greater extent formalised at Ban
Na Di (Higham 2002:189), there is still an interesting parallel to the association
of lidded vessels, iron, bronze and glass beads with infant burials on both these
sites. There is also indication of local iron production at Ban Na Di from the
presence of iron slag (ibid.). So-called jar-burials also occur in moated sites on
the Khorat Plateau which are closely related to Ban Chiang Hian and Non Chai,
for example at Ban Kan Luang (Indrawooth 1997). Similar mortuary pottery jars
are known from the Plain of Jars (Colani 1932:Pl. XLI:1; Sayavongkhamdy et al.
2000). The association with iron-working activities at these sites corresponds to
the internal structure of Lao Pako, but it is quite clear that not all ceramics at
Lao Pako have been buried with human interments.
Noen U-Loke is another well excavated and documented site further south in
the Mun river valley. It is a settlement and burial site that covers twelve hectares
and has a stratigraphic sequence five metres deep. It was mainly occupied in the
Iron Age, both before and during Lao Pako was in use. The excavations of Noen
U-Loke are yet to be fully reported, so the information about the site is derived
from a brief but well illustrated account (Higham 2002:196ff). The size and structure of Noen U-Loke is quite different from that of Lao Pako, and the ceramics
appear to be entirely dissimilar. However, from the pictures of artefacts and in
situ contexts, it is clear that there are some similarities between this site and Lao
Pako. The glass beads displayed in the photos are in many cases identical to those
of Lao Pako. Perhaps the most striking example is a photo of a grave in mortuary phase 3B with a necklace still in situ around the neck of the buried person
(Higham 2002:207), with yellow and blue glass beads, strung in an identical order to the necklace F2003:92 found at Lao Pako. There are identical spindle
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whorls, and there is further a number of stone adzes similar to the adzes found
at Lao Pako associated with the Iron Age remains at Noen U-Loke. These artefacts are also indicative of structural similarities between this site and Lao Pako.
There are infant burials in jars, some interred with rich sets of grave goods bronze
anklets, bangles, finger- and earrings, glass bead necklaces and extra pottery
vessels, and others were covered in white rice (Higham 2002:203). Furthermore
there are depositions of lidded but empty urns, apparently in association with
iron production. There are also what Dougald O’Reilly and Charles Higham have
called ‘clay floors’ at both Noen U-Loke and the similar nearby site Non Muang
Kao (O’Reilly 1997; Higham 2002:200). In photos and drawings, the ‘clay floors’
at Noen U-Loke and Non Muang Kao are similar to the structures of fired clay
at Lao Pako, and they all appear to be related to metal production (ibid.).
It is clear that there are connections between Lao Pako and the sites described
above, even though internally they are very different from each other. With these
external relations in mind, we will now focus our attention inwards, to find
meaning in the internal structure and organisation of Lao Pako.
INSIGHTS
The importance of water in Southeast Asian cosmologies is well known. It is
reflected in houses, monumental architecture, known mythologies, and it is also
strongly hinted in archaeological remains such as the late prehistoric moated
settlements on the Khorat Plateau and further to the south, where the moats
recently have started to raise an interest as something with symbolical rather than
merely functional importance. Janice Stargardt’s study of the ancient Pyu of
Burma (Stargardt 1990) is another good example of recent research into the
cultural importance of water in Mainland Southeast Asia. Characteristic for this
research field, Stargardt’s study investigates an early urban context based on an
underlying Buddhist cosmology with a strong focus on technology and economy.
It is radically different from this study, in respect of its theoretical approach as
well as the study object. Nevertheless, it is possible to find numerous indications
of the cosmological and symbolic importance of waterways to the Pyu, for instance the importance of places of confluence and diversion (1990:56ff, 63f), or
the influence of what Stargardt has called ‘accidents of topography’ on architectural shapes (ibid.: ch.3). Bearing this in mind, we return to Lao Pako. The Lao
Pako landscape is in a sense defined and dominated by the mighty river Nam
Ngum. The Nam Ngum rises in the Xieng Khouang Province near the Plain of
Jars and flows down into the lowlands of the Khorat Plateau where it joins the
Mekong east of Vientiane city. Near this confluence in the lowlands but with the
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mountainous uplands within sight is Lao Pako, as we have seen purposefully
placed on a hill with a good view both upstream and downstream along the river.
We must assume that the river played a central part in people’s lives at Lao Pako.
Not only is it the main link to and from the outer world, but also it is essential
for survival in the dry season as it provides fresh water and fish. Notwithstanding its merits as an essential life giver, the river can also be a deadly threat in the
rainy season when it can get out of control, often causing serious flooding around
the site. This dual quality of the river and its water makes it likely that the Nam
Ngum was as central in the cosmology and mythology of the Lao Pako people
as rivers have been and are for people living alongside them in Southeast Asia
and elsewhere today (e.g. Allan 1997).
With the river and its water as part of the definition of the place, people chose
Lao Pako for their rituals 1500 years ago. The remains from these rituals that we
have excavated, documented and reconstructed in the preceding chapters show
that the place was created through a series of actions, of two different kinds. The
people who came to Lao Pako when it was in use saw ceramics, charcoal, iron
slag, spindle whorls and maybe textiles and other perishable materials lying
around on the ground. The things on the ground held unspoken messages for
them, without words telling which things can or must go together and which are
incompatible with each other. The things they saw must have reminded them of
their own immediate history, who they were, where they came from, how the
world was constituted. Spindle whorls and seals go with iron and tuyères, perhaps belonging conceptually to different genders and as such creating balance
with their unity. There were also large but shallow pits and structures of fired
clay, where there were hearths with lots of charcoal and the equipment to produce metals. Iron slag, broken tuyères and iron scrap were scattered around these
shallow pits. This was the place for transformation of earth and rock into shining plastic metal, through a violent and dangerous fire process controlled by the
blacksmith. The creation of metal is in many ways analogous to the creation of
life. The shining metal is born like a baby after the ore has been fertilized by the
air coming through clay tuyères resembling the male genitals. The fire in the
hearth – the womb, delivers a piece of metal as well as lumps of slag – the afterbirth. All who came to Lao Pako and saw the shallow pits with charcoal and
hearths may not have had these associations; perhaps only a chosen few had such
an insight into the production ritual.
People also came to Lao Pako to dig pits in the ground. They may have been
only a few, or a large group of people, and they may have dug many pits or only
a single one at a time. We cannot know the exact ritual choreography. But we do
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know that they arranged things in the pits with remarkable care and then filled
them up again, so that they were invisible on the ground. Despite its invisibility,
the things under the ground must have worked to render the place meaningful.
Unlike the displayed things on the ground that are visible and open for negotiation, the hidden things under the ground are closed entities. They are static, fixed
moments in time and space. Non-verbal sentences. Christian Vinterhav has written about the Lao Pako ceramics:
The…pottery formations alone are an indication of an interrelation between the
included vessels. However, the many similarities between the vessels that are paired
together further enhance the impression of interrelation, and ‘unity’ seems an
apt word for their description. It seems as though the two jars act as one body or
volume and not simply as two vessels lidding each other (in Källén et al. 2002).
This is also in my view how we must regard these deliberate groupings of
different materials and objects; as bodies or volumes. It is clear that different
materials have been treated differently in the depositions, and this is a clue to
their role in the world of the people who used Lao Pako. It has earlier been
observed that Bronze Age and Iron Age ceramics on the Khorat Plateau were produced with local distinctiveness almost down to village level (Higham 2002:185;
White et al. 1991:201f). The Lao Pako ceramics reconfirms this observed pattern.
It displays technological similarities with the ceramics on other sites further south
in the river system, but has a strong and expressive style of its own. The variation among the Lao Pako ceramics is quite outstanding, and the extraordinary
effort put into the visual expressions of the vessels, as compared to the rather
poor durability from a strictly functional point of view, shows the importance
of these ceramics as display objects. When it comes to iron, as far as we understand it from the presence of on-site production, at least some of the iron objects are also of local origin. The ritual location of the iron production process
is a further indication of the beyond-functional meanings attached to iron as a
material, as incorporated in pit depositions. With bronze, the attitude appears to
have been different. The bronzes represent a wide array of different shapes, of
which a few have direct connections to the known contemporary sites further
south. Investigations of earlier Bronze Age mining in the central Mekong valley
have shown that copper mining and bronze production is likely to have been
located to mines in the ore-rich outskirts of the Khorat Plateau, that were used
by a large number of communities far away on the alluvial plains in the centre
of the plateau (Pigott 1998; White & Pigott 1996). One area in particular has been
suggested to have been of great importance at least some time into the Iron Age,
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that of Phu Lon just to the south of the Mekong river less than 100 km from Lao
Pako (see figure 8). The bronze objects at Lao Pako may well have been produced
within such a larger circuit of bronze production. For two material categories:
beads and textile production objects, there are strong and direct connections to
other contemporary sites to the south. However, these two categories are quite
different from each other, so while it can be said with certainty that the beads
have been in circulation over large areas, the spindle whorls and clay seals are,
just like the ceramics, likely to have been locally produced, albeit sharing ideas
of shape and technology with other groups of people on the Khorat Plateau.
The distribution of things, in the micro-contexts on the Lao Pako hill as well
as in the macro-scale on the Khorat plateau, is pivotal to render them meaningful in their prehistoric context. The pit depositions at Lao Pako in most cases
contain ceramics. In a structuralist sense, there appear to be clear rules regulating action, but within the frames for what is possible there is a passionate attitude to the individual expressions. First of all, the units of ceramic vessels indicate the meaning of temper as something more than a functional addition to the
clay to prevent it from cracking. Almost all groups of vessels include one small
buff coloured and sand tempered pot, so thin and delicate so that they are often almost dissolved. The vessels tempered with rice chaff have a ware so packed
with rice so that not only are they ugly, but also useless as containers, since they
crumble as soon as they are exposed to any pressure. Most of the large appliqué
decorated jars with grog-2 tempered ware have such thin body sections and heavy
fluted rims that they tend to collapse from their own weight. The laterite inclusions used in combination with other tempers have no apparent function other
than adding attractive red dots to the surface of the ware. Or is it the iron ore
as material that is of importance? It is clearly the vessels as such that are in focus
in these depositions. They are containers, but most importantly they contain
important substances – such as iron and rice – in themselves. In other words, they
are embodied substances. In this way, seen and appreciated in terms of embodied substances, the Lao Pako ceramics challenge the common ‘quality’ assumption, which in a taken-for-granted manner tend to sneak into archaeological interpretations of ceramic culture. Based on the principles of capitalist economics, it assumes that societies develop a ceramic culture, using all available technological skill to maximise the output in terms of what we would call ‘high quality’. The ‘high quality’-ignorant yet sophisticated complexity of the Lao Pako
ceramic culture is a direct evidence of the over-simplification of such assumptions. We could take the argument even further and say that bad quality might
have been actively and intentionally produced to put an emphasis on decay in the
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rituals these ceramics were part of. Such an interpretation, a parallel to the Buddhist notion of the Impermanence of Matter, gives one more dimension to the use
of metaphors of life and death at Lao Pako.
To enable a discussion on the meaning of things at Lao Pako, there is a need
for a few words on the vast subject of gender. Early gender studies in archaeology were almost exclusively driven by a strong radical feminist agenda, which has
sometimes, rather simplistically but aptly, been described as ‘add-women-and-stir’
(Sørensen 2000). But, as put by Alison Wylie: ‘what began as an enterprise of
adding a missing piece to a complex puzzle led to a reconfiguration of the puzzle as a whole.’ (Wylie 1997:48). Gender studies in archaeology have changed from
a search of missing women, to an appreciation of the importance of gender, in
terms of what Donna Haraway (1988) has called ‘situated difference’, working
in web-like structures reaching from the individual level to the widest conception of society for the organization and world view of any human society. Like
many recent gender studies in archaeology, I address gender as complex, embedded and situational, that is, not reduced to women and men as polarised, essential and exclusive dichotomous categories. Gender is here used to describe a fluid
system of categories made valid through situation, and intrinsically linked to
other identity factors such as race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. (cf.
Wylie 1997:34f; Meskell 1998a). What is crucial in my use of gender as a category
for analysis, is the acknowledgement of the importance of actual people and their
most immediate experiences of what it is to be in the world, for our understanding of human societies in the past. This approach to gender is inspired by recent
archaeological discussions on embodiment, that is, a conceptualization of the
past as lived, sensual experience. Within this field of research, it is particularly
in the approach that considers the experiential dimension to embodiment and its
consequences for studies on material culture (Hamilakis et al. 2002:5) that I have
found my inspiration.
When ceramic vessels, that I have argued are embodied substances, were interred in a pit together with other materials at Lao Pako, it was a non-verbal
statement. Of what, is the inevitable question? Firstly, it is a story about birth.
About conception, pregnancy and delivery. Iron was created when the air from
the bellows met the ore in the furnace. Metal was born like a baby in the furnace
womb. Fired clay was taken from the clay-lined walls of the furnace, was pulverized and used to temper the clay to make jars decorated with appliqué and a blood
red slip around its orifice. In this way, I argue, the ceramic jars are humanized
and treated like bodies (cf. Hamilakis et al. 2002:11). These jars, embodying the
very material of the delivering furnace, have the size and shape of a pregnant
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belly. To pass one’s hand over the rounded body of a jar is sensually the same as
stroking the belly of a woman in the last stages of pregnancy. Elisabeth Beausang,
writing on the subject of childbirth and mothering, argues convincingly that a
discursive neglect for childbirth as an event, has led to an almost complete absence
of material culture related to birthing in archaeological interpretations. If they
do not address and discuss birthing in prehistory, she writes, ‘archaeologists will
never be able to identify material remains that can be related to childbirth events.
This will ultimately lead to the contention that such a material does not exist.’
(Beausang 2003:10). A wide range of anthropological studies indicate on the
contrary that childbirth is not only of great cultural importance, but is often
surrounded by a whole set of material culture, such as sharp-edged tools, amulets and other curious objects, pits for various uses, as well as pots and bowls for
ritual disposal of afterbirth (cf. Beausang 2003:68).
Let me now clarify about what I do not mean by an allusion to pregnancy and
birth. I am much disturbed by the persistent idea in archaeological interpretations
that womanhood is essentially connected with being, or aspiring to be, a mother
(for further critique see Meskell 1998b and Tarlow 2000:724). In my present
world, it is possible to manifest several kinds of womanhood such as the married mother, the single heterosexual woman, the single lesbian woman, the lesbian woman living in partnership, etc. There is no reason to believe that the world
was simply ‘simpler’ in the past. My point is, following the critique by Butler
(1993, 1999) and others, that there are in most human societies several distinguishable gender categories in the wider group that can be defined biologically
as ‘women’. Gender is necessarily a cultural construction, a structure under constant renegotiation. Any essentializing attempt to ‘naturalize’ gender will inevitably squeeze people into homogenizing boxes, where they will not quite fit in.
Many will instead be defined as ‘not quite’, as ‘lacking’ something. In the history
of man, women have been defined as lacking (a penis), and in a similar manner
many women in the biologically defined group of ‘women’ are considered to be
‘not quite’ women because they are lacking children or heterosexual desires. With
this rather extensive detour I wish to say that it is important to see the connection between the appliqué ceramics and pregnancy at Lao Pako not as a direct
representation of ‘female’ or ‘woman’ per se. What it is rather, is a manifestation
of life, creation and procreation, all of which are potentially of great importance
to all members of society, and all revolving around concepts of gender (e.g.
Thomas 1999).
Consequently, to make sense of these complex material relationships, we must
engage fully in a gendered interpretation of the site, and I will depart from the
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words of Marie Louise Stig Sørensen:
The conflict arising from recognizing the complexity and the slipperiness of
gender as a basic structure of society is at the same time a tremendous challenge.
It shows us the limitations of our knowledge and understanding (2000:6).
The importance of gender for our understanding of the social relations in any
human society should be obvious. The negotiation of gender relations is an
important part of the reproduction, maintenance and change of social systems
(Sørensen 2000:7). But it is a slippery road to walk. Sarah Tarlow writes in a paper
on emotions in archaeology, a subject that touches upon gender studies and which
is also crucial to consider in an interpretation of the material culture at Lao Pako,
that emotion is a centrally important area of human understanding, meaning and
experience. As archaeologists, she writes, we must become critically aware of how
we represent emotion in the past, to recognize the significance of emotion in
writing three-dimensional and humanized pasts (Tarlow 2000:730).
Pregnancy and birth, both human and metallic, were present in the Lao Pako
rituals together with death and decay. Embodied in the ceramic vessels were
substances such as iron ore representing a pre-form to life, crushed furnace clay
representing the pregnant woman, and rice as another important aspect for
understandings of fertility and growth. In some vessels, all containing the crushed
furnace clay, infants have been interred with elaborate sets of grave goods. Several writers (e.g. Meskell 2002:429; Tarlow 2000:725; Beausang 2003:118f) have
argued that infant burials that show great ritual consideration in terms of placement, grave offerings, etc. are strong indications that children and infants were
considered to be persons, that they were cherished and their loss painfully felt.
The infant burials at Lao Pako support such a view. The elaborate sets of grave
goods, individually composed, yet united by bangles and beads, show that these
infants were treated as individuals. It is possible that the tiny bronze bangles are
identity markers indicating that the child belonged to the gender category ‘infant’. I am sympathetic to Tarlow’s description of death as the moment when
relationships are frozen, and that it is the relationship between the dead and the
bereaved that is manifested in the material composition of the grave (1999,
2002:92). In one of the infant burials at Lao Pako, the tiny child was accompanied by sets of bronze adornments on both arms and legs, glass beads to form
an amulet, and had an adult sized finger ring, supposedly in his or her hand. Beads
can be used to manifest the belonging to a certain age-, gender- or ethnic group,
which is most certainly in the case of an infant, decided by they who have lost
their child. The finger ring is a touching token of a parent’s love.
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Gender relations, reaching far beyond issues of man and woman as clear-cut
categories, are culturally constructed, and as such also manifested in material
culture. To clarify what meaning I put in the word ‘construction’, I speak with
Judith Butler:
Moreover, why is it that what is constructed is understood as an artificial and
dispensable character? What are we to make of constructions without which we
would not be able to think, to live, to make sense at all, those which have acquired for us a sense of necessity? […] Thinking the body as constructed demands
a rethinking of the meaning of construction itself. (Butler 1993:xi).
Constructed and fluid gender categories are real and indispensable for all
human societies. They are part of what it is to be-in-the-world, and they leave
material impressions. Material manifestations of gender relations and negotiations in the archaeological record should therefore not surprise anyone, but
should rather be expected. It is on this basis that I want to interpret Lao Pako as
a place for manifestation of ideas about gender, life and death. Lao Pako is thus
not only a production site, nor is it a burial ground. In its ritual embracing of
both, it can best be described as a comment on life.
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My archaeological narrative is only one of many stories about Lao Pako. Like
reflections on the surface of the Nam Ngum flowing by, new knowledge is born
with a shift in focus or a different gaze. People who live nearby and for whom
Lao Pako is part of the living space have stories to place it in the landscape,
explain where it is, what it is and what it means. The Lao PDR national authorities for cultural heritage management tell other stories about Lao Pako, placing
it in the story of the nation. Finally, its present inhabitants, the Ban Pako resort
with its staff, management and visitors produce and reproduce a narrative which
makes it a tourist attraction. These different narratives are distinguishable but
not in an essentialist sense, rather they move in and out of each other depending on the situation. All of them use my archaeological narrative to some extent,
either adopting or relating to parts of it. Likewise my archaeological story depends on these other stories of Lao Pako, partly adopting and partly relating to
them. The way I choose to approach this multivocality is reflective of my understanding of culture. The question of how to understand culture has been widely
debated in anthropolog y and culture studies (Hastrup & Olwig 1997). I have
taken the position that any essentialist notion of culture in the form of separate
and unique but homogenous entities, is not only intellectually unsustainable, but
also politically dubious. When I present Lao Pako as a ‘place of culture’, I aim
instead to convey a view of culture as a ‘matter of concern’, and, paraphrasing
Hastrup and Olwig: explore the siting of culture as a dynamic process of selfunderstanding among its people (ibid.). This chapter, therefore, takes a broader
grip on Lao Pako, aiming to investigate how it is created in the present as a place
of the past.
VIEWS, VIEWPOINTS AND INTERVIEWS
Quite early on in my relationship with Lao Pako I realized that mine was but one
of many views of that place. Naturally, I believe in my archaeological view and
it is the most important from my professional perspective. Nonetheless I recognize that other views are as valid and important from other perspectives. Most
importantly, these views interact and work together situated in different contexts,
and they are also to some extent defined in relation to each other, working together to create Lao Pako as a place associated with the past. My understanding
of these other views initially evolved in my informal interactions with people
from the nearby villages, the tourist resort management and the national heritage management authorities respectively. When I eventually decided to incorpo209
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rate these other views as part of my story of Lao Pako, I conducted taped interviews with representatives from the three different groups 1. All interviews were
conducted in March and April 2003 by a team including myself, Kanda Keosopha
(¡× Ì ©¾ Á¡É ¸ ¦²¾) from the Laos National Museum, who has also done all transcripts in Lao, and Nor Ountagok (ÌÖ ºÝ È Ì ª¾¡º¡) from the nearby village Ban
Phonkham. All the interviewed were asked the same set of questions 2:
– How would you describe what there is at Lao Pako?
– What do you think about the archaeological excavations there?
– Has Lao Pako been an important place in the past? If so, in what way?
– Is Lao Pako an important place today? If so, why?
– How would you like to see the future for Lao Pako?
Transcripts of the interviews are used as concrete examples to illuminate my
general understanding of the different views on Lao Pako. These concrete examples will be presented below embedded in an argument based on my own
collected experience from five seasons of fieldwork in the area around Lao Pako
in cooperation with the Ministry of Information and Culture and the Laos National Museum in Vientiane. These experiences are in turn expressed in a framework derived from the official history of Laos, social anthropology and general
literature on cultural heritage management, and is here communicated in the form
of ethnography. I understand an ethnographic text in similar terms as James
Clifford, which in turn has connections to Donna Haraway’s notion of situated
knowledges. Clifford describes ethnographic texts as:
…orchestrations of multivocal exchanges occurring in politically charged situations. The subjectivities produced in these often unequal exchanges […] are constructed domains of truth, serious fiction (Clifford 1988:10, see also Haraway
1988).
This is how I want this Lao Pako ‘ethnography’ to be read and understood.
It must however be clarified that this is no anthropological study as such. It does
not go deep enough to do justice to the social and ideological complexity of each
group respectively. This should be kept in mind. The aim is instead to illuminate
how Lao Pako has consistently been created as a site of interest, a place from
the past to fit in a number of ideological frameworks. In order to do so, the stories have been condensed and in some cases of necessity almost caricatured in
my choices of what to retell and what to leave out. But the text also aims to show
how identity, as expressed in these different people’s attitudes to Lao Pako, is
relational, inventive, complex, and at times contradictory. In conclusion, this
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chapter is not a comprehensive account of the social dynamics surrounding Lao
Pako. It is about my understanding of the pasts of Lao Pako, of how a place from
the past can come into being, and I aim to show how its value is situated and
created through endlessly ongoing negotiations.
LAOS AND THE LAO PDR CULTURAL HERITAGE MANAGEMENT
Since cultural heritage is always, but not exclusively politically defined on the
national level, it is important to understand the current political situation in Laos
before it is possible to discuss the national cultural heritage management and its
view of Lao Pako. The cultural heritage management of the Lao PDR is governed
and administrated by the Ministry of Information and Culture, where the Minister and all officials are appointed by the Communist Party. Since the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is a communist one-party state, regulations for cultural heritage management are designed by the Party and thus not through a
democratic process. While the basic regulations for physical protection and
management of cultural heritage, as well as the overall definition of what heritage is, are formulated in an almost universal format (cf. Decree of the President of
the Lao PDR on the Pr eser vation of Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage
(Phoumsavan 1997)), the objectives of heritage management are more interesting, since they indicate the ideological basis for appreciating the national heritage. In ‘Objects of this Presidential Decree’ it is declared that the aim of managing, conserving and preserving the national heritage should be:
…raising the spirit of patriotism, people’s democracy, awareness and ownership
of the fine national and ethnic cultures (Phoumsavan 1997:2).
While it is a common objective to actually use heritage to ‘raise the spirit of
patriotism’, it is not often expressed so overtly in a code of laws. In combination with ‘people’s democracy’, which is synonymous with one-party communism,
this declaration shows that the explicit aim of cultural heritage management in
Laos is to legitimise the current political rule. It is also interesting to note the
formulation ‘awareness and ownership of the fine national and ethnic cultures’,
turning ethnic minority groups into static objects that become part of the national heritage, rather than as rightful owners of the national heritage as citizens
of the Lao PDR. This is a common phenomenon all over the world when nation
states are ascribing ethnic minority groups the status of heritage objects.
What is then considered to be the national heritage of the Lao PDR? In the
Atlas of Laos, a compilation of national and regional statistics to aid the State
Planning Committee (Sisouphanthong & Taillard 2000), the following is men211
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tioned on Laos’ cultural heritage:
The jewels of Lao cultural heritage are strung out along the Mekong Valley, from
the city of Luang phrabang, the original capital of Lan Xang, included on
UNESCO’s World Heritage List; via Vientiane, which replaced it in the 16 th century; to the Khmer temple of Wat Phou, the ancient capital of the kingdom of
Champassak; and the Khone Falls. The prehistoric site of the Plain of Jars (even
if the pagodas of the Phouane principality were destroyed during the war), the
Buddhist sites of the Sekong Valley and the Xamneua caves that sheltered the
Pathet Lao administration during the bombings are among the country’s most
famous other sites (Sisouphanthong & Taillard 2000:22).
There are a number of important elements in the account above. The first
sentence carries a subtle but crucial message: the jewels of the national heritage
are found in the largest river valleys, which is the traditional homeland of the Lao,
the ruling majority ethnic group. There are further a number of important and
monumental Buddhist sites still in use on this list, which is perhaps not very
surprising, and neither is the mentioning of the caves where the communist
heroes hided during the Vietnam War. More curious, yet typical, is the reference
to the Lan Xang kingdom, which was founded by the legendary King Fa Ngum
in 1353 and is considered to be the first and original of Lao kingdoms in a straight
line of rule up to King Savangvatthana, who was allied with the former colonial
powers and was forced to abdicate in the 1975 revolution when the Pathet Lao
formed the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Stuart-Fox 1997). Thus, contrary
to what could be expected from a purely ideological point of view, the Lan Xang
kingdom and King Fa Ngum are often used today as symbols for national unity
and identity, illuminating an interesting ambiguity in the official national identity.
This could be explained if we consider other parameters than sheer party
political ideology as driving forces in the construction of national identity. The
official national identity is clearly also closely connected to the ethnic group Lao,
sometimes to the extent that Lao and Laos are used almost synonymously. It was,
however, not until French Indochina was dissolved and the country achieved full
independence in 1953 that it got that name, derived from the Lao, a branch of
the larger Tai linguistic group. What the name Lao comes from originally, and
where the Lao people originates from is a matter for debate. It is often claimed,
partly on the basis of linguistic research that they entered the mainland area
through migrations perhaps as early as the last centuries BC and the first AD, as
part of a greater movement of Tai-speaking groups southward in the river valleys from what is now southern China (Stuart-Fox 1997:8).
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The Lao group with approximately 1.7 million people is today the most numerous in Laos, and together with at least 131 identified minority groups they
make a total of 5 million inhabitants. The different ethnic groups belong to four
quite different linguistic families, and there are considerable differences regarding
language, economy, customs, belief systems etc., between the groups (Chazée
1999). Following the 1975 revolution, all citizens regardless of ethnicity were
officially to be called Lao, which meant that the 58 ethnic groups that were officially recognised at the time were divided into three groups of Lao invented for
this purpose: Lao Loum, Lao Theung and Lao Soung (Chazée 1999:6). The Lao Loum
to which the ethnic group Lao belongs, were defined as the inhabitants of lowlands, valleys and plateaux, whereas the Lao Theung would inhabit the watersheds,
slopes and valleys between 300 and 900 metres in altitude around the plains, and
the Lao Soung were to live on the summits of mountain ranges, above the Lao
Theung. Laurent Chazée writes in a study of the different ethnic groups of Laos
that this Lao designation reflects the intention to place all ethnic minorities in
the national context, even if ‘the Austroasiatic and most of the Miao-Yao and
Tibeto-Burmans have nothing in common with the Lao in history, religion, physique, customs, traditions, production systems and habitat…’(1999:6). The Lao
Loum and in particular the Lao have a long history of rule in the territory which
is today Laos, officially since King Fa Ngum in 1353. And so despite the ideological intention to include all minorities in the nationalist project, the regime
have in official records defined the Lao group as normal and most sophisticated
in relation to the Other groups that were living on the slopes or the summits. The
communist regime has thus in this case adopted and continued the historical
narrative of the former Royal government aiming to establish a long and successful history of the Lao and Laos and thereby demonstrating continuity between
the glorious past and the current government (Stuart-Fox 1997:6).
What is then the story that is told in Laos today of the origin of the Lao
people? The famous legend Nithan Khun Borom tells the story of the origin of all
Tai people. Khun Borom, the original ancestor of all Tai, was sent by the King
of Heaven to rule over the earthly realm. Life on earth was then threatened by
the growth of a gigantic vine. An elderly couple were killed by the falling vine
as they tried to cut it down. On the vine were two giant gourds, and cries were
heard from inside them. Khun Borom made holes in the gourds, first with a redhot poker and then with a knife. From the holes blackened by the hot poker came
first a dark-skinned people called kha (which is today a pejorative term used for
the Lao Theung), and from the holes cut with the knife came later the Lao as part
of the Tai. Khun Borom ruled over these people and sent his seven sons to found
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seven kingdoms. The oldest of his sons, Khun Lo, founded according to the
legend the first Lao dynasty of Luang Prabang (Stuart Fox 1997:7f, cf. also
Whitaker 1972:28; Viravong 1964). This legend working to naturalize the Lao
group’s rule over the Lao Theung groups, but which also acknowledges the Lao
Theung to have been first in the area, is the foundation for many national festivities and ceremonies today. Moreover, in one historical narrative from the early
20 th century which is still in use in national history education today in Laos (in
English translation: Viravong 1964), it is claimed that the direct ancestors of the
Lao were called the Ai-Lao. Viravong writes that the Ai-Lao was one of four
major ‘races’ of people that developed in Asia 100,000 years ago. They lived in
the river valleys in present day mainland China and made their living on agriculture. The Ai-Lao thus originally shared Asia with three other human ‘races’.
Except for the Chinese, who is said to have lived on cattle breeding along the
Caspian Sea, there were the Tartars ‘who lived in the deserts and used horses a
great deal in their banditry acts’ and the Sinuijus who lived in present Korea and
Mongolia and whose ‘main profession is also banditry’ (ibid.:6). Writing further
down about the original meaning of the word ‘Lao’, Viravong claims that:
The word ‘Lao’ has the following meanings:
1. An American professor, Mr. Clifton Dodd said that the word Lao means big
or a tall person, thus leading us to believe that the Lao race is a very large one
and has had a great civilization with a high degree of moral virtues in the ancient
times.
…
In any case, our Lao race had come to existence in the universe at the same time
as the Chinese and can be considered on this ground as one of the most ancient
races of the world which had known a wide range of splendour and progress no
less than any other races of the same era (Viravong 1964:9).
Viravong’s text clearly works to establish the Lao ethnic group as one of
splendour, progress and with a high degree of moral virtues, on the basis of its
claimed prehistoric origins. There is, however nothing in these sections of
Viravong’s narrative that relates or refers to any scientific sources of history or
prehistory of this area. What is in my view the most interesting with this account,
which is used for history education in Laos today, is that it creates a prehistoric
foundation for the picture that is often communicated in contemporary society
of the Lao and their relations with other groups. For example horse-riding, which
is strongly connected with Lao Soung groups, is here established as something
originally associated with banditry, which Lao Soung groups are often accused of
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today. The emphasis on the original association between the Lao and the Chinese
as well as the etymological reference to big or tall as the origin of the word Lao,
also indicate that it is these qualities that are discursively associated with civilization and progress. Similarly, the original connection in this narrative between
the Lao and agriculture in the large river valleys is something which is today
connected with progress and civilization, as well as with the ethnic group Lao
today in national discourse.
Let us now return to Lao Pako. Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy, the present Director General of the Department of Museums and Archaeology at the MIC, is an
archaeologist with long international experience of archaeology from France and
Australia. He has already been mentioned in previous chapters of this book, since
he has worked at the Plain of Jars, and was the excavation director and one of
the driving forces behind the first of our excavations at Lao Pako. In a volume
presenting the results of an international meeting organised in Vientiane 1996
by the French institute EFEO concerning the restoration and preservation of
Laos’ heritage, Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy lists a number of priority heritage sites.
Similar to the extract from the Atlas of Laos above, the two sites listed as Unesco
World Heritage, that is the old town of Luang Prabang and the ritual landscape
and monuments of Wat Phu, are those with the highest priority. Further, he
mentions a number of sites with monuments and ritual architecture such as
Srestha Pura in Champassak, Wat Phu Asa, Muong Souvannakhonkham, and goes
on to temple murals in Wat Pa Houak in Luang Prabang, the Buddhist ritual cave
Tham Ting close to Luang Prabang, the two prehistoric archaeological sites Plain
of Jars and Lao Pako, and finally fine examples of vernacular and colonial style
architecture (Sayavongkhamdy 1996b:100ff). Just like in the Atlas of Laos it is here
obvious that the important cultural heritage is that which is found in the great
river valleys and can thus be connected to the official history of the Lao ethnic
group. The following is written about the value of Lao Pako:
Lao Pako est un site archéologique remarquable […] Les objets récemment
découverts, au cours d’une fouille archéologique, témoignent d’une période de
développement intense, dans le domaine de l’agriculture, de l’élevage, de l’artisanat
et surtout de la métallurgie. D’énormes jarres funéraires (faites en céramique) sont
enterrées avec un riche materiel mortuaire. […] Pour son intérêt historique, Lao
Pako est un site qui doit être protégé. Il pourra nous révéler l’origine de la civilisation qui naquit dans la plaine du Mékong et probablement les étapes qui ont
marqué la fondation de la ville Vientiane (Sayavongkhamdy 1996b:104f).
This is a glorious picture of a place that can testify to major developments of
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great economic, technological and artistic importance. The jars are enormous and
contain rich sets of grave goods. But foremost, it is said, Lao Pako should be
protected for its great historical interests, because it can reveal the origin of a
civilization that was born on the plains surrounding the Mekong river, the civilization that was later going to build the present capital city of Vientiane.
The archaeological investigation reports from Lao Pako are interpreted by
Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy in a piecemeal manner, strategically to make sense in
the national narrative. Hence, Sayavongkhamdy joins a long and strong tradition
with his declaration of the values of Lao Pako, in Laos and elsewhere in the world
to establish value in the ancient through a connection with the origins of civilisation and the development towards modernity.
Dr Sounet Pothisane is a historian with a PhD in History from Queensland
University in Australia, and was at the time of the interview the Director of the
Laos National Museum in Vientiane. Sounet Pothisane describes Lao Pako as one
of many important sites and historical centres along the mighty river Nam Ngum.
Answering the question what there is at Lao Pako, he emphasises the importance
of the rivers:
Many of the people stayed at the Mekong river and also at the Nam Ngum river,
the Nam Ou river, many many rivers. So, the people in the past times they don’t
know roads like this, but the river is the superhighway for them. Mekong is
superhighway and the Nam Ngum also another, another way.. So people stay on
the bank, not in the mountains, in the forest.. only live near the bank, it is like
that.
He says that Lao Pako is an important archaeological site, foremost because
it can answer questions about the burial customs around AD 500. He sees the
‘jar burials’ at Lao Pako as one of many interim developmental stages from the
earliest Palaeolithic times when he claims that people did not understand how
to take care of a dead body, so that there were no burial rituals at all and the dead
were thrown to the animals, up until the present cremation tradition which is, Dr
Pothisane says, largely influenced by Indian culture. He does not, however, see
Lao Pako as an important place in prehistoric times:
A: […] Has Lao Pako been an important place in the past, do you think?
S: Lao Pako? An important place in the past?
A: In the past.
S: [short silence] I think.. no, not very important. Because it is a village, not a district,
not a city in my idea. Because.. Vieng Kham is an ancient city, at the mouth of Nam
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Ngum is an ancient city. But Lao Pako is only just a village.
A: Only a village..
S: I think like that, because not too… not very big.
A: Mmm
S: Like a village, people can stay. But the big town, that’s for the.. made from bamboo or
something like that, or wood. Just the rice fields, just like that I think. Not..
A: Not very important then..
S: But we can study the culture of them.
A: Mmm?
S: Because in the time they have to support for the Vieng Kham, people in this area I
think. Sometimes for Vieng Kham, sometimes for Pak Ngum, they are city districts.
But Lao Pako is not. What do you think, I don’t know?
A: I want to know what you think! [laughter]
S: [laughter] I think like that, because we can’t find very important things […] I think
here is nothing, only the village culture. Small culture. Small village. I think like
that.
Lao Pako’s value lies according to Dr Pothisane in the archaeological site:
A: Is Lao Pako an important place today?
S: I think today it is important for the archaeology site. Because if you can make like an
open museum, it is very good for the tourism. How to do? We have to continue again,
to dig it up, and to put it like a museum.
An explicit aim from the Lao authorities for cultural heritage management is
to turn Lao Pako into a field museum, similar to that in Ban Chiang in Thailand 3.
Ban Chiang, being a Unesco World Heritage Site, has several on-site museums
with both indoor displays of objects and reconstructions of prehistoric village
contexts, and an open-air display of fixed in situ objects and contexts, as a frozen archaeological excavation. The open-air museum with exposed excavation
trenches is often put forward as an idea to be realized at Lao Pako, and it is that
which Dr Pothisane refers to in this case. In conclusion, Dr Pothisane identifies
a two-fold value of Lao Pako as an archaeological site. First for its research
potentials as a burial site which give information about the development of burial
traditions in the area, something which matches his own research interests, and
second as a potential tourist attraction as an on-site museum.
We can conclude that the national value of Lao Pako as expressed by both Dr
Sounet Pothisane and Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy above is related to that it is con-
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sidered to be the origin of different aspects of the official view of the modern
Lao society, such as technological, agricultural and artistic sophistication, burial
customs, and not least the importance of the river. It is also seen as a potential
income source as a tourist attraction.
BAN PAKO TOURIST RESORT
The tourist resort was founded in the early 1990s, and it was named Lao Pako
after the local name of the hill by the river. The founder and its first owner Walter
Pfabigan unexpectedly passed away in January 2001. The Burapha Group, a LaoSwedish company with several branches in different enterprises in Laos, had been
involved in the resort from the beginning, and after Walter Pfabigan’s death they
stepped in to sort out the future management of the resort. With the new management came a new vision of the image of the resort, and of how to attract more
visitors. It evolved around the three themes nature, culture and health. Culture is
represented both by the fact that the resort is placed on top of a prehistoric site,
and the contemporary culture of the people living nearby. It is expressed as a
typical Lao lowland rice-farming community of the 21 st
century, and the aim for the future is to have day trips
and over-night stays with families in the nearby villages
as part of the available resort activities. To match the
vision, the name of the resort was changed to Ban Pako
in early 2002. Ban means village or home in Lao. In this
way the resort was firmly connected to the village concept, and they got rid of the confusions caused by the
previous name Lao (À͉ ¾ ) meaning ‘young forest’, which
is quite different from the Lao (쾸) as in the ethnic
group Lao, the country Laos or the language Lao.
Peter Fogde, the Swedish managing director of the
Burapha Group, has had a deep personal involvement in
the resort from the start, when his company had forest
plantations at and around the site, and he often express
a strong enthusiasm and love for the place. Peter Fogde
and the Burapha Group have always been supporting and
encouraging to the archaeological research there. In an
interview on the 1 st April 2003 he says that the archaeological investigations are interesting:
102. Ban Pako in April 2003
®É¾Ì¯È¾Â¡ 4/2003
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A: Could you say why you think they are interesting?
P: Because I’m interested in history, personally. And I think it is of great importance to
the country because, as I understand it, it is one of the older and one of the more
interesting sites in the country. Therefore it has a national interest as well as… yes…
as well as an international interest.
On the question about the importance of Lao Pako in the past, Peter Fogde
refers directly to the time when the archaeological remains were produced,
around AD 500:
A: Has Lao Pako been an important place in the past?
P: It must have. I’m sure it has. I mean from the finds that we have made, I’m sure we
can… [unclear recording]
A: In what way?
P: I mean just the fact that, for instance, that they have actually produced iron artefacts.
And they haven’t found anything like that in Ban Chiang, for instance. […].. both a
ceremonial site and also a production site.
A: So that makes it important?
P: I think so, yes.
A: Important in what way, do you mean regionally or..?
[telephone rings]
A: What do you mean when you say important, can you describe more how you.. what
you mean by important?
P: Well, if it has been an important site, if it was an important site when it was there, is
difficult to say. There might have been many such sites, I mean it may have been a
site like any other site. But today, when there are not so many other, if any such sites
found, it is definitely important.
A: That leads us on the next question: Is Lao Pako an important place today?
P: Yes. Whether it was important at the time when it actually was.. when people were
living… I don’t know. I can’t answer that. It might be one of a thousand similar
places. It’s difficult to say.
A: Is it an important place today… yes?
P: Yes.
A: Why?
P: Yes, because of what I said, because there are not so many other similar places
found, and this should… this site should make it possible to better understand what
was here before.
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A: You are talking about the archaeological site?
P: Yes.
A: Is it not important in any other way?
P: No.
Peter Fogde describes the archaeological site Lao Pako as ‘both a ceremonial
site and also a production site’. This is despite the fact that he has often said in
our informal conversations that he would rather have seen it as an ancient village, which would go well with the village connection aspirations of the resort.
But in the end, he completely adopts the archaeological interpretation of the site
provided by me, and relies on the scientific authority I represent. Further, he
argues about the importance of the site in a manner that I recognize as similar
to my own, although he is not an archaeologist but a forest engineer. He appears
to have an idea about the prehistoric times when Lao Pako was used, as something that he knows only very little about, like a foreign country which he treats
with respect and is careful not to show any prejudices about. This attitude is quite
different from the statements of the Lao scholars above, who are more prone to
incorporate the site in the official national history and therefore give more vivid
and less wary descriptions. Peter Fogde argues with a quite different attitude
about the value of the site today, where he quite decisively claims that it is an
important site, foremost because it has an archaeological value.
Ban Pako is in fact mostly run by local managers and staff from the nearby
villages. Most are young and have improved their language skills, foremost in
English, from working at the resort. They live in the village and have families and
small farms on the side. One of the staff members is a man who is about 30 years
old, we can call him Keo. At the time of the interview in March 2003 he had
worked at the resort for almost four years. He works in the reception and the
restaurant, and has a lot of contact with the visiting guests. On the question what
he thinks of the archaeological investigations, Keo answered:
K: I think that is good!
A: Why?
[…]
K: You can get something old... like.. ahhh... like archaeology. You can get something
that, normally if we stay here, we stay here. We cannot see that. And you come to
work here, you can have that to the museum.
A: Mmm, ok. So when you stay here you cannot see it?
K: Yes.
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A: What is in the ground, you mean? Is that so?
K: Like old things.
A: Yes.
K: Yes.
A: So archaeology helps, or makes you see the things that are old.
K: Yes, very happy to see that. Very glad. And things we cannot see before, and then we
can see now, with you.
A: Yes? And bring it to the museum, you said?
K: Yes. Also it is important for the government and... [pause]
A: Ehrm... why is it important? Why would it be good to see old things?
K: Yes, good for the... special for me, for everybody. And... we never seen before. And
then we have seen. We can know a little bit about the old story, you can tell a little
bit. Like how many years, one thousand years, one thousand five hundred years, like
that. And then I believe that in my heart.
A: And that is good, you think?
K: Yes.
So far, Peter Fogde and Keo largely agree on the importance of the archaeological investigations at Lao Pako. They are important to them because they can
give more information about something which was previously unknown. There
is only a slight difference in that Peter refers to an increasing archaeological
knowledge of prehistory in general, while Keo is referring specifically to himself and the people in the nearby villages.
A: Has Lao Pako been an important place in the past, do you think?
K: Yes, sure!
A: In what way?
[…]
K: Yes! [slight laughter] […] Like I told you in the first question. We have work here,
and someone can find... [pause]
A: Mmm, so you mean it’s good... I don’t quite get you there. Hrrm, has Lao Pako been
an important place in the past? Why was it an important place in the past?
K: For me, or for everybody?
A: Do you think it was?
K: Ok, yes Lao Pako has been very important...
A: In the past?
K: In the past.
A: Why? Or how? How do you think?
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K: We can see, it is simple. Like I can have a work here and then my English is better.
And we can learn English here.
A: Yes? So you mean in the past, like a few years ago, or?
K: Yes, yes.
A: Ah, ok.
K: And then I start work here three years and seven months already. At that time I don’t
know English. That is important for me and for everybody.
A: Yes, yes.
K: Yes, and everyone can write English and can speak, yes that’s important for us.
A: Yes, good. Good.
This conversation, which has been shortened here compared with the original transcript, shows clearly how I am so firmly placed in my own definition of
the past, so that I am unable to take in and understand what Keo is repeatedly
saying. I am expecting him to say something about the prehistoric past, or at least
a century or so back. But for him the past is in this case his past, and he has to
go as far as to specify it to ‘three years and seven months’ before I finally understand what he is saying. Peter Fogde has much in common with my apprehension of time and the value of heritage, even though he is a forest engineer and
not an archaeologist, whereas Keo has a slightly different view of the value of
Lao Pako, and he relates also differently to time, or rather to the past. It can be
concluded that while both Peter and Keo agree on the value of Lao Pako as an
archaeological site because it contributes with knowledge of the old things in the
ground, on an international or local level, this is for Peter directly applicable to
the past, whereas for Keo, the past is something more directly connected with his
own life and life situation.
Management and staff at the resort are however joined in the aspiration to
attract as many people as possible to the resort, and they see the prehistoric site
as a means for that. Peter Fogde expresses his wishes for the future like this:
A: How would you like to see the future for Lao Pako?
P: […] I want to see, we have discussed it many times, I want to see it develop… ehh. I
want to see the historical values being preserved but also utilised for the good of
guests, and the Lao people, and… researchers, and everyone. And I would like to see
the whole site as an ultimate example of how the private sector and the government
can work hand in hand to achieve this. Because it’s only when values like these are
made available that they really have a value. If they are hidden away in museums
they have no value. So, it should… that’s what I would like to see.
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BAN NABONG AND BAN PHONKHAM
The two closest villages to Lao Pako and the Ban Pako resort are Ban Nabong
and Ban Phonkham. These are the villages that we in the archaeology team have
been most involved in during the fieldwork seasons at Lao Pako, and several
members of the excavation team are residents of these two villages. Official
census details from the Pak Ngum District office on the 23 rd April 2003 say that
there were 1070 people living in Ban Nabong and 472 in Ban Phonkham. Slightly
less than 50% of the inhabitants in both villages were women. In Ban Nabong
have 90% stated farmer as their profession, and in Ban Phonkham were 95%
farmers. Ban Nabong had both primary and secondary school in the village, while
Ban Phonkham had only a primary school. A great majority of all the people
living in these villages in April 2003 were literate in Lao, and both villages had
Buddhist temples.
The majority of the people who live in Ban Nabong
and Ban Phonkham today are ethnic Lao, although there
a re also members of other ethnic g roups such as
Hmong and Khmu. Some of the people belonging to
groups living on the mountain slopes or summits in the
official division of the ethnic groups discussed earlier
in this chapter, have originally moved to this lowland
area either as refugees or to seek a job or get married
to a person from another ethnic group. They are established in the new environment, sometimes keeping some
ethnic markers such as clothing or building techniques
for their houses, but as incorporated in village contexts
with the Lao group and others. Thus it is difficult to
sustain an essentialist view of ethnicity on the practical level in this area. Most of the villagers are lowland
rice farmers who practise Theravada Buddhism, ride
motorbikes and watch television, mainly Thai broadcasting from across the border. Watching television in
Ban Nabong in 2003, you were more likely to see SvenGöran Eriksson coaching the national English football
team on the screen, than any traditional Lao dance show
or theatre. The people in Ban Nabong live mostly in
houses on raised poles which are constructed along the
village road, and many keep a few animals such as
103. Children in Ban Nabong in April 2002. Photo courtesy of
chicken, ducks, or cattle. Basically, they are modern
Susanne Wik. À©ñ¡Ìɺ¨ê†®¾
É Ì̾®ö¤ÃÌÀ©õºÌ 4/2002.
people who incorporate traditional aspects of their
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
culture such as clothing details, building techniques, division of living space,
foods, games, etc. into an increasingly modern lifestyle.
Most of the people in Ban Nabong and Ban Phonkham would laugh and
answer ‘no’ to the question whether they believe in spirits, phii (cf. Condominas
1998:29ff; Tambiah 1970). But these same people would never dream of walking through the forest at night, nor would they take a beautiful old pot they found
in the ground in their garden and sell it at the market, or indeed visit the local
cemetery at any time of the day. The stated reason why they would not do this
is that it would upset the spirits, which is serious or can even prove lethal. Perhaps it is the presence of spirits in the world of the people of Ban Phonkham
and Ban Nabong that most differentiates their world from mine. Their relationships with the place Lao Pako, prior to the archaeological investigations there,
vary within the group. To most of the people we have talked to, the hill by the
river was previously known as a phii pa saa, which is a place where spirits are, and
which is therefore secluded and avoided for mundane activities. Other typical phii
pa saa include the present and former cemeteries and old temple sites. After the
establishment of the Lao Pako resort in the early 1990s, the place changed its
meaning for most people, especially among the younger generations. Some are
employed at the resort, and for others it has become a centre of contacts and
influences from the far-away world.
Initially, my interactions with the Ban Nabong and the Ban Phonkham villages
was more of a one-way communication, where the other archaeologists and I tried
to educate the farmers, to fill what we presumed was a void in their knowledge
about the past. The intentions were noble, we wanted to give them something
new: a past. Being civilised people, they listened politely and seemed to like some
of our stories. At others they frowned, or started to laugh. At about the same
time the spirits of their world appeared to me for the first time. As I spent more
and more time in the village, I began to understand the range of impact the spirits
have on the apprehension of landscape, the organisation of material culture, and
on mundane and ritual activities for the people there. I started to ask questions
to learn more about the spirits, and the villagers explained. I could understand
some of what they told me and I liked some of their stories. At others I frowned,
or started to laugh (for further examples see also Källén 2000:71f).
It was a time of confusion for me. I felt a deep respect for the people in the
villages and I began to realize that their past was not a void to be filled with the
archaeological past I was about to present. And their view of their past was filled
with spirits, a phenomenon I could not see, explain or understand with the conceptual framework of my world. Spirits are, and they are not, and it is impossi-
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ble to explain when or where they are or are not with the tools of time, space
and matter I have at hand. I also came to realise that the villagers probably had
a similar feeling about the phosphates I was telling them about. Phosphates are,
and they are not. It may be fascinating but not necessarily understandable when
soil becomes numbers in a box.
Ever since I first started to interact with the villagers in Ban Nabong and Ban
Phonkham, I have asked now and then about Lao Pako, if there are any stories
around. I have then been told that it is called phii pa saa and is thus a place where
the spirits are, and I have also understood that it was the village cemetery of the
village Tha Suan Ya further to the west along the river, which was abandoned in
the 1940s. But I did not seem to get much further than that. I had a feeling that
this had not so much to do with that they wanted to hide information for me,
but rather that it was difficult to explain since I clearly did not understand about
the spirits. I therefore decided to ask my colleague Nor Ountagok (ÌÖ ºÝ È Ìª¾¡º¡)
if she could ask around in the villages and write down a story about Lao Pako 4.
Nor was, like myself, a bit of an outsider in the village Ban Phonkham where she
lived at the time because she comes originally from Kasi further north and belongs to the ethnic group Khmu. Unlike me, however, she was fully integrated
in the village society, she speaks fluent Lao and understands very well about spirits. She asked around in the villages, foremost among the old people, and wrote
a story about Lao Pako. This is Nor Ountagok’s story in her own words:
104. Anna Källén and Nor Ountagok.
º×Ì Ì¾ ¡¾ÀìññÌ Áì½ ÌÖ ºÝÈ Ìª¾¡º¡.
225
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NOR’S STORY ABOUT LAO PAKO – TOLD ON THE 15TH MARCH 2003
A very long time ago, there was at Lao Pako a forest with many big old trees. It was
- ] – were always present
empowered [¦ñ¡¦ò©] by spirits. The spirits – vin njan [¸ ò - - µ ¾ Ì
there. The people who lived nearby were therefore afraid, and were careful not to disturb
them.
Every month, people have always worked until the eighth night, paet kham (8-£-Ô)5.
Then they stop their work because the spirits – phii – are out having a party. Paet kham (8-
£-Ô) is a special spirit day, as is also the fifteenth night, sip háa kham (15-£-Ô). Sometimes it
happened that people tried to work on the spirit days, and then they were hurt. For example
a tree may have fallen on them and killed them, because big trees are homes for spirits.
Then people started to realize that it was very dangerous to work on spirit days, and
therefore paet kham and sip háa kham are now Buddhist holidays, wan sin (¸ñ̦òÌ).
When people from the Tha Suan Ya (êȾ-¦¸Ìµ¾) village were out to get food during the
paet kham and sip háa kham holidays, shoot birds, collect vegetables and fishing, they
heard strange noises from the Lao Pako hill. It sounded like human voices, so they thought
it could be their friends. But when they went closer they could not see anyone or anything.
Instead they heard noises up in the air around them. That was the spirits, phii (°ó).
After that, everyone in the village Tha Suan Ya decided to save the forest there and use
it as a cemetery. There were two parts of the cemetery, one for adult people and accident
victims on the bank of the river from the resort kitchen house to a big bamboo marking the
grave of Mae To Oi, a young woman who died in childbirth. Mae To Oi was one of the last
to have been buried at Lao Pako.
The other part of the cemetery was for children, and it was located to the west of the
resort, from the chicken shit river where the forest bamboo is, up the slope between the two
pathways leading to the Tha Suan Ya and Kasuang villages. The infants up to three months
old were buried in jars alone, while older children were buried more like adults, with
grave goods. If the living didn’t supply enough materials for the afterlife, the spirit of the
dead would haunt them in their dreams and demand that which they needed.
In around 1940, people from the village Voen Kham (À¸óÌ-£¿), further up the Nam
Ngum river came to clear the Lao Pako hill to make a rice field. The Tha Suan Ya villagers
then stopped using it as their cemetery. Instead they burnt their dead and kept them at the
new temple in the village. Monks came from other villages to the temple in Tha Suan Ya.
They wanted to make a festival – boun – for the spirits at Lao Pako, the phii pa ko, because
the spirits had been upset by the Voen Kham villagers’ rice cultivation and needed to be
reconciled. That festival is called boun djaek khao hai phii (®ÝÌÁ¥ÌÀ¢Ü¾É ùɰ)Ù , or ‘presentingfood-to-the-spirits’. After that they made the boun djaek khao every year, at the same time.
This went on until French forces burnt down Tha Suan Ya in 1945. The villagers moved to
stay in other villages: Ban Phonkham or Ban Nabong, or any other village around. After
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everything had calmed down and it was quiet again, some people from Phonkham came to
claim the land and make gardens. They cultivated sugar canes, papaya, mango, and many
different kinds of vegetables. After a few years, the soil was no longer good, so they stopped
using it for cultivation. The trees started growing, and soon thereafter Mr Walter came
and bought the land from them to make the Lao Pako resort.
105. Map of Lao Pako with the
places designated in Nor’s story.
Á°Èê
Ì ¢
† º¤À͉¾¯È¾Â¡.
227
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Against this background we will now take a closer look at interviews with two
villagers in Ban Phonkham, and an old woman whom we can call To Sumpet in
Ban Houna, who lived as a little girl in the now abandoned village Tha Suan Ya
that used parts of Lao Pako as a village cemetery. In an interview conducted by
Kanda Keosopha and myself on the 14 th March, To Sumpet told about the more
recent burial customs up until the 1940s:
S: I was born in Tha Suan Ya, an old village. I know about Lao Pako, it was the old
cemetery (phi pa saa).
K: Did your father tell you about Lao Pako? How come they used it as a cemetery?
S: When I was born, there was already a cemetery there. The old people told me about
it. When people in the village died, they took them to Lao Pako.
K: Did this continue?
S: Yes, it continued from my grandfather’s time to my time, until grandmother [meaning
herself] moved away when it was war. Before the war all people in the village, big
and small, were taken to Lao Pako when they had died.
K: When they put a body in a pit, what things did they put in the pit with the body?
S: They made a coffin of wood, like our house, to cover the body. Then they put the
coffin in the pit.
K: Did they put bodies in jars? How did they do it?
S: If they burnt the body, they put the bones in a jar. But in Lao Pako they never burnt
the bodies. My great grandfathers, they burnt the bodies, but during my time, no one
was burnt.
K: When did people start to call this place Lao Pako?
S: When I grew up, everyone called it phi pa saa Lao Pako. From the time I can
remember, they took everyone that died to Lao Pako.
K: Did you ever see anything in the ground when they dug the graves?
S: I have never seen, but I heard from other people.
K: When they dug the graves, did you see things that people used in ancient times, like
pots?
S: Yes, they had put pots, bowls and knives together in pits, to be able to make food. My
parents told me, that when they went to Lao Pako to dig for tubers (man), they found
knives. But they didn’t keep them.
K: During your time, did they put pots with the bodies in the graves?
S: Yes, they did.
[…]
S: In ancient times they put jars, bowls, knives, everything together. I have never seen
them burn bodies, neither old nor young people, all were put unburnt in pits. After
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the war no one was buried there anymore.
[…]
K: When you lived in the old village Tha Suan Ya, what religion did you believe in? And
when people died, how many days did they stay in the village before they buried?
S: We were Buddhist. When someone died, they stayed a few days, two or three. After
that, they were put in a boat, two boats joined together especially for the dead, and
brought to Lao Pako. If they had any belongings, they were given to accompany them
in the grave.
[…] we buried people without burning them. Old people, accident victims…
everybody were buried like that. Maybe it was difficult to burn them, because they
had had been brought there with the boat. The dead had one boat, the people who
went to look for tubers had another. There were four or five boats. It was not
possible to go by foot, because the bridge over the small river (houay nong khón)
was too small. The village was small and had not so many people living there, but
there were lots of cattle.
K: Is all of Lao Pako a phii pa saa?
S: Yes, all of Lao Pako is phii pa saa, from houay nong khón to houay khi kai (chicken
shit river). But people were buried far from each other. Infants were buried separate
from adults. Infants were buried near the houay nong khón, and adults on the other
side. When they buried the body, they put all their belongings, all that they need to
use, with them, together in the pit. Not on top of the body, but beside them in a wide
pit.
This story is interesting to compare with both Nor’s story and the spread of
the prehistoric remains as far as we can see from the archaeological excavations.
It appears as if the prehistoric remains are concentrated on the top of the hill,
whereas the more recent cemetery is split in two parts; one for infants and one
for accident victims and adults, on each side of the prehistoric site. The people
who decided to use Lao Pako as a cemetery a century or so ago, should thus have
been well aware of the older remains and respected them in that they located their
own activities outside but adjacent to it.
To Chanpeng is resident in Ban Phonkham and, just like To Sumpet she lived
in the village Tha Suan Ya before it was abandoned in the mid 1940s. In an interview conducted by Kanda Keosopha and myself on the 14 th March 2003, she
said the following about the archaeological investigations at Lao Pako:
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K: What do you think about the archaeological excavations, what do you think is in
there?
C: I don’t know, but I think there is silver there. There must be silver there. Last time
you found jars to take away, but this time I think you will find silver.
[…]
K: Why do you think there would be silver there?
C: Because there is a whirlpool there and I have dreamt that there was a big village
there with many many people, like a palace ...[long silence]... Where the resort is
today was the old children’s cemetery, and next to it was the adult people’s cemetery.
This conversation between Kanda Keosopha and To Chanpeng clearly shows
that Lao Pako is a place that lives in the local community, and whose meaning is
created with information from archaeological excavations as well as oral local
history and dreams.
The village chief in one of the villages close by, we call him Mr Dao, refers
to the Ban Pako resort on the question about the importance of Lao Pako in the
past. Like Keo at the resort, Mr Dao refers only a few years back in time when
asked about the past, and he also expresses what appears to be the general opinion in the villages, that the archaeological excavations are good and interesting,
but they are not connected to the value of the place. Its value is rather defined
in terms of its qualities as a tourist attraction, which gives both pride and income
to the people in the villages around. The past is in this sense strongly related to
anticipation for the future.
D: Lao Pako in the past.... Lao Pako in the past, about ten years ago... First, our village
is very proud. Second it make many tourist come to see Lao Pako. What is important
there we can see together. It is a good place...good for making a resort. This is our
area. But never seen before. The last ten years it has been very good, because
tourists and foreigners have come to visit. And now we can see the old things. More
than ten years ago I didn’t know what Lao Pako was. But now we know that Lao
Pako is important, and the tourists are happy and excited to see the beautiful view.
That is why it is very important and special.
N: What do you think of the future for Lao Pako?
D: I think that it will develop from how it is today, and be better. Many many tourists
will come to visit.
To round this off, I will return to one of the main questions for this thesis
presented in the Introduction chapter: which are the desires that have been involved
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CREATING REFLECTIONS
in the creation of Lao Pako as a place from the past? To be able to probe that
question we need to consider once more the notion of time. In my view it is clear
that all the different actors we have met in this chapter created Lao Pako at the
present moment when this story was written, out of the possibilities offered by
the past and the potentials held in the future. Hence, the present can be described
as a point of oscillation between the past and the future (Heidegger 1962 in
Gosden 1994:112), and it was at this present that Lao Pako and its different pasts
were created. The different pasts that these actors chose to communicate when
they were asked about Lao Pako, were therefore dependent on their present desires and aspirations for the near or far away future. Clearly the possibilities of
the past were to some extent restricted by what I would call reality, but within
that restricted space there was, as we have seen, room for creation of quite different stories about one and the same spot on the surface of the earth.
Archaeology and heritage studies have recently been much occupied with
memory and nostalgia as crucial for our understanding of the past. Although the
future is often mentioned briefly as a factor in understanding the past, it is in
my view seldom given the intellectual space it deserves. The Lao Pako example
clearly shows that the past lies very much in anticipations of the future. Keo and
Peter Fogde at the Ban Pako resort, Dr Pothisane at the National Museum and
Village Chief Dao all talked about the past of Lao Pako in relation to hopes for
a future increase in the number of visitors to the resort. They had different reasons to hope for an increased number of visitors, ranging from personal income,
regional economic benefits, employment and language training, to personal and
national prestige. Often several of these reasons were present in one and the same
person and situation. Furthermore, they had different ways of creating Lao Pako
as a place from the past using piecemeal combinations of oral history, dreams,
or results from archaeological excavations. Just as much as this is true for the
different stories about Lao Pako that were presented in this chapter, it also applies to my archaeological interpretations in the previous chapters. Archaeology
as a form of knowledge in the present, says Chris Gosden, derives from a whole
series of taken-for-granted notions about space, time and things that are now in
existence (Gosden 1994:195). Hence it follows that the past created by archaeology is also dependent on the archaeologist’s anticipations for the future.
A wide range of desires were thus involved in the creation of Lao Pako as a
place from the past. Anticipation of academic, regional, national and personal
prestige, mixed with emotive considerations, ideological interests, expectations
of economic benefits and an urge to see what is there beneath our feet, that is,
simple curiosity. Situated like this, with their different driving forces and desires
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
exposed, these stories also demonstrate that it is naïve to assume that a story
about the past holds a higher degree of moral virtue if it is produced in a context that is largely considered to be subjugated. Just as I find it important to give
a voice to the people in Laos who are affected by this study, we must be equally
careful not to reduce them in totalising terms to a stable category responding in
one voice to this particular archaeological project. We must instead see that Lao
Pako as a place of the past is embedded in a complex and slippery set of social,
personal, ideological and economical ideas, aspirations, norms, emotions… All
of which are constantly reproduced and changed through interactions and relations between the different parties. All stories of the past contain the present as
well as the future, and must be regarded in the light of their very specific situations.
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CONFLUENCE
CONFLUENCE
…
Rather, it is a sort of confluence, a for m
in which fluxes and fluctuation enter,
dance, crisscross, making together the
sum and the difference, the product and
the bifurcation …
— Michel Serres 1
I have reached the end of my journey, and it is time to let the arguments of the
previous chapters come together, and make some final points. I have presented
Lao Pako as an archaeological site, a place where spirits are, a tourist resort, a
national treasure, and a place where rituals were performed in prehistoric times.
I have interpreted the things found in the ground at Lao Pako in three archaeological excavations as the remains of rituals performed there during a few
centuries about 1500 years ago. At the centre of these rituals were metal production and pit depositions of ceramics, stone and metal artefacts, glass beads and
infant burials in complex patterns. The different material categories mix and
mingle in sophisticated shapes and combinations, indicating that the people who
were responsible for these rituals at Lao Pako saw a great importance in the
materiality of these things. I have argued that to go deeper into an understanding of the meaning of the Lao Pako things, we must regard them as part of a
metaphoric structure where metals are conceived and born like babies, and human babies are returned to ceramic wombs to be buried. In order to give meaning to the material culture at Lao Pako we must further consider emotion and
experience as fundamental to what it is to be human, to be-in-the-world. In such
a mind-set, Lao Pako is best understood as a place where rituals were performed
to tell and reproduce a story beyond words about what it means to be in the world,
a story of life and death, fertility, decay and worldly reproduction.
Time seems to be always at the heart of this story about Lao Pako. I have
argued that the modern western idea of time, perceived as a unilinear form of
progress with the modern West at the summit, and the rest of the world behind
in a constant state of underdevelopment, is at the heart of a major problem for
archaeology, and is at the same time reproduced by the archaeological narrative
of the past. The different stories I have presented about Lao Pako as a place from
the past – of which my archaeological interpretation is one – have demonstrated
that the past is dependent not only on the mnemonic and the present, but also
on the future. Whilst this is difficult to understand with a unilinear idea of time,
it is quite unproblematic if we change to another spatial metaphor. Michel Serres
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
suggests that the experience of time (not to be confused by the measurement of
time which is mathematically defined as a metrical reading on a straight line)
should rather be described as something chaotic, visibly disordered, flowing in
an extraordinarily complex, unexpected and complicated way (Serres & Latour
1995:57f, see also Bingham & Thrift 2000). He describes it as a handkerchief, first
spread out on a table displaying a certain distance from one point to another, and
then crumpled in his pocket or torn apart. Two previously distant points are
suddenly close, or even superimposed, and other previously close points become
distant. This spatial view of time with nearness and rifts – which is constructive
in our understanding of Lao Pako as a place of so many pasts – Serres calls
topological, as opposed to a rigid geometrical linear time (ibid:61).
Let me take the opportunity to use another spatial metaphor. I have in this
book been interested in that which Judith Butler has called ‘the scenography and
topography of construction’ (1993:28), being necessarily linked to a fluid matrix
of power, which can be ar ticulated through critical deconstr uction. This
deconstruction must be understood, as Butler understands it for gender- or queer
studies and Gayatri Spivak for postcolonial studies, not as an exposure of error,
but as the critique of something extremely useful, something without which we
cannot do anything (Butler 1993:27ff, quoting Spivak). Using my own archaeological investigations at Lao Pako as a case, I have aimed at such a deconstruction
of the powers, ideologies and desires involved in the creation of archaeological
knowledge. One recurring point in this deconstruction and critique has been that
o f d i s t a n c e a n d d e t a c h m e n t , d e e p l y i n vo l ve d i n b o t h t h e a r ch a e o l o g i c a l
metanarrative and archaeology’s specific methods such as stratigraphy, mapping
and typology. My critique of distance and detachment in archaeology is not meant
as an exposure of error, but as a critical questioning of something that has also
proved extremely useful. But which are the unintended consequences of the use
of distance and detachment in archaeology?
James Clifford has described the world at the end of the 20 th century as one
of drastically expanding mobility and communication, where the ‘exotic’ is no
longer distant, but close to us, being part of our daily lives. He writes: “’Cultural’
difference is no longer a stable exotic otherness; self-other relations are matters
of power and rhetoric rather than of essence. A whole structure of expectations
about authenticity in culture and in art is thrown in doubt.” (Clifford 1988:14).
Hence in this world, our contemporary reality, it is not sustainable to refer to an
essentialized Other as a stable static difference. Such pictures must be actively
produced, and I have argued throughout this book that archaeology is part of
the rhetoric in the production of otherness. The contemporary world must con-
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CONFLUENCE
sequently pose a challenge to archaeology, with its vast disciplinary investments
in the principles of temporal distance, exotic otherness, and cultural essence. For
some, who have invested all in the desire for the distant exotic, the postcolonial
world can even turn into a paralysing threat, which can only be tackled by means
of conservative nostalgia.
I would claim that with my story of Lao Pako, I have made a serious attempt
to write an archaeology that meets this postcolonial critique. As a critique against
deterministic linearity, against generalization breeding simplification, and the
god-trick of seeing everything from nowhere, I have written about the embodied experience, about localized contradictions and the ambiguous. I have aimed
for my text to be a situated and self-critical, non-deterministic and non-linear
story about the pasts of Lao Pako. Nevertheless it is clear already now – halfway to hindsight – that I have also been confined to the present structural limitations of my discipline with its significant historical investments in the effects
of conceptual distance. For as you know, I have written about the Iron Age of
Mainland Southeast Asia, an Iron Age that I already at the beginning nailed the
Lao Pako site to with absolute measured dates from a radiocarbon analysis. I have
worked with standard archaeological terminology and methods for registration
and analysis, and I have thereby produced a set of research results that will no
doubt be incorporated in a more general story of the development of civilization in the Lao PDR and in Southeast Asia as a larger region. I have not been
deliberately contradictory to be ironic, nor is it a provocation. I have aimed for
my archaeology to be broadly useful and this was the way I chose to reach that
goal.
Time is the presupposition of the entire question’, says Michel Serres (in
Serres & Latour 1995:102), and this appears to be true also for this case. Archaeology embodies time. It works to merge experienced and measured time, when
it creates the illusion of experiencing a measured unilinear time spanning over
thousands of years. Therefore, the detached and metrical linear metaphor of time
that is at the heart of archaeology, works against us in attempts to create meaningful, interesting and human stories about the past. For the experienced past is
created at a present interface between the past and the future, as we have seen
in the case of Lao Pako. Nonetheless, a linear metrical time has arguably also been
extremely useful for archaeology. A critical deconstruction of the archaeological use of time is (thought-) provoking as it forces us to look in the mirror and
see the conceptual baggage we are carrying. Intrusive inappropriate bitter flashing… It can also inspire us to look for other metaphors to understand time.
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Serres’ description of time as folded, twisted and unexpected is in many ways
similar to the flow of a river. He says that Guillaume Apollinaire simply had not
studied the Seine well enough when he wrote his classic metaphorical description of unidirectional linear time as the flow of the river, ‘Sous le pont Mirabeau
coule la Seine…’ In fact, says Serres, time flows like a river, if one observes it well
(ibid:58f). It seems to flow, and it has an apparent direction. But there is also
turbulence and percolation, there are pools and rapids, whirlpools make little
trickles start to move upstream, and at any time even the largest of rivers can
suddenly and unexpectedly change its course. This makes the river Nam Ngum
a suitable metaphor for time in my story about Lao Pako. The Nam Ngum has,
like time, always been there at the centre of my story. It is part of the definition
of Lao Pako for the people living close by, who describe the place as a whirlpool.
It is also important for the definition of the prehistoric ritual place, on a hill
demarcated by the confluence of a small stream with the larger river. Furthermore, it is instrumental for the incorporation of Lao Pako in the Lao PDR national creation story in which civilization first arose along the main river valleys.
And in my story that is now coming to an end, the different pasts of Lao Pako
have connected and intermingled like currents in a larger river, twisting and
folding time so that past joined future in the present. So, through it all flows the
river, in its seemingly endless yet unpredictable motion.
106. View from Lao Pako overlooking
the Nam Ngum river.
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Á´ÈÌÕ¤‡´.
236
SUMMARY
SUMMARY
This is a study of the archaeological site Lao Pako, located on the bank of the
river Nam Ngum in central Laos. From an archaeological perspective the site is
located in the outskirts of the Khorat plateau, which stretches over large parts
of northeast Thailand and central Laos, with well-known contemporary late
prehistoric sites such as Ban Chiang, Noen-U-Loke and Ban Na Di. Lao Pako is
always at the centre of my enquiry; it is the place I focus on and the place from
which I look out. It is, in its most basic archaeological sense, a place where people came to work with iron and bury groups of beautiful ceramic vessels in during
a couple of centuries around 1500 years ago. At the core of my investigation and
argument are the people of Lao Pako, they who used it in prehistoric times and
we who use and are part of it today. I have been personally involved in a series
of archaeological investigations at Lao Pako, beginning in 1995 and with the last
in 2003. The results from our investigations are in this thesis the basis of an
archaeological interpretation of the prehistoric site. Furthermore, the archaeological investigations, which were performed in a joint research program with the
Lao PDR Ministry of Information and Culture, have been used as a case study
in an effort to understand the driving forces and consequences behind the construction of Lao Pako as a place from the past. My archaeological interpretation,
which is located within a late 20 th and early 21 st century tradition of academic
archaeology in Sweden and Southeast Asia, has emerged as only one of several
ways to relate to Lao Pako as a place from the past. The managers of a local
tourist resort, the national authorities for cultural heritage management, and
inhabitants of the neighbour villages, are other groups of people who claim
knowledge about the past of Lao Pako. Enquiries into contemporary structures
of power and desire that are at work in the construction of Lao Pako, put international academic archaeolog y in relation to a complex localised politics of
power, prestige, identity and emotion, reaching from the individual to the global scale, all creating different and sometimes contesting images of the same
place.
The introduction, which is also the first chapter of the book, is an introduction to the place Lao Pako. It also contains the creation story of this thesis, how
it was conceived in my first meeting with Laos and Lao Pako in November 1995,
and how it has evolved along with a series of Sida/SAREC funded archaeological investigations that followed, up until April 2003. Furthermore, it presents the
theoretical framework on which the thesis argument has been built. I present four
temptations, different perspectives which have inspired me and have been influ237
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
ential to the form my research has taken. The first is the collective writings of a
group of critical theorists of whom Donna Haraway has had the strongest influence on me in this particular study. Haraway has argued that a responsible
knowledge must be a situated knowledge, and that science in order to be responsible must take a firm step away from what she calls the irresponsible ‘god trick’
of seeing everything from nowhere. This is a point of departure for the science
that has been produced in this book. My second temptation is structuralism.
While being somewhat reluctantly attracted to the sense of order in structuralist thinking, I also find the consequences of structuralist analysis problematic.
The third, postcolonial theory is therefore in some sense saving me from the
structuralist side of myself. Postcolonialism works through deconstruction to
break up the clear dichotomies of the structuralist order, creating conceptual
space for that which is neither nor, and thus appreciating ambiguity, hybridity and
contradiction as interesting and meaningful aspects of human culture. This
postcolonial dynamic view of human culture as something fundamentally messy
is instrumental for the argument of this book. Finally, the fourth and last of my
temptations is my love for Lao Pako. It is a love based on respect and fascination for the beauty and sophistication of the place, its things and its people. This,
my love for Lao Pako, has all through the research process been a driving force
of great importance.
The second chapter aims to situate the thesis in relation to a contemporary
postcolonial debate. It gives a brief introduction to postcolonial theory and critique in general, and lists three different ways that postcolonial thinking has been
used in archaeology. I claim that archaeology has used postcolonial theory almost
exclusively to (i) acquire a set of concepts and analytical tools to better understand ancient situations of colonialism and thus critically revise earlier interpretations of the same, (ii) to analyse and scrutinize the explicit imperialist early
history of the discipline, or (iii) to discuss issues of indigenous rights in relation
to cultural heritage. In this chapter I argue that, no less importantly, there are
remnant and unspoken imperialist structures inherent in contemporary archaeology. Those structures were inherited from the early days of research, when
archaeology and anthropology were overtly created and used to legitimize the
European colonial project. Examples of such concepts and structures by which
archaeology continues to conceptually reconfirm an imperialist world order are:
essentialist conceptions of culture, the universally applied Age system for describing the development of humanity, and the general focus on development of
societal complexity according to definitions of complexity which contains an –
imperialistically constructed – linear and deterministic perception of develop-
238
SUMMARY
ment as ultimately leading to modernity and western values. Based on this, I argue
that archaeology could – and should – make use of postcolonial critique and
theory to visualise such imperialist notions inherent in contemporary disciplinary
structures, and thereby find alternative ways to produce interesting and meaningful knowledge about the ancient, without resorting to unilinear determinism.
The third chapter is a history of research for this particular project. Aiming
to situate my archaeology at Lao Pako within its own historical academic context, it is written in an associative patchwork style, striving to localize rather than
universalize. To begin with, I take a close look at Olov Janse, a Swedish archaeologist working with the colonial French research institute EFEO in Hanoi in the
1930s. Olov Janse serves as an example to visualize and discuss the academic,
ideological and political aims and consequences of early imperialist archaeology
in Indochina and Mainland Southeast Asia. The second example is the book Art
et Archéologie du Laos written by Madeleine Giteau and published in 2001. I use
Giteau’s book as a case to examine what I claim are clear imperialist structures
in the 21 st century archaeology of Southeast Asia. Re-cycling the arguments of
Panivong Norindr and others, I maintain that Madeleine Giteau’s text is an expression of the vivid myth, or phantasm, of Indochina in contemporary French
and European culture. Following on that is a brief account of the history of
archaeology in Africa. African archaeology is used occasionally throughout this
thesis as an example to put the Southeast Asian case into perspective. My next
example is the prehistoric site Ban Chiang in northeast Thailand. Prehistoric Ban
Chiang was in use at the same time as Lao Pako, and there are artefactual connections between the two sites. But even more importantly for this case, Ban
Chiang has played a crucial role in the history of archaeological research in this
area. It is in my view impossible to understand the present disciplinary structures
of the archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia without prior knowledge about
the research history of Ban Chiang. In the final example of this chapter, it is
examined how the Plain of Jars in northeast Laos has been constructed as an
important archaeological site by a number of different actors, from a local to an
international context, from the 1930s until today. It is a lucid example of how
an archaeological site is literary created and communicated through the pens and
lenses of chosen academics, who are all driven by different desires in terms of
politics and prestige.
The next and most extensive chapter of the book is about the site Lao Pako.
It is introduced with an Omnium Gatherum where six people, all with relations to
Lao Pako, describe the place in their own words. Six quite distinctive views of
the same physical place are communicated, of which my archaeological perspec-
239
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
tive is merely one. This introduction leads on to an archaeological description
and interpretation of Lao Pako as a prehistoric site:
Place and People aims to give extensive background information about its geographical and socio-political context. Lao Pako, meaning literary ‘young forest
of ko trees’, is located in a riverine environment, with the mighty Nam Ngum river
playing an important role in the lives of people living nearby. The archaeological site is surrounded by rice farming communities ascribing themselves to different ethnic groups, the majority being ethnic Lao. These people tell that Lao
Pako was used as a village cemetery for a nearby village prior to the construction of a tourist resort, which now occupies parts of the prehistoric site, and that
it is therefore considered to be a phii pa saa, a place where spirits are.
Archaeological Investigations describes first the aims, methods and outcomes of
the three seasons of archaeological fieldwork at Lao Pako; an excavation of three
trenches in 1995, a survey of the site and surroundings in 2000 and another
excavation of 16 testpits in 2002-2003. A total area of 41 m² has been excavated
during these fieldwork seasons, which is approximately 6.4‰ of the total site
area.
The Earth goes into detail about the stratigraphy, soil and dating of the site.
The soil is a well sorted fine silt with homogenous colour throughout the layers.
The stratigraphy is comparatively shallow, and show two horizons of packed
cultural material, representing the former ground levels during a relatively short
period of use. Underneath, there are pits of varying size and depth containing
depositions of ceramics and other materials. There are also remains from iron
production in wide shallow pits. The prehistoric site has been dated with the 14 C
method used on charcoal samples, to between AD 350 and 600.
The Things deals with the material culture of Lao Pako. First it gives a brief
introduction to the use of material culture in archaeology, serving to situate the
approach I have taken to the things in the investigation and interpretation of Lao
Pako. My approach borrows in its most basic sense from that of Igor Kopytoff,
saying that human societies reproduce the social structure of its people in the
way they order their things. Moreover, I have taken a perspective inspired by
Henry Glassie and others, that material culture is comparable with poetry using
a textual metaphor, in that it is embracing societal contradictions and opens up
multiple associative routes to significance. The Lao Pako material culture, following this approach, is initially described and analysed individually, arguing for
an appreciation of the sensuality of things. They have been grouped into five
categories: Ceramics, Textile Production, Beads, Metal and Metallurgy, and Stone. Ceramics, which is by far the most common artefact category, has been further
240
SUMMARY
divided into Complete Vessels and Sherds. All 76 complete vessels found in the
excavations are presented individually. They have been physically reconstructed
as far as possible, and are here represented by technical drawings, photographs
and textual and contextual descriptions. The sherds have been collected spit by
spit and divided into categories concerning shape, colour, temper and decoration. Thin section analysis of the different ceramic wares has produced information about the clay and tempers that were used. Pulling all known aspects of these
ceramics together, it is evident that the Lao Pako ceramic culture was elaborate
and sophisticated with much effort put into (i) ware composition, making use of
several different tempers in various combinations, and (ii) display characteristics
such as intricate decorations with appliqué, cordmarks, incisions, slipping et
cetera, as well as a great variation in sizes and shapes. These two aspects have
been emphasized in the Lao Pako ceramics while the functional quality of pots
and jars as containers appears to have been disregarded, resulting in stunningly
beautiful yet fragile vessels. The interconnections between different tempers,
shapes and decoration elements in the individual vessels, strongly indicate that
this is the result of a local and distinctive ceramic production, albeit with technological similarities to contemporary sites on the Khorat Plateau such as Ban
Chiang and Ban Na Di. The other artefact categories are not as numerous as the
ceramics in the recovered material from Lao Pako, and in this thesis they are
foremost used to contextualize the ceramics for the interpretation of the prehistoric site. Textile production is represented by 44 ceramic spindle whorls of
annular or biconic shapes, and four clay seals; three cylindrical and one discshaped. Similar forms of both spindle whorls and clay seals are known from other
sites on the Khorat Plateau. One cornelian and 345 glass beads have also been
recovered. They represent a wide range of colours and shapes, and are directly
connected with finds from other excavated sites further south on the Khorat
Plateau. Metals and metallurgy are present at Lao Pako foremost in form of iron
production with clay tuyères, bowl-shaped slag and dross on pottery vessels and
pebbles. Furthermore, there are iron and bronze objects present in different
contexts on the site. The iron objects are heavily corroded and often with an
indistinguishable shape, whereas the bronze artefacts in some instances resemble objects found on other excavated contemporary sites. Finally, a great number
of stone objects were found in the excavations. Most are pebbles of varying size
and quality, but there are also whetstones, adzes and a fragmentary stone bangle.
Contexts put the individualized and separated artefacts into contexts which
render them meaningful. These contexts are created out of information about
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AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
visible structures and individual artefacts’ positions in the ground at the time of
excavation. I have distinguished two different deposition contexts: firstly the
former ground level, where potsherds and other cultural material were scattered
on the ground while the site was in use, and secondly pits that were dug to varying depth from the ground level, in which ceramics and other materials were
placed in neat structured depositions. Three of the pit depositions contain complete vessels together with beads, iron, and bronze artefacts. All three contain
one or several infant size bronze bangles, and in one of them there are two preserved pieces of radius and ulna bone of an infant. These three depositions have
been interpreted as infant burials. In addition to these, there are a wide range of
depositions of complete or incomplete ceramic vessels, collection of sherds,
spindle whorls, beads, one single stone adze, slag, et cetera. These pit depositions,
in combination with the iron production materials and potsherds which were lying
in the open on the ground surface while the site was in use between AD 350 and
600, are now defining the Lao Pako prehistoric site.
Ritual Space aims to create an intellectual space for ritual meaning in the interpretation of material culture, in particular in relation to the consensual archaeological narrative of Mainland Southeast Asia. It is argued that, while this
grand narrative has typically pictured human societies as economically maximizing and development orientated production units, it is necessary to consider ritual
metaphors to give meaning to the Lao Pako things. The chapter starts with a short
introduction to ritual studies, and defines Lao Pako as a ritual site. This is followed by two specific cases; the study of pottery and body metaphors, and the
ritual aspects of non-industrial iron production using explicit sexual metaphors.
International examples are used to create a space for discussion about Lao Pako
as a ritual site.
Finally, Lao Pako 1500 years ago – an archaeological synthesis make use of the
material culture and interpretive perspectives presented thus far, to produce an
archaeological interpretation of the site. It works with a perspective that places
Lao Pako in the centre of the world, and begins with an outlook on the surroundings from what we know about the time around AD 350 to 600. There are
artefactual and str uctural relations between Lao Pako and sites such as Ban
Chiang, Ban Na Di, Noen-U-Loke and Ban Kan Luang further south on the
Khorat Plateau. At the same time, there are a number of groups with quite different cultural expressions and material expressions elsewhere on the mainland
that may have been known to the people at Lao Pako. The chapter moves on to
look into the Lao Pako site itself. First it examines the importance of water and
the confluence of waterways when the people who used the site 1500 years ago
242
SUMMARY
decided to use it for iron production and pottery deposition. It is further discussed how the importance of different materials and contexts is signalled by
their varying degree of exposure on the site, and how the place could have appeared to someone arriving there 1500 years ago. Emerging is an image of a
complex ritual site. It is argued that the Lao Pako iron production must be understood as conceptually interrelated with infant burials and pottery depositions
in a web of gendered metaphors concerning life and death, conception and decay. Thus Lao Pako is not merely a production site, nor is it a burial ground. In
its ritual embracement of both, it can best be described as a comment on life.
The next chapter, Creating Reflections, puts the Lao Pako I have just created into
perspective, with a presentation and analysis of other stories about the same
place. In the same process, it visualizes and discusses my scientific archaeology
in relation to these other views. The main source material for this chapter has
been collected in informal interactions and formal interviews with actors representing (i) the local farming communities, (ii) the on-site tourist resort, and (iii)
the Lao PDR national authorities for cultural heritage management. A number
of points of wider importance have been noted from the stories produced by
these different groups, for instance a differing perception of time between actors in the farming community and the tourist resort, and the striving on behalf
of the national authorities for archaeological research and heritage management
to incorporate Lao Pako into the grand narrative of the glorious past of the Lao
people. Most importantly, it shows clearly the limitations of scientific archaeology when it comes to a serious consideration of differing views on the past.
The title of the last chapter – Confluence – indicates that this is the place where
all issues and arguments raised throughout the former chapters meet and mingle. My archaeological investigation and interpretation of Lao Pako is here analysed in the light of postcolonial critique, and it is argued that I have made a
serious attempt to write an alternative, self-critical, non-deterministic, non-linear story about the past of Lao Pako. Nevertheless, I am always confined to the
present structural limitations of a discipline with vast historical investments in
the principles of temporal distance, exotic otherness and cultural essence.
243
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NOTES
NOTES
OUTSET
1 (Rich 1991:43, see also Bhabha 1996)
2 I use the European definition of archaeology as a separate discipline from social- or cultural anthropology.
3 The fact that the foundations of postcolonial theory are so firmly connected with such ‘elite’ European
conceptual frameworks has been one of the main criticisms posed against it. Another has been the
institutional locations of most production of postcolonial theory, which are almost exclusively well renowned
universities in the United States or Europe. At the core of these arguments is of course the idea that the
theory which is supposed to give voices to the silent and faces to the periphery, is in some sense false if it
emanates from the dominating centre. Some postcolonial theorists have further claimed that only an
oppressed subject can produce a true postcolonial critique, while others have argued that such claims are
essentialist and therefore work against the principles of the postcolonial critique (Moore-Gilbert 1997:11ff,
chapter 5).
4 Subaltern as in Gayatri Spivak’s reading of the term, originally from Gramsci, meaning groups of people who
are discursively silent and invisible. In the text they exist only, with Spivak’s words, in a space of difference,
with silence as part of their definition (cf. Spivak 1994).
5 In one important sense I disagree with Chris Gosden’s writings, which in other respects have much in common
with my own research with his interests in the intellectual legacy of Heidegger and in postcolonial theory.
What I disagree with is that Gosden’s critical enquiries end with attempts to formulate ‘models’ that should
be applicable to situations in the past, for example a model for historical change (quoted above), and one
for meaning derived from human action (Gosden 1994:38). In my view, Gosden resorts with these attempted
models to the solid epistemology that he aims to criticize, which makes his argument inconsistent.
UPSTREAM
1 Another example is the ‘Conversations Across the Continents’ initiated by Rasmi Shoocongdej in the Southeast
Asian Archaeology International Newsletter, issues 2-5 1993-4 (Shoocongdej 1993-94), and yet another is a number
of papers written by Ian C Glover, of which Glover 2001 is the most extensive.
2 To my knowledge the collections from Olov Janse’s work in Indochina are located at the Peabody Museum of
Harvard University, the Musée Guimet and the Musée Cernuschi in Paris, the National Museum of History
(former Musée Louis Finot) in Hanoi, and at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm (Prior
2002). There is also a small collection of ethnographic objects from his travels at the National Museum of
Ethnography in Stockholm.
3 For a general discussion on imperialism and human sciences, see Fabian 1983 and Thomas 1996, for archaeology
see Trigger 1989:ch4 and Rowlands 1998:331f, and particularly for the archaeology of Southeast Asia see
Peterson 1983 and Glover 2003.
4 Original French text: ‘La lointaine occupation khmère a laissé sur son sol d’importants vestiges, au premier
chef le temple de Vat Phu. L’influence dominante a été celle des Thaïlandais de même race que les Lao, de
même religion et de culture très proche. [...] Certes, l’art lao n’a commencé à se développer qu’à partir du
XIVe siècle [...] Toutefois la richesse et la diversité de ses oeuvres lui donnent une place importante dans
l’évolution artistique de la Péninsule Indochinoise.’ (Giteau 2001:34)
5 The italics used for Iron Age and Bronze Age mark that I refer to them as literary constructions, objects created
in the archaeological narrative. It assumes a universal and linear social and economic human evolution, which
I find deeply problematic. Further arguments on this are found in the chapter Outset. Nevertheless, the Iron
253
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Age is important as an archaeological construction, and must as such be used in a discussion that refers to
the archaeological narrative of this time and this area.
6 I.e. in south Thailand before the first couple of centuries AD, and further north before the 7th century AD
7 See for instance Ban Na Di and Ban Chiang Hian (Higham & Kijngam 1984), Muang Phet (McNeill 1997),
Non Yang and Ban Don Phlong (Nitta 1991a), Noen U-Loke (Higham 2002:196-208), Non Muang Kao
(O’Reilly 1997) and moated sites investigated by Elizabeth Moore (1988).
8 This booklet presents nine prehistoric sites that have been archaeologically investigated recently within the
territory of Lao PDR. Except for the Plain of Jars and Lao Pako, both dating to late prehistoric times, the
remaining seven sites are rock shelters in the Luang Prabang and Hua Pan Provinces, excavated by
Sayavongkhamdy himself (Sayavongkhamdy 1996a).
OMNIUM GATHERUM
1 All these people have been asked the same question: ‘What is Lao Pako?’, or in Lao À͉ - ¾ - ¯ ¾-  ¡- Á ´È - ¹ ñ ¨ - ¤ ? My
own answer was written down first of all. All interviews in Lao have been conducted by Mr Kanda Keosopha,
team member of the Lao Pako project from the Lao National Museum, Ms Nor Ountagok from the village
Ban Phonkham and myself. They have been transcribed from tape recordings by Kanda Keosopha and
translated into English by Kanda Keosopha and myself.
PLACE AND PEOPLE
1 The Ko tree is occasionally also referred to in Lao as Sa So:m, in Latin Anthocephalus chinensis (cf. Gardner
et al. 2000). The timber is used in light construction work, but is also used in India for symbolic sculptures
of Vishnu on temples. The bark is used to treat uterine complaints, blood diseases, dysentery and leprosy
and it is also used in anti-fertility. The fruits are edible (all information on the Ko tree has been received
through personal communication with John McArdle at the Ban Pako resort)
2 The meaning and importance of Lao Pako in the local community will be dealt with in more detail and analysed
in the chapter Creating Reflections.
3 A map may appear to be a neutral and detached picture of reality. Yi-Fu Tuan among others has argued that
this is not at all the case. He writes: ‘The map is God’s view of the world since its sightlines are parallel and
extend to infinity’ (Tuan 1977:123). This can and should in my view be compared with Donna Haraway’s
‘god-trick’ of seeing everything from nowhere (see Introduction).
THE EARTH
1 Stratigraphy drawings from all three excavation seasons at Lao Pako are found in Appendix III.
2 Laterite is here, according to common usage on mainland Southeast Asia, used for rock-like conglomerates
with high contents of iron. This material is undergoing a rock-formation process, and if it is left in the
ground will eventually become sandstone. At Lao Pako, laterite is found both as small or medium sized
lumps (up to 5-6 centimetres in diameter) in the sterile strata under the cultural layer, and as rust-coloured
gravel on pathways and in streams in the forest around the site. Its presence as large lumps in the cultural
layers, as well as in the Lao Pako pottery wares as tempering, indicates that it has been used in the activities
there, and is thus loaded with cultural significance.
THE THINGS
1 This line of argument has much in common with Heidegger’s notion being-towards-death, which means that
the value of life can only be brought out fully by the thought of extinction. Only fully conscious of our
finitude could we come to a full knowledge of ourselves in the world and have a proper attitude towards it
254
NOTES
(Gosden 1994:112).
2 In particular, the second most dominating find category at Lao Pako, which is metal production, has here
taken a back seat to the focus on ceramics. This is partly due to the structure of the project, where there
has been no expert on metallurgy involved in the team, and partly to the Lao PDR national principles for
handling artefacts. At the time of excavation, there were strong restrictions concerning all metal- or metallurgy
objects, not allowing any samples of such materials to leave the country. Since there were at that time no
laboratories able to take on such analyses in Laos, the metal and metallurgy material, today stored in Lao
PDR, has only undergone first step conservation, but no further analyses.
3 The terminology used for ceramics in this presentation follows that suggested by Joyce White and William
Henderson in an IPPA conference paper 2002 (White & Henderson, forthcoming). To meet the demand of
standardization in order to establish ceramic form databases, they have worked out a basic nomenclature
to work for sites on the Khorat Plateau. Their terminology, which is focused on rim shapes, was formed
out of elements from a number of ceramic classification systems commonly used in Southeast Asian
archaeology (e.g. Shepard 1956, Bronson 1976 and Rice 1987). I find White and Henderson’s compilation
useful, and will in all possible cases use their nomenclature here.
4 Complete vessels are defined as having a clear complete shape, identified in excavation or during reconstruction.
In most cases, parts of the vessels are absent, which is due either to that the vessel was incomplete already
at the time of deposition, or to a post-depository disintegration of the ware fabric in the acidic soil climate.
5 With the exception of some stoneware sherds in the surface layers, all recovered ceramics are earthenware.
6 Slip means here a coating of fine clay applied onto the vessel as a thin ‘clay soup’, entirely or partly covering
the vessel surface.
7 The code is to be read as [description of colour] – [slip or no slip] – [black core or no black core].
8 We have made a joint decision between the MIC, conservator Marion Ravenscroft and myself, to wash all
ceramics found in these excavation seasons. The reason is that we wanted to put emphasis on the immediate
research- documentation- and display qualities of these ceramics. Due to the fugitive nature of both slip
and painted decoration in water, and the fragility of some wares, the washing, even though carried out with
greatest care, has in some cases been done at the expense of the overall conservation of the objects. Despite
this we have decided to focus, at this stage of investigation, on the potential contemporary uses of these
artefacts, and therefore proceed with the washing.
9 In the pottery analysis during the 2002 excavation, Christian Vinterhav recorded the colour of each complete
vessel in a code after the Munsell Soil Color Chart, with the code referring to [interior slip – interior surface
– core – exterior surface – exterior slip]. Even though this information is only available for the vessels
excavated in 2002, it has been included in this presentation.
10 I refer to White and Henderson (forthcoming) for definitions of the general terminology, with the added
specification that simple incised decorations here refer to incised lines, while complex incised decorations
have combinations of lines and zigzag incisions.
11 Objects of similar biconical and annular shape, but made of volcanic rock are known from later historic
times in the Sekong province in southern Laos (pers comm. anthropologist Ananda Paxaxay) with the
Austroasiatic ethnic groups Katu and Nge (cf. Chazée 1999:87, 89). In Lao these objects are called hin khuan,
which translates to ‘soul stone’. They function as a person’s soul keeper, and are worn as amulets together
with beads in elaborate necklaces. The material and contextual differences between these hin khuan and the
objects found at Lao Pako make me, however, treat these as spindle whorls associated with textile production
rather than soul keepers.
255
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
RITUAL SPACE
1 While I find Eliade’s description of the essence of ritual and religion useful for understanding human experience
in general, I do not agree with his evolutionary description of ‘primitive’ and ‘complex’ societies.
2 This formulation is a simplification with a conceptual rather than a practical value. Quoting Edmund Leach:
‘Durkheim, Harrison, Radcliffe-Brown and Mauss all started out with the assumption that every social action
belongs unambiguously to one or the other of two readily distinguishable categories: The non-rational,
mystical, non-utilitarian, and sacred or the rational, common-sense, utilitarian, and profane […] Each author
ends up demonstrating that no such discrimination is possible – that all ‘sacred things’ are also, under certain
conditions, ‘profane things’, and vice versa’ (Leach 1968:522). Bearing this in mind I maintain, however,
that a conceptual separation between ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ can be useful in the interpretation of this site.
3 Presented by Jean-Pierre Pautreau, Patricia Mornais and U Pauk Pauk in an unpublished paper with the title
‘Iron Age Cemeteries in Central Burma’ at the 9th International Conference of the European Association
of Southeast Asian Archaeologists in Sigtuna, Sweden 2002.
LAO PAKO 1500 YEARS AGO
1 See note 5 in chapter Upstream.
2 Several centuries later the politically important centre of Angkor developed even further north, near the Tonle
Sap Lake in present-day Cambodia.
CREATING REFLECTIONS
1 I have chosen to let some of my informants in this chapter be anonymous. This has not been an easy decision,
because I find it problematic to depict the inhabitants of the villages around Lao Pako as a homogenous
faceless mass. My first intention was to let them be part of the story, with their proper names and faces to
accompany their words, but confronted with the possibility that this might entail unforeseen political
problems for them, I have eventually decided to let them have assumed names. Those who have answered
the question ‘What is Lao Pako’ in the chapter Omnium Gatherum earlier will, however, remain with their
identities revealed, for the reason stated above. The same goes for my colleagues working with me in this
project, as well as Peter Fogde and Dr Sounet Potisane in this chapter, who hold positions that will reveal
their identities in any case.
2 The questions asked in Lao: êȾ̣¸Ì¥½²ñÌì½Ì¾¦½«¾Ìê†À͉¾¯È¾Â¡£õÁ̸é?
êȾ̣ò©¸È¾¡¾Ì¢÷©£íÌ꾤©É¾Ì¸ñ©«÷®ø»¾Ì¡È¼¸¡ñ®À͉¾¯È¾Â¡£õÁ̸é?
͉¾¯È¾Â¡À¯ñ̦½«¾Ìꆴ£
ó ¸¾´¦¿£ñÌ£õÁ̸éÃ̺¾©ó©?«É¾¸È¾¦¿£ñÌ, Á´È̦¿£ñÌÃÌ꾤é?
À͉ ¾ ¯È ¾ ¡À¯ñ - ¦ ½«¾Ìꆦ¿£ñÌÁ̸éÃÌê÷¡´œÌš?
êÈ¾Ì µ¾¡À¹ñÌ À͉¾¯È¾Â¡ Ã̺¾Ì¾£ö©À¯Ì£õÁ̸é?
3 See also chapters Upstream and Looking Out
4 Nor Ountagok’s research was conducted in the villages Ban Nabong, Ban Phonkham and Ban Hou Na..
5 In the Buddhist calendar every lunar month is divided into four parts. The month starts when the moon is
gone. On the eighth night, or paet kham (8 £Ô) is the moon half. On the fifteenth night, sip háa kham there
is full moon. Eight nights later is the next paet kham, when the moon is half on its way down. After fifteen
nights the moon is gone again, and it is once again sip háa kham. Each of these days are Buddhist holidays.
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1 In: Serres & Latour 1995:107
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268
APPENDIX
MATERIAL
Bone
Bone
Bone
Glass
Glass
Glass
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Textile
FIND NO
1995:91
1995:111
1995:198
1995:56
1995:76
1995:178
1995:105
1995:106
1995:18
1995:19
1995:20
1995:24
1995:42
1995:53
1995:54
1995:66
1995:67
1995:74
1995:82
1995:83
1995:90
1995:115
1995:225
1995:35
B2
-13.65
-13.50
SF
-13.55
-13.62
-13.47
-13.13
-12.90
-13.86
-20.38
-19.60
SF
-19.65
-21.12
-21.00
-21.10
-19.60
-20.30
-12.15
-13.72
-20.22
-20.04
-13.04
SF
SF
-13.55
-20.95
-19.74
-13.26
SF
SF
SF
-21.15
SF
-12.60
-20.20
SF
-13.18
SF
-12.50
-20.30
-13.75
-20.55
-19.55
-12.13
-13.60
-19.50
Y
-19.09
X
FINDLIST
LAO PAKO 1995 - 2003
APPENDIX I
99.92
99.23
99.78
99.76
99.82
99.79
99.90
SF
99.92
99.82
99.84
SF
100.00
99.96
SF
99.93
SF
SF
99.58
99.82
99.85
99.43
99.73
100.04
Z
1
1
2
3
1
Pebble.
Pebble fragments.
Pebble, flaked.
Pounding stone.
80
60
105
70
6
Scraper with usage retouch.
1
1
Pounding stone.
Spindle whorl.
54
1
Pebble.
20 x 34
58
76
1
Whetstone?
70
1
Pounding stone.
120 x 8
150 x 8
Pounding stone.
1
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim H).
Scraper?
1
Sandstone with carving marks.
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim H).
3
Slag with fine texture.
Rimpiece of jar (rim H).
1
Slag with fine texture.
140 x 8
3
Glass, small fragments.
6
60
SIZE ( mm)
Glass fragments, very small.
4
PCS
Glass, small green fragments.
Burnt bone.
Burnt bone.
Burnt bone fragments.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
30g
WE IG HT
Found alone in qdt 1.
Found alone in qdt 1.
Found alone.
Found alone in qdt 1.
Found alone in qdt 1.
CONTEXT
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
271
272
MATERIAL
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Glass
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Pottery
Pottery
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
FIND NO
1995:108
1995:113
1995:127
1995:129
1995:132
1995:16
1995:17
1995:23
1995:26
1995:31
1995:58
1995:78
1995:81
1995:138
1995:147
1995:152
1995:186
1995:112
1995:52
1995:131
1995:154
1995:65
1995:77
1995:84
1995:133
1995:134
1995:22
1995:36
1995:14
1995:34
1995:39
1995:55
D1
-11.98
-10.50
-11.97
-10.69
-29.72
-30.15
-29.90
-28.57
-10.93
-9.92
SF
-9.77
-30.25
-28.92
SF
-28.88
-10.05
SF
SF
-9.90
SF
SF
-29.55
SF
SF
-29.18
-10.22
-9.50
-11.76
-29.49
-29.80
-9.96
-30.41
-29.20
-10.52
-28.75
-10.62
-11.68
-30.26
-28.67
-9.58
-10.03
-29.47
-29.30
-10.30
-29.65
-9.87
-10.60
-28.65
-29.27
-10.01
-30.28
-10.65
-11.86
-29.88
-9.64
-10.45
-28.58
-29.72
-11.50
-29.77
-9.64
-28.98
Y
-28.55
X
100.09
SF
100.18
100.42
100.22
100.27
SF
SF
SF
100.16
100.08
99.77
99.76
100.13
99.87
99.69
99.79
99.70
99.90
100.07
100.03
100.14
100.31
100.09
100.26
100.31
100.32
99.79
99.83
99.87
99.87
100.23
Z
1
5
Iron object.
Fragmentary iron object.
1
1
1
1
Pebble, possibly a pounding stone.
Small stone axe of greenish sandstone.
Pebble, flaked - scraper?
Flaked pebble.
1
1
Slag with fine texture.
1
1
Tuyère fragment.
Potsherd with screwhead appliqué.
1
Slag.
Rimpiece of jar (rim D).
1
The narrow end of a tuyère.
Tuyère fragments.
1
Iron arrowhead.
Glass, very small fragments.
Burnt bone.
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
95
115
46
95
55
97 x 6
18 x 30
23 x 43
18
38
52
2
30
15
14
Burnt bone, some spongiosa.
3
Burnt bone
13
16
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
2
21
Burnt bone, small fragments
15
Burnt bone fragment with spongiosa.
Burnt bone with .spongiosa.
1
1
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
Burnt bone, small fragments.
1
Burnt bone.
8
10
16
1
14
SIZE (m m )
Burnt bone, one piece and fragments.
PCS
Burnt bone, fragmentary and with spongiosa.
Burnt bone.
Burnt bone with visible spongiosa, and charcoal.
Burnt bone, fragmentary.
Burnt bone, small fragments with spongiosa.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
WE IG HT
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone.
CONTEXT
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
1995:27
1995:44
1995:46
1995:60
1995:61
1995:72
1995:120
1995:121
1995:135
1995:136
1995:137
MATERIAL
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
FIND NO
1995:33
1995:80
1995:114
1995:122
1995:123
1995:124
1995:128
1995:188
1995:189
1995:192
1995:195
1995:202
1995:212
1995:219
1995:223
1995:227
E2
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
1995:57
1995:59
1995:63
1995:79
1995:141
1995:166
1995:167
1995:187
-9.66
-9.79
-10.28
-10.32
-10.30
-10.33
-30.08
-29.07
-29.28
-30.14
-30.12
-30.10
-12.33
-13.22
-12.50
-14.58
-12.82
-14.26
-12.85
-12.04
-12.73
-16.34
-13.15
-15.95
-12.49
-12.36
-14.91
-13.24
-34.33
-31.04
-34.70
-31.72
-31.34
-31.12
-31.60
-32.13
-31.60
-32.54
-31.20
-32.50
-31.69
-32.94
-32.42
-31.60
Y
-11.06
-30.13
X
-9.97
-10.75
-29.42
-30.17
-9.59
-30.20
-9.57
-9.66
-30.26
-29.30
SF
SF
-10.40
-10.04
-29.96
-9.62
-10.64
-30.28
-30.30
-10.58
-29.67
-28.60
-9.68
-29.90
100.06
99.34
99.59
99.39
99.50
99.26
99.70
99.50
99.61
99.86
100.03
100.01
100.05
99.96
99.89
100.14
100.14
Z
99.85
99.85
99.85
99.89
99.86
100.02
100.10
100.10
100.19
100.21
100.39
99.66
99.70
99.64
SF
100.00
100.08
100.12
1
1
1
1
1
1
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl.
1
2
Burnt bone, thick with spongiosa.
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
Burnt bone, fragments.
24
1
Burnt bone, piece of a longbone.
13
12
Burnt bone, fragmentary.
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
25
14
1
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
3
Burnt bone, compact with spongiosa.
Burnt bone, fragmentary and flaked.
Burnt bone, very small fragments.
18
32
2
Burnt bone, big piece of longbone.
Burnt bone, very small fragments.
10
1
Burnt bone.
20
16
20
16
SIZE (mm)
18 x 35
26 x 35
27 x 31
16 x 30
26 x 38
18 x 30
17 x 32
19 x 28
25 x 35
26
20 x 34
60 x 30
80
55
30
50
75
70
Burnt bone.
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
1
Burnt bone with spongiosa.
PCS
1
Spindle whorl.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
1
1
Pebble, worked?
Spindle whorl.
1
Flaked pebble, with usage retouch.
1
1
Carved sandstone, casting mould?
Spindle whorl.
1
Sandstone scraper?
1
1
Carved sandstone, casting mould?
1
1
Scraper with retouch.
Stamp roller with zigzag pattern.
1
Sandstone pebble.
Spindle whorl.
1
Flaked pebble, scraper?
WE IG HT
Found with charcoal.
CONTEXT
Found alone in qdt 4.
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
273
274
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
1995:21
1995:25
1995:49
1995:68
1995:69
1995:73
1995:75
1995:86
1995:95
1995:97
1995:102
1995:104
1995:125
1995:140
1995:144
1995:151
1995:163
1995:199
1995:200
1995:201
1995:203
1995:214
1995:215
1995:216
1995:12
1995:70
1995:85
1995:93
1995:99
1995:158
1995:159
1995:160
1995:165
-13.58
-13.20
-13.00
SF
-15.07
SF
-12.15
SF
-15.83
-15.91
-15.94
-15.88
-15.91
-16.20
-16.24
-34.29
-33.48
-33.00
SF
-31.88
SF
-33.36
SF
-33.00
-32.83
-33.01
-33.03
-32.90
-32.57
-32.76
-13.96
SF
SF
SF
-12.39
-13.37
-33.30
SF
SF
SF
-32.02
-32.26
SF
-13.51
-33.60
SF
SF
SF
-15.17
SF
SF
SF
-15.20
-31.82
SF
-14.60
-32.00
-15.15
-14.50
-33.00
-31.80
-15.80
-32.15
-31.75
-14.63
-33.20
99.88
99.87
SF
SF
SF
100.03
SF
SF
100.08
99.22
99.34
99.05
99.06
99.19
99.38
99.23
SF
99.81
SF
99.96
SF
100.00
99.96
99.98
99.97
SF
SF
100.17
100.17
100.17
100.11
100.25
100.11
33
2
Small iron fragments.
1
2
1
1
2
1
1
4
Iron object.
Iron object.
Iron object, the end of a knife?
Iron knife?
Iron fragments.
Iron object, nail?
Iron object.
Iron fragments.
Iron object.
34
2
2
1
Slag.
Slag.
The narrow end of a tuyère.
45 x 31
49
55 x 44
35
Slag.
Tuyère fragment.
1
1
The narrow end of a tuyère, covered with slag and
dross.
Small slag fragments.
1
Metal object or slag.
Slag.
48
1
Copper object.
44
10
1
Iron fragments, circular shaped object.
13
30
Iron fragments, circular shaped object.
13
Iron fragments.
35
51
31
99
59
22
Metal object, fragmentary.
2
78
3
Iron fragments, knife?
50
49
Iron fragments, knife?
40
74
1
Iron object, the end of a knife?
86
Iron fragments, knife? Belongs with F1995:68.
82
1
Iron object, knife?
26
Iron fragments, knife? Belongs with F1995:73.
7
28
Copper/Bronze container with charred remains
inside. Very fragile, with a shape similar to a
Dong Son drum.
1
Bronze fragments.
Iron arrowhead, small with tangs.
40g
30g
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone in qdt 4.
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone in qdt 2-3.
Found alone in qdt 4.
Found alone.
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Pottery
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
1995:193
1995:194
1995:196
1995:197
1995:204
1995:205
1995:206
1995:207
1995:209
1995:210
1995:211
1995:213
1995:217
1995:221
1995:222
1995:1
1995:2
1995:3
1995:4
1995:5
1995:6
1995:8
1995:9
1995:10
1995:11
1995:13
1995:30
1995:107
1995:191
1995:218
1995:15
1995:37
1995:38
1995:40
1995:41
1995:43
1995:45
-16.26
-15.30
-33.25
SF
-16.00
-16.32
SF
-32.52
-32.86
-12.56
-33.45
-33.27
SF
SF
-16.45
-15.28
-32.08
-32.05
-15.60
-33.00
SF
-15.96
-32.60
SF
-15.28
-32.76
-14.65
-15.03
-32.46
SF
-16.00
-34.50
SF
-12.08
-34.53
-33.52
-12.26
-12.33
-31.83
-34.92
-12.39
-32.62
-12.37
SF
SF
-34.38
-12.94
-31.24
-12.40
-12.96
-31.44
-12.62
-13.02
-31.50
-34.73
-12.62
-31.57
-34.23
-12.95
-31.72
-13.13
-31.57
-13.15
-12.54
-31.24
-31.65
-13.33
-31.48
SF
-12.00
-31.65
SF
-12.73
-31.34
99.68
99.82
99.89
99.98
SF
SF
100.05
SF
99.55
99.99
SF
99.80
100.07
100.09
100.09
100.14
100.14
100.13
100.12
100.16
100.19
100.34
99.35
99.35
SF
99.52
99.48
99.48
99.54
99.49
99.54
SF
99.56
99.65
99.57
99.90
99.63
1
Potsherd, a piece of piedestal.
1
1
Potsherd with rim M, belongs to J15?
Pebble, flaked.
1
Potsherd with screwhead appliqué.
1
1
Potsherd with nail marks.
1
2
Rimpiece of jar (rim M).
Pounding stone.
1
Potsherd, decorated with appliqué.
Pounding stone.
6
Two rimpieces (rim D) and potsherds.
1
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim H).
Pounding stone.
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim B).
1
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim M).
Pebble, worked and flaked.
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim M).
1
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim M).
1
1
Potsherd.
Pebble.
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim I).
Pebble flake.
1
Rimpiece of jar (rim I).
54
115
65 x 78
113
95
55
160
180 x 15
64
55 x 30
87 x 6
60
35 x 8
55 x 6
92 x 13
90 x 11
64 x 8
80 x 10
110 x 9
130 x 8
50 x 20
Tuyère fragments.
100 x 56
Tuyère fragments.
45 x 59
Tuyère fragments.
133 x 55
Tuyère fragment.
1
107 x 55
Tuyère, almost complete.
55
Tuyère, almost complete.
97 x 56
Tuyère fragment.
1
Tuyère, almost complete.
35 x 55
52 x 35
126 x 57
1
1
1
Tuyère, almost complete.
Tuyère fragment.
fragmentary.
Tuyère: narrow end complete, the rest
Tuyère fragment.
Tuyère fragments.
The narrow end of a tuyère.
Tuyère fragments.
160 g
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone in qdt 4.
Found alone.
Found alone .
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
275
1995:47
1995:51
1995:71
1995:87
1995:88
1995:89
1995:92
1995:94
1995:96
1995:98
1995:100
1995:101
1995:103
1995:109
1995:110
1995:117
1995:118
1995:119
1995:126
1995:139
1995:142
1995:143
1995:145
1995:146
1995:148
1995:149
1995:150
1995:153
1995:155
1995:156
1995:157
1995:161
1995:162
1995:164
1995:168
1995:169
1995:170
1995:171
1995:172
1995:173
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
276
-14.55
-16.25
-15.41
SF
-14.30
-14.10
-14.24
-13.17
SF
-13.33
SF
-12.91
-13.14
-12.80
-12.55
-13.68
-14.10
-12.35
-12.70
SF
-13.65
-14.62
-13.40
-13.12
-12.69
-14.92
-12.23
-12.18
-12.40
-12.45
-13.48
-14.05
-13.85
-14.47
-14.23
-13.36
-14.60
-14.34
-14.34
-13.30
-32.50
-32.75
-31.18
SF
-34.00
-33.40
-33.33
-32.85
SF
-33.98
SF
-33.75
-33.10
-33.19
-33.27
-32.28
-32.16
-31.70
-31.00
SF
-34.42
-34.39
-33.73
-33.66
-33.70
-31.66
-33.95
-33.60
-31.30
-31.93
-33.43
-33.40
-32.99
-32.69
-33.00
-32.28
-34.50
-34.74
-34.00
-31.16
99.31
99.69
99.72
99.71
99.80
99.89
99.81
99.96
99.93
99.93
99.90
99.88
99.81
99.77
99.36
99.77
99.76
99.75
99.78
99.78
SF
100.04
100.04
99.96
99.99
99.90
99.90
99.98
99.93
SF
99.94
SF
100.02
100.01
100.01
100.03
SF
100.16
99.50
100.01
1
1
4
3
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Pounding stone.
Pebble of diabas?
Worked pebble.
Fragmentary whetstone?
Small pebble - a pestle?
Flaked pebble.
Pebble.
Scraper?
Sandstone, whetstone?
Flaked pebble.
Pebble.
Flaked pebble, scraper?
Flaked pebble, scraper or pounding stone.
Pounding stone.
Pebble with dross, no sign of usage.
Scraper?
Flaked pebble.
Sandstone pebble, pounding stone?
Sandstone pebble, no sign of usage.
Pebble tool.
Fragmentary polished pebble.
Pebble with dross, no sign of usage.
Pebble with dross, no sign of usage.
Pebble with dross, no sign of usage.
Pounding stone.
Flaked pebble, scraper?
Conglomerate of minerals.
Scraper, with usage retouch.
Pounding stone.
Scraper, with usage retouch.
Pebble fragment, no traces of usage.
Scraper fragment with usage retouch.
Small pebble of white quartz.
Pounding stone.
Broken stone axe.
Pebble of red quartz, no sign of usage.
Pebble with dross, no sign of usage.
Scraper with usage retouch, and broken edge.
Pebble flake, with the sharp edge worn.
Worked pebble of granite.
117
85
90
50
45
55
100
10
65
68
70
70
70
42
50
99
60
45
75
60
90
35
125
105
70
70
170
135
50
45
100
35
95
98
23
43
150
Found alone in qdt 4.
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone in qdt 4.
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Stone
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Other
1995:174
1995:175
1995:176
1995:177
1995:180
1995:181
1995:182
1995:183
1995:184
1995:185
1995:208
1995:220
1995:224
1995:226
1995:232
1995:130
1995:179
1995:228
1995:229
1995:230
1995:231
1995:28
1995:29
1995:32
1995:48
1995:50
1995:62
1995:7
1995:190
SF
SF
SF
-14.20
SF
SF
SF
-32.70
-31.58
-12.00
-15.03
-12.60
-31.00
-32.53
SF
SF
-14.45
SF
SF
SF
SF
SF
SF
-13.15
-32.63
SF
-34.45
SF
SF
SF
-14.86
-12.20
-32.78
-12.00
-12.95
-31.60
-31.80
-12.55
-34.30
-31.09
-12.32
-13.26
-34.55
-34.59
-13.15
-34.06
-14.92
SF
SF
-14.95
-13.40
-34.00
-33.55
-13.38
-33.93
-33.33
-14.04
-33.90
99.87
100.14
SF
100.03
100.11
SF
SF
SF
99.45
SF
SF
SF
99.65
SF
SF
100.06
99.55
99.35
99.52
99.56
99.53
99.66
99.57
99.63
99.62
SF
99.67
99.69
99.69
1
1
1
1
Scraper? of quartz.
Sandstone, no sign of usage.
Fragment of polished pebble, no sign of usage.
Pebble of white quartz, no sign of usage.
Pebble of white quartz, with dross but no sign of
usage.
10
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
Deposition of ten decorated spindle whorls.
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl.
Stamproller with concentric circle pattern.
Spindle whorl.
Spindle whorl, decorated with parallel lines.
Spindle whorl.
Lumps of very fine fired white clay, same as in
tuyères?
1
spindle whorl.
1
Scraper with usage retouch.
1
1
Pebble.
1
1
Pebble, worked.
spindle whorl.
1
Scraper of quartz with usage retouch.
spindle whorl.
1
Pebble.
1
1
Pounding stone.
1
1
Polished pebble, no sign of usage.
Spindle whorl.
1
Pebble with dross, no sign of usage.
Spindle whorl.
1
Sandstone with carvings on the side.
1
1
Worked pebble of quartz.
29 x 31
35 x 35
25 x 35
27
17 x 30
13 x 26
25 x 18
28 x 18
29 x 19
23 x 32
15 x 30
42
22
70
195
85
70
60
50
50
38
50
70
75
55
Found alone in qdt 1-2.
Found alone in qdt 4.
Found alone in qdt 4.
Found alone in qdt 4.
Deposited under the base of J50.
Found alone in qdt 2.
Found alone in qdt 2.
Found alone in qdt 2.
Found alone.
Found alone in qdt 2.
Found with tuyères.
Found alone.
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
277
278
Glass
Metallurgy
Stone
Textile
2003:156
2003:154
2003:159
2003:153
MATERIAL
Bone
Glass
Metal
Metal
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Stone
Stone
Stone
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
FIND NO
2003:108
2003:174
2003:180
2003:181
2003:117
2003:118
2003:175
2003:177
2003:114
2003:119
2003:194
2003:107
2003:113
2003:115
2003:116
T14
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T8
-28.06
-28.22
-42.29
-42.38
-28.02
-42.79
-28.23
-31.19
-42.98
-28.20
-53.29
SF
-27.92
-42.97
SF
-42.79
-28.13
-31.44
-42.93
-28.20
-42.31
-28.11
-28.08
-28.07
-28.31
Y
-14.70
-14.18
-14.48
-14.65
Y
-42.01
-42.32
-42.38
-42.29
-42.88
X
-35.67
-35.26
-35.40
-35.63
X
99.81
99.81
99.77
100.12
SF
99.81
99.95
99.43
99.59
99.73
99.75
99.24
99.22
99.67
100.08
Z
100.07
99.67
100.08
99.99
Z
1
1
Fragment of tuyère.
Tuyère fragment.
1
1
1
Spindle whorl, no decorations.
Spindle whorl with a flat but rounded shape.
Flattened around the hole on one side. Hole
diameter 4 mm. Red sand tempered ware.
Spindle whorl, broken on one side.
1
Spindle whorl without central hole, no decoration.
1
1
1
8
Polished axe of greenish-white lime (?) -stone. The
edge broken, and some parts look quite crude.
Doesn't appear to be very functional.
Flat round smooth stone, with traces of slag or iron
oxide. No wear marks.
Almost square piece of sandstone with a smooth
surface. Possibly a fragment of a whetstone.
1
Tuyère fragment?
1
1
1
2
PCS
1
1
1
1
PCS
Tuyère fragment, end piece.
Bronze bangle, with a rounded transsection and no
decorations. Child size.
Small iron object, function unknown.
Tiny glass bead of opaque orange glass.
Two pieces of burnt bone.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
Spindle whorl with an assymetrical shape. Black
burnished grog tempered ware.
Big shouldered axe of white-greenish sandstone
(limestone?).
Complete end piece of tuyère, rather small with
thin walls.
Piece of glass ring, maybe a bracelet. Poor quality
'rotten' glass. Greenish-white glass. Cf. F2002:48 .
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
40 x 30
33 x 19
40 x 25
30 x 23
45 x 43
110 x 98
54 x 45
50 x 34
30 x 29
35 x 30
39 x 30
20 x 12
45 x 37
2 x 1
20 x 10
SIZE ( mm)
33 x 22
98 x 41
75 x 42
28 x 9
SIZE ( mm)
8g
27g
8g
5g
45g
415 g
53g
26g
12g
8g
4g
1g
15g
1g
1g
WE IG HT
20g
89g
95g
1g
WE IG HT
Found alone, in association with fired clay etc .
Found alone - possible connection with the stone
axe in F2003:114.
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found with pottery, lying on top of the large
potsherds in C7.
Stray find among the potsherds from T14, layer
VI..
Found alone.
Found inside J214.
Found inside J210, the 'top' of the hat.
Found alone.
Found inside J214, at the rim of J220 and in
association with F2003:181.
Found in J214, at the rim of J220 and in
associaton with F2003:180.
Found inside J210, the 'top' of the hat.
Found near hearth.
CONTEXT
Found alone far down below the cultural layer,
probably buried in a pit with the edge down.
Found in association with a structure of fired
clay.
Found in association with fired clay, tuyères etc.
CONTEXT
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
MATERIAL
Bone
Glass
Glass
Glass
Glass
Glass
Glass
Glass
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metallurgy
Pottery
FIND NO
2003:179
2003:157
2003:160
2003:161
2003:162
2003:164
2003:178
2003:182
2003:158
2003:166
2003:167
2003:172
2003:173
2003:176
2003:183
2003:184
2003:185
2003:186
2003:165
2003:163
T15
-28.54
-20.66
-20.95
-20.56
-28.95
SF
-28.15
-20.42
-20.05
-20.30
SF
-28.27
-28.34
-28.84
-21.00
-20.15
-28.68
-20.31
-28.17
-20.26
-20.09
SF
-28.89
-28.66
-28.72
SF
-20.25
-20.69
-28.44
SF
-28.71
SF
-14.40
-20.73
-20.28
Y
SF
SF
-28.62
-28.70
-28.48
X
100.12
100.10
99.54
SF
99.75
100.05
99.91
100.01
100.09
100.04
100.11
100.34
SF
100.16
100.12
SF
SF
100.21
100.38
100.12
Z
1
1
Small ball or pellet of tempered clay.
6
1
33
1
1
16
2
4
2
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
3
PCS
Fragment of tuyère
A conglomerate of what appears to be iron scrap.
Thin pieces of iron corroded into lumps.
Fragment of bronze bangle (?), a 'hill' similar to
F2003:173.
Bronze fragment, part of a bangle (?), similar to
F2003:173 and F2003:176.
Fragments of iron, appears to have a bone structure
to it. May be unburnt bone saturated by corroded
iron. Too fragmentary to see clear shapes.
Small object of iron.
Bronze fragment, probably part of a bracelet or
other ring.
Bronze object in many pieces, very fragmentayr
and badly corroded. Consists of small 'hills',
squeezed (?) into a flat shape, and all originally
joined by a flat band. Could have been a bangle.
Small fragment of a bronze ring. Good quality
bronze, not corroded much.
Bronze fragments, possibly from a bronze ring. Cf
F2003:173 and F2003:183.
Long narrow iron object. Part of a knife or a rod?
Broken cylindrical glass bead of orange opaque
glass.
Small bright green bead of translucent glass.
Rounded shape.
Cylindrical glass bead of orange opaque glass.
Cylindrical glass bead of orange opaque glass. Not
in good condition.
Biconical glass bead of dark blue translucent glass.
Big hole: diameter 5.5 mm. Broken on one side.
Small bright green bead of translucent glass.
Rounded shape.
Small rounded bead of translucent blue glass.
Fragment of burnt bone
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
8 x 8
50 x 48
50 x 15
23 x 9
4 x 4
70 x 15
14 x 6
20 x 7
5 x 5
3 x 2
8 x 4
6 x 4
3 x 2
11 x 8
8 x 4
15 x 6
SIZE ( mm)
1g
25g
23g
1g
34g
1g
1g
21g
17g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
WE IG HT
Found in the cultural layer with lots of potsherds.
Found alone.
Found inside J218.
Stray find in the screen, in soil from T15, layer V.
Found inside J217.
Found on potsherds and close to the neck of J217.
Found in between deposited jars, not clear which
deposition it may have belonged to, if any. The
find was collected from two exclusive partcontexts, one with the larger 'hills' and one with
the smaller.
Found just to the north of, and outside of J216.
Found on top of a jar.
Found just to the west of J215 and J216.
Found just to the west of the body of J216.
Found alone.
Stray find in the screen, in soil from T15, layer V.
Found inside J216.
Found in the cultural layer.
Found in the screen, in soil from T15, layer II..
Found in the screen, in soil from T15, layer II..
Found with potsherds in the cultural layer.
Found alone, far up in the layers.
Found inside J216.
CONTEXT
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
279
280
Bone
Bone
Metal
Pottery
2003:85
2003:91
2003:84
2003:82
Bone
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Pottery
Textile
Textile
Textile
2003:111
2003:106
2003:120
2003:121
2003:109
2003:105
2003:110
2003:112
MATERIAL
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Metal
FIND NO
2003:122
2003:123
2003:126
2003:128
2003:131
2003:140
2003:138
T22
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T21
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T20
-33.07
-33.71
-33.14
-33.94
-37.47
-37.06
-37.44
-37.13
-33.52
-33.97
-37.92
-37.07
-33.81
-37.37
Y
-31.02
X
-31.91
-53.07
-31.08
-31.74
-53.06
-53.88
-53.06
-31.97
-31.68
-53.41
-53.64
-31.15
-31.80
Y
-39.30
-53.30
-53.82
X
-55.75
-39.15
-39.11
-55.16
-39.30
-55.43
Y
-55.40
X
99.77
99.78
99.80
99.92
99.92
99.98
99.95
Z
99.80
99.78
100.00
99.90
99.41
99.36
99.84
99.80
Z
99.89
99.82
99.73
99.77
Z
4
2
Small pieces of burnt bone.
Small flat iron object. Corroded.
1
Tuyère fragment.
30 x 13
1
Small corroded rod-like object of iron.
25 x 15
16 x 12
3
Small piece of burnt bone.
15 x 12
3
7
Fragments of burnt bone.
9 x 5
15 x 11
Piece of burnt bone.
8
20 x 10
6
Burnt bone.
SIZE ( mm)
35 x 25
19 x 34
30 x 30
45 x 20
63 x 61
100 x 58
35 x 12
39 x 11
SIZE ( mm)
210 x 90
30 x 15
11 x 9
25 x 18
SIZE ( mm)
Burnt bone, big pieces.
PCS
Burnt bone.
1
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
1
Spindle whorl, no decorations.
1
3
1
Conical shape, double star or flower pattern in
relief. The inner star has nine rays, the outer 14.
Spindle whorl, with central hole. No decorations.
Unidentified sherd sections, maybe part of a seal .
Conglomerate of quartzite, sandstone and iron slag
(?). Similar to F2003:120.
1
1
Fragment of burnt bone.
Conglomerate of white stone (quartzite, sandstone),
slag and iron. Cf F2003:121.
PCS
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
1
4
Small fragments of burnt bone.
Big rim piece of a jar, very heavy. Coarse sand
tempered ware with red slip.
PCS
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
3g
1g
1g
5g
2g
2g
2g
WE IG HT
5g
4g
5g
8g
97g
140 g
5g
1g
WE IG HT
965 g
1g
1g
1g
WE IG HT
Found alone in the cultural layer, but lots of
metallurgy objects and textile objects around it.
Found close to charcoal.
Found alone in the cultural layer.
Found alone in layer III under fired clay.
Found alone in layer III..
Found alone of the corner of the pit.
Found alone, under a structure of fired clay.
CONTEXT
Found alone.
Found alone.
Found alone in the cultural layer, with potsherds.
Found alone.
Found in association with a structure of fired clay
(C4), possibly a clay-lined pit, quite far under the
cultural layers. Cf F2003:121
Found together with fired clay etc (C4), in
association with F120. Cf also F2003:120.
Found alone.
Found alone.
CONTEXT
Found alone, possibly can the rest of the jar be
found outside of the trench.
Found together with burnt bone. Lots of charcoal,
fragments of burnt bone and slag in the layer
around.
Found with the potsherds in C2.
Found together with charcoal.
CONTEXT
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Pottery
Stone
Stone
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
Textile
2003:134
2003:135
2003:143
2003:144
2003:145
2003:127
2003:129
2003:133
2003:137
2003:142
MATERIAL
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
FIND NO
2002:13
2002:19
2002:21
2002:23
2002:24
2002:29
2002:30
T28
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
2003:124
2003:125
2003:132
-33.05
-37.64
-42.65
-42.65
-42.60
-74.40
-74.42
-42.69
-74.42
-42.78
-74.47
-42.38
-41.91
Y
-33.92
-33.45
-33.37
-33.98
-33.93
-33.04
-33.70
-33.70
-33.08
-74.35
-74.40
-74.39
X
-37.38
-37.93
-37.50
-37.26
-37.37
-37.81
-37.81
-37.81
-37.70
-33.31
-33.19
-37.13
-37.75
-33.84
-37.82
99.40
99.40
99.37
99.45
99.54
99.49
99.57
Z
99.60
99.73
99.75
99.91
99.86
99.56
99.56
99.62
99.73
99.75
99.75
99.90
99.94
1
Tuyère fragment (end). Looks almost unused.
1
1
Half of a spindle whorl, black ware, precise shape.
2
2
3
Small fragments of burnt bones.
Small fragments of burnt bones.
Three pieces of burnt bone.
Fragments of unburnt bone - very soft and fragile.
Often just a fibre-like yellowish structure.
9
1
2
Two pieces of burnt bone with spongiosa.
Small pipe-like object, possibly unburnt bone
preserved by iron corrosion.
Small fragments of burnt white bones.
PCS
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
1
1
4
1
1
1
Stamp roller, cylindrical, 33 mm long and diameter
22 mm, with 6 ridges making a striped pattern. The
hole goes all the way through. Made of dark grey
clay.
Half of a spindle whorl, crude ware, whitish on one
side and black (burnt?) on the other, as well as on
the fracture. May have been in a hearth.
Half of a spindle whorl, split along its
circumference.
Spindle whorl, complete with burnished (?) ware.
Part of a shaped and polished stone axe (?) in
green-whitish sandstone. Only neck part remains.
Flake of stone, no clear usage marks.
Piece of pottery, slightly warped, as being a neck
piece of a jar. Black crude ware with a large
incised geometrical decoration.
1
1
1
Tuyère fragment.
Base of a crucible (?), with very thin walls. Pointed
shape and grog tempered ware.
Maybe the wall of a crucible, similar shape to
F2003:134.
2
Tuyère fragments.
9 x 4
12 x 5
11 x 7
9 x 4
5 x 3
21 x 18
SIZE ( mm)
38 x 22
31 x 20
37 x 18
38 x 19
33 x 22
58 x 32
42 x 33
880 x 670
37 x 30
45 x 30
36 x 30
35 x 19
50 x 45
25g
2g
5g
1g
1g
1g
5g
WE IG HT
13g
17g
18g
13g
15g
25g
65g
137 g
7g
12g
5g
10g
25g
Found scattered inside J104, mainly associated
with the metal artefacts in the bottom of the jar.
Found scattered inside J104.
Grave goods in J 104, not in situ.
Found inside J 104.
Associated with potsherds and small pieces of
charcoal (no complete jar).
Found just outside the body of J102 under
F2002:18.
Stuck of the outside of J104, south side.
CONTEXT
Only half of the object found, but with old
fractures. Found alone, but not far from the stamp
roller (F2003:127) in the same layer.
Found alone in the cultural layer, but lots of
metallurgy objects and textile objects around it.
Found alone in the cultural layer, but lots of
metallurgy objects and textile objects around it.
Found alone, far down in the cultural layers.
Found alone, only half of the object.
Found in the same layer as F2003:143 and
F2003:144, but not clearly associated.
Found just under F2003:143 (potsherd).
Found alone, with F2003:144 (stone object) found
just under it. Cf. Find from 1995.
Found alone in the cultural layer, but many tuyère
fragments and spindle whorls around.
Found alone in the cultural layer, but lots of
metallurgy objects and textile objects around it.
Found alone in the cultural layer, but lots of
metallurgy objects and textile objects around it.
Found alone in layer III.
Found alone in layer II with burnt bone.
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
281
282
Bone
Bone
Bone
Glass
Glass
Glass
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
2002:39
2002:40
2002:43
2002:27
2002:28
2002:33
2002:18
2002:20
2002:22
2002:25
2002:26
2002:31
2002:32
2002:34
2002:35
2002:36
2002:37
2002:38
2002:41
-42.62
-42.60
-74.50
-74.39
-74.34
-74.42
-74.80
-74.50
-74.40
-74.40
-42.61
-42.56
-42.57
-42.66
-42.70
-42.75
-42.60
-42.60
-74.33
-42.70
-74.40
SF
SF
-74.60
-42.38
-42.64
-74.35
-42.66
-74.33
-42.62
SF
-42.60
-42.60
-74.33
-74.35
SF
-74.47
-74.33
99.45
99.37
99.38
99.38
99.37
99.39
99.37
99.36
99.38
99.37
99.52
SF
99.55
99.38
99.39
99.37
SF
99.38
99.37
1
6
8
Small piece of iron.
Fragment of finger ring of bronze. With F2002:31.
Small pieces of iron, badly corroded.
1
1
2
5
2
3
2
4
2
Helix shaped finger ring made of bronze,
fragmentary. Inner diameter 16 mm. Average
thickness of the 'band' 0.7 mm, and width c. 2.8
mm. Makes altogether 4.5 rounds (with F2002:25).
Two pcs of bronze bracelets, child size. Oval shape
with opening and insiced cross- and line
decorations (cf. F2002:35).
Rust coloured lump with bone? Probably unburnt
bone that has been preserved by a piece of
corroding iron (cf. F2002:41).
Two pieces of bronze bracelets, child size. Oval
shape with opening and incised cross- and line
decoration. (cf. F2002:32).
Bronze anklets, 8 pcs divided in two groups of 4
rings each. All with a diameter of 50 mm, 1.5 mm
thick.
Small rust coloured lump with bone structure.
Probably a piece of iron that has preserved a piece
of unburnt bone.
Small corroded piece of iron, possibly with bone
attached to it.
Rust coloured lump with bone? Probably unburnt
bone that has been preserved by a piece of
corroding iron (cf. F2002:34). The 'pipes' have
diameters of 11 and 9 mm.
1
Two small pieces of iron (cf. F2002:18).
3
6
182
1
1
2
Small piece of iron, badly corroded (cf. F2002:20).
Glass beads (3 pcs). Two flat and cylindrical and
one bigger biconical. Hole diameter 3-4 mm. All
green glass.
Beads, dark blue (glass - 167 pcs) and red/orange
glass - 15 pcs. Blue beads have cylindrical shape
with tiny hole, red are rounded.
Small fragments of green glass.
Two fragile pcs of unburnt bone, one with max
diameter of 7 mm, and the other 4.5 mm. Probably
pieces of radius and ulna of a very young child.
Pieces of unburnt flat bone, cranial? One rough
edge could be a suturus on a young child's cranium.
Very fragile, has a piece of earth attached to it.
Big piece of burnt bone, flat with clear
shape/structure. Disc?
75 x 35
38 x 10
30 x 17
50 x 5
37 x 29
50 x 28
38 x 30
17 x 2
8 x 5
17 x 2
35 x 13
25 x 15
30 x 13
14 x 14
6 x 6
1120 x 2
23 x 18
49 x 35
40 x 5
50g
5g
5g
125 g
20g
25g
20g
4g
2g
2g
5g
8g
6g
6g
2g
12g
2g
17g
5g
Grave goods in J104.
Grave goods in J104, in situ.
Grave goods in J104, in situ. With earth
remaining inside containing unburnt bone. Outer
diameter 8 mm.
Grave goods in J104, found on top of F2002:40.
Grave goods in J104, in situ.
Grave goods in J104. Underarm bones
(F2002:39) found inside, and a finger ring
(F2002: 31) just beside it. In situ.
Grave goods in J104, in situ.
Grave goods in J104, in situ.
Grave goods in J104.
Grave goods in J104, not in situ.
Stray find in sieve from T28, C3. Possibly the
same as F2002:18.
On the SW side of J104, at the rim level.
Found just ouside the body of J102.
Grave goods in J104. Possibly belonging to the
same original object (necklace) as F2002:27. In
situ.
Grave goods in J104. Can belong to the same
original object as F2002:33. Most found in situ,
some in water screening.
Grave goods in J104, can belong to F2002:33.
Stray find among potsherds in layer 2.
Belongs to the grave in J104. Found inside the
bracelets in F2002:32, parallel to each other, in
situ.
Belongs to the grave in J104. Found in situ
together with a piece of iron (F2002:37).
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Bone
Glass
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metal
Metallurgy
Other
Textile
2003:75
2003:76
2003:77
2003:78
2003:80
2003:88
2003:89
2003:87
2003:79
2003:81
2003:86
2003:97
2003:83
2003:98
2003:93
MATERIAL
Glass
Glass
Glass
FIND NO
2003:130
2003:136
2003:139
T30
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T29
-40.50
-64.50
-43.10
SF
SF
-43.53
Y
-40.00
-40.23
-40.53
-40.30
-40.44
-40.64
-40.50
-40.27
-46.45
-46.57
X
-64.51
-64.50
-64.43
-64.57
-64.51
-64.66
-64.50
-64.35
-40.26
-40.83
-64.44
-40.16
-40.14
-64.15
-64.62
-40.31
-64.50
-40.83
-64.56
Y
-64.20
X
SF
100.11
100.16
Z
99.94
99.64
99.70
99.67
99.71
99.72
99.73
99.67
99.45
99.70
99.73
99.75
99.81
99.80
99.88
Z
6
1
10
1
1
2
4
5
Small fragment of burnt bone.
Small fragments of burnt bone.
Large piece of burnt bone.
Small piece of what may be unburnt bone (?).
Two small pieces of burnt bone.
Four small glass beads, two cylindrical, one
rounded and one tiny. All in orange opaque glass.
Almost identical to beads found in the 2002
excavation.
Pipe like object of iron, badly corroded. Narrowing
towards one end.
Rod-like iron object, slightly bent, plus another
half, found in the screen. Together they make a
horse-shoe shaped object.
Small object of iron, in two pieces. Maybe part of a
knife. Corroded.
Socketed spear head of iron, found in six pieces.
1
1
Small cylindrical bead of opaque orange glass.
1
PCS
Round big glass bead of orange opaque glass. The
hole is crescent-shaped on one side
Rounded big glass bead of orange opaque glass.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
1
1
Bead of orange translucent carnelian. Big round
shape with a small hole.
Spindle whorl with deep perforations around the
circumference.
1
Hollow object of crude pottery ware (coarse sand
tempered). The hollow is narrowing towards the
base, which appears to have had a 'foot'. Could
very possibly be a mould.
6
2
2
2
Small fragments of burnt bone.
PCS
Large flat piece of burnt bone.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
5 x 3
8 x 10
8 x 10
SIZE ( mm)
34 x 22
16 x 16
48 x 37
170 x 40
50 x 23
69 x 8
58 x 13
6 x 3
12 x 6
12 x 6
17 x 6
1 x 5
5 x 4
25 x 13
SIZE ( mm)
1g
2g
2g
WE IG HT
13g
5g
78g
93g
10g
20g
3g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
1g
WE IG HT
Found in the screen in soil from T30, layer II.
Found alone, same as F2003:130
Found alone
CONTEXT
The object was cut in two pieces in the excavation.
One was found in situ and the other was found in
the screen.
Found inside J202 in context 1. Found alone, but
has possibly a connection to F2003:87.
Found alone.
Found inside J202.
Found in C1.
Found together with burnt bone (F2003:80) and
potsherds.
Found alone.
Found inside J202, belonging to C1. Found just
inside the body sherds of the jar. Possible
connection with F98.
Found in C1.
Found together with a pipe-like iron object
(F2003:79) and charcoal. Lots of burnt bone in
the layer around.
Found in C1.
Found with potsherds.
Found alone.
Found with potsherds.
Found together with some large potsherds.
CONTEXT
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
283
284
Metal
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Stone
2003:146
2003:147
2003:148
2003:149
2003:155
Metal
Metal
Stone
2002:10
2002:8
2002:11
Bone
Metal
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Metallurgy
Other
Pottery
2002:1
2002:3
2002:5
2002:6
2002:9
2002:4
2002:12
MATERIAL
Glass
Metallurgy
FIND NO
2002:48
2002:57
T37
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T36
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T35
Metal
2003:141
-50.09
-87.62
-54.46
-82.27
-71.50
SF
X
-60.00
SF
Y
-54.64
-54.41
-82.71
-82.22
-54.81
-82.11
-54.56
-54.64
-82.23
-82.17
-54.23
-82.57
Y
-50.59
X
-50.12
-87.92
Y
-43.12
-87.57
X
-46.98
-43.73
-43.80
-46.18
SF
-46.45
-43.09
-43.44
SF
-46.98
-46.77
99.07
SF
Z
99.61
100.18
99.75
100.15
100.16
100.25
100.28
Z
99.77
99.78
99.77
Z
99.77
99.86
99.89
SF
99.88
100.04
2
2
Two tuyère fragments.
Small round object in two pieces. Slag with high
iron content.
Small fragment of tuyère, end piece.
1
1
Fragment of tuyère with lump of slag attached.
Bead? of clay, orange colour (possibly a sink).
Part of a bangle (or other ring) in white/greenish
glass. Transection facetted with rounded inside (of
the ring), flat top and bottom and angular outside.
Spade-like object that seems to be a combination of
iron and slag. May originate from the iron
production process.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
1
1
PCS
1
15
Small tuyère fragments of whitish clay.
(laterite
1
earthenware
1
Fragment of tuyère.
Unidentified knob-like
tempered) object
3
Unidentified iron object. Recent?
1
Small scraper, oval shaped.
Small pieces of burnt bone.
1
Iron object, nail? Partly corroded.
PCS
2
Copper/bronze object or ore, badly corroded.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
PCS
2
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
Big smooth pebble, cracked in two pieces. Red
granite. No traces of usage on the surface.
1
Smalll iron object, shaped like a golf club.
1
5
Narrow iron knife.
185 x 128
31 x 8
SIZE ( mm)
49 x 34
29 x 13
50 x 30
48 x 24
39 x 42
2 x 1
SIZE ( mm)
47 x 31
35 x 2
19 x 14
SIZE ( mm)
125 x 70
27 x 19
28 x 20
37 x 24
34 x 11
85 x 20
790 g
7g
WE IG HT
70g
5g
65g
207 g
17g
35g
1g
WE IG HT
10g
2g
7g
WE IG HT
1040g
2g
6g
17g
5g
10g
Found in the trench wall, against the shoulder of
J109. Seems to have been deposited in the same
pit as J109 and Jx4, and on top of the vessels
against the pit wall.
Stray find in the sieve from T37, level 5 (cf.
Pautreau & Mornais 2001, fig 223).
CONTEXT
Found in a cluster of potsherds.
No direct associations, but fired clay and slag
around.
Associated with C1?
Associated with slag.
Associated with a piece of slag.
Same level as stoneware sherds.
Without associated objects in level 1.
CONTEXT
No association, slag and fired clay close.
CONTEXT
Found under the base of J212, probably in the
same deposition.
Found with no clear associations.
Found together with more slag.
Found among the potsherds from T30, layerIII.
Found with fired clay. It was found in a slight
angle, top z being 100,06 and bottom z =100,04.
Found alone.
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Bone
Glass
Metal
Metal
Metal
Stone
Stone
2002:68
2002:53
2002:44
2002:52
2002:54
2002:16
2002:42
Metallurgy
Stone
2002:55
2002:56
MATERIAL
Glass
Metallurgy
FIND NO
2003:92
2003:90
T47
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T46
MATERIAL
FIND NO
T38
-55.48
-55.70
X
SF
-67.60
X
-61.66
-61.35
-61.90
-61.90
-61.89
-61.92
SF
X
-62.63
-62.01
Y
SF
-64.72
Y
-51.61
-51.88
-51.00
-51.12
-51.12
-51.02
SF
Y
99.05
99.68
Z
SF
99.23
Z
99.83
99.93
99.61
99.52
99.55
99.55
SF
Z
Glass beads: orange flat with a cylindrical shape
(125 pcs + 2 fragmentary), and blue clear ones with
rounded shape.
Fragment of tuyère.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
Part of crucible? Bowl-shaped object with pointed
bottom, material similar to (same as?) tuyère
material.
Small fragment of a light-brown polished stone
object. Square flat shape with incised parallel lines.
Possibly jade.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
One quarter of a stone bracelet. Green polished
stone with rounded/triangular transection (rounded
outside and flat inside).
Stone with a T-shaped mark, probably a whetstone.
Small beads, one of dark blue/green glass, and six
of red/orange glass.
Bronze bracelet, fragmentary, child size, inner
diameter c. 36 mm and the outer c. 42 mm.
Bronze bowl, badly corroded on one side, so that
only parts of one side (rim) remains. Rim diameter
c. 105 mm. Incised lines parallel to the rim.
Bronze bells x 5. Fragmentary. Could be partly
reconstructed with paraloid resin. (Cf. Ban Chiang
- A World Heritage in Thailand :39, and Labbé
1985:31f).
Small piece of burnt bone, white.
OBJECT DESCRIPTION
2
137
PCS
1
1
PCS
1
1
5
3
7
1
PCS
40 x 25
370 x 7
SIZE ( mm)
19 x 13
38 x 35
SIZE ( mm)
65 x 62
60 x 8
21 x 15
42
3 x 5
10 x 5
SIZE ( mm)
2g
20g
WE IG HT
5g
18g
WE IG HT
175 g
10g
5g
2g
WE IG HT
Found alone, as strung on a string. The blue
beads in one end, then the smallest orange getting bigger towards the other end.
Found alone.
CONTEXT
Stray find in the sieve from T46 level 2.
No direct associations.
CONTEXT
Found insideJ105.
Found as grave goods in J107. The bells were
placed in a row, pointing in opposite directions,
as if they had been tread on a string or other
organic material. They were placed slightly above
the bottom of the jar.
Found just to the NW of J105.
Grave goods in J107. Placed upside down (not
flat) in the middle of the jar bottom.
In the gravegoods of J107.
Belongs to the grave in J107, found in the
waterscreen.
Grave goods in J107.
CONTEXT
APPENDIX I - LAO PAKO FIND LIST
285
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
287
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
288
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
289
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
290
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
291
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
292
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
293
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
1m
294
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
295
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
296
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
1m
297
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
298
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
1m
299
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
300
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
1m
301
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
302
APPENDIX II - PLAN DRAWINGS
1m
303
APPENDIX III
APPENDIX III - STRATIGRAPHY
STRATIGRAPHY
1m
305
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
1m
1m
306
APPENDIX III - STRATIGRAPHY
1m
1m
307
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
308
APPENDIX III - STRATIGRAPHY
1m
309
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
310
APPENDIX III - STRATIGRAPHY
1m
311
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
312
APPENDIX III - STRATIGRAPHY
1m
313
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
314
APPENDIX III - STRATIGRAPHY
1m
315
APPENDIX IV - THIN SECTION ANALYSIS
APPENDIX IV
THIN SECTION ANALYSIS - BY ANDERS LINDAHL
Introduction
The Lao Pako pottery presents an intriguing challenge for me as a ceramologist,
first and foremost because of my extremely limited knowledge of both pottery
types and raw materials in this part of the world. Thus, information and results
that involve the relationship between the handling of raw materials on the one
hand and vessel shapes and decorations on the other are not dealt with in this
investigation. The macroscopic observations of the sherds indicated that the
vessels have been fired in an open fire in a fully oxidised atmosphere, during a
short firing time. At the macroscopic observations it was difficult to ascertain
the type of temper that had been used. Ethnographic data provided by Anna
Källén indicated that rice chaff is a common temper material. Anna Källén, who
instigated this study, is a PhD candidate at the Department of Archaeology and
Ancient History, Uppsala University. She has also made a documentation of the
total pottery material and made the selection of sherds to be analysed.
Material
12 sherds selected as representative of the pottery material from the Lao Pako
excavations were chosen for thin-section analysis at the Laboratory for Ceramic
Research, Department of Quaternary Geology, Lund University.
Aim
The aim of the laboratory analysis is to investigate the variation in the production of the Lao Pako pottery with a focus on the choice of raw material.
Method
The method used is the study of ceramic thin-sections under a polarising microscope. A ceramic thin-section is a piece of a sherd that has been ground down
to a uniform thickness of 0.03mm. The thin-section is analysed at magnifications
ranging from 20X to 630X in both parallel and polarised light. This analysis makes
it possible to identify different minerals in the silt and sand fractions. Furthermore remnants of organic matter, diatoms and other impurities of the clay are
studied. Particular observations of e.g. minerals and other features of the temper and clay have been noted. Measurements and calculations are performed on
the coarse fractions in two different grain fractions – grains > 0.1mm and grains
<0.1>0.01mm – at two different magnifications – 20X and 100X respectively. The
317
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
software used for the image analysis is KONTRON KS 300.
The variation in grain sizes in a ceramic ware varies, depending on the natural inclusions in the raw clay and any addition of temper by the potter. In raw
clay, the grain sizes may vary, depending on the location of the clay deposit but
also in one and the same clay deposit, depending on the depth from which the
clay was quarried. Thus, the calculation of the grain-size variation of samples is
a means of distinguishing different productions.
Results of the microscopy
LP 1
The vessel is made of fine clay with a rich temper of grog (plate A:1). Most grains
of the grog temper consist of clay with poor iron content, displayed in the thin
section in a pale grey colour. Several of these grains have begun to vitrify. This vitrification is not a result of the firing of the pot. They must have reached this stage
of sintering in a previous firing. There are also a few grains of grog of a dark reddish-brown colour, which would suggest that these grains have high iron content
and possibly that they were originally fired in a reduced atmosphere. The sample
also displays very few fragments of organic matter.
LP2A The vessel is made of fine clay with a rich temper of grog (plate A:2). Most grains
of the grog temper consist of clay with poor iron content. Several of these grains
have begun to vitrify. However, there are a few grains of grog of a dark reddishbrown colour. There are a few fragments of organic matter (more than in the
previous sample), some of these display characteristics of rice chaff.
LP2B The vessel is made of fine clay with a rich temper of grog (plate A:3). Most grains
of the grog temper consist of clay with poor iron content. Several of these grains
have begun to vitrify. There are also a few grains of grog of a dark reddish-brown
colour. There are very few fragments of organic matter (cf. LP1), some of these
display characteristics of rice chaff.
318
LP3
The vessel is made of slightly silty clay tempered with grog (plate A:4). The grog
temper consists of clay with poor iron content. Several of these grains have begun to vitrify. There are very few fragments of organic matter.
LP4
The vessel is made of fine clay tempered with grog (plate A:5). Most grains of the
grog temper consist of clay with poor iron content. Several of these grains have
begun to vitrify. There is also a substantial amount of organic matter that can be
identified as rice chaff in the sample. The amount as well as the even distribution
throughout the sample of the chaff indicates that it is an intentional addition to
the clay as a temper.
LP5
The vessel is made of coarse unsorted silty and sandy clay (plate A:6). There is no
added temper to the clay. Mineralogically the clay differs from the other clays that
have been used for the production of the ceramics. Apart from the common minerals quartz and feldspar this sample also contains some mica (mostly biotite) and
minerals of the amphibole group.
LP6
The vessel is made of silty clay tempered with grog (plate A:7). Most of the grog
APPENDIX IV - THIN SECTION ANALYSIS
are dark reddish-brown in colour, which would suggest that these grains have high
iron content and possibly that they were originally fired in a reduced atmosphere.
There are a few fragments of organic matter, some of these display characteristics of rice chaff.
LP7
The vessel is made of fine clay tempered with a large amount of rice chaff (plate
A:8).
LP8
The vessel is made of fine clay with a rich temper of grog (plate A:9). Most grains
of the grog temper consist of clay with poor iron content. Several of these grains
have begun to vitrify. However, there are a few grains of grog of a dark reddishbrown colour. There are a few fragments of organic matter, some of these display
characteristics of rice chaff.
LP9
The vessel is made of coarse unsorted silty and sandy clay (plate A:10). There is no
added temper to the clay. Mineralogically the clay differs from the other clays that
have been used for the production of the ceramics. Apart from the common minerals quartz and feldspar this sample also contains some grains of the amphibole
group, however, most likely not the same type of amphibole as was noted in sample LP5. There are also some very minute grains of epidote.
LP10 The vessel is made of fine clay tempered with grog (plate A:11). Most grains of
the grog temper consist of clay with poor iron content. Several of these grains have
begun to vitrify. There is also a rich amount of organic matter that can be identified as rice chaff in the sample. The amount as well as the even distribution throughout the sample of the chaff indicates that it is an intentional addition to the clay
as a temper.
LP11 The vessel is made of coarse sorted fine-sandy clay (plate A:12). Two possible grains
of grog were observed in the thin section. There are very few fragments of organic
matter.
Unfortunately, the mineralogy is not very helpful in characterising the different samples. The mineral content is basically limited to quarts and feldspar of
the silt and fine-sand fractions. Only two samples (LP5 and LP9) contain additional minerals in amounts that may be used for a characterisation.
Discussion and conclusions
The microscopical analysis of the ceramic thin-sections gives a basis for comparing the coarseness of the clays used for the manufacture of the different
vessels. There are two different ways to make these distinctions. It could either
be groupings based on the visual impression of the sample (preferably a comparison of photos from different areas of the thin-section) or a more objective
way where the grain size distribution is measured in an image analysing system.
The former is generally very accurate; the problem is that it is subjective. Most
of the vessels (LP1, LP2A, LP2B, LP4, LP7, LP8 and LP10) were made of fine
319
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
clays. Two vessels were made of more or less silty clays (LP3, and LP6) and two
were made of coarse unsorted clays (LP5 and LP9). The vessel represented by
sample LP11 was made of sorted fine-sandy clay. The measurements of grains
in two sets of grain fractions – grains >0,1mm and grains <0.1>0.01mm – are
used to illustrate the variation in the coarseness of the clays.
In Table 1 the mean values of the amount of grains as well as the area of grains
(both in mm 2 and in percentage) are presented. In order to minimize subjective
evaluations the data of the measurements has been statistically evaluated in a
Principal Component Analysis (PCA). The initial Eigenvalues are presented in
Table 2. Since more than 93% of the difference is explained in the first two data
sets of the PCA these values have been used to produce a scatter-plot (plate
A:13). In principal the scatter-plot gives an image that is very similar to the visual
grouping. All the samples made of fine clay are concentrated to the lower left
corner. The silty samples deviate in that they are placed towards the upper right
of the plot. Both of the coarse unsorted clays are more or less located in the
lower right part of the diagram and the well-sorted clay, finally, is placed in the
upper left corner.
By and large, the material displays a very homogenous manufacturing technique. Grog is the most common temper material both as the single temper and
in combination with rice chaff. Even though rice chaff occurs in all but two
samples it is probably only in three samples it has any real tempering effect (samples LP4, LP7 and LP10), in sample LP7 it is the only temper material. As for
the other samples, the small amount of rice chaff indicates that it has probably
been mixed with the clay by accident, although a symbolic addition cannot be
excluded.
The raw material for the group of vessels made of the fine clay is most likely
from the same clay source. However, the variation in temper suggests that it is
not a production of one and the same potter or at the same time. In two cases,
concerning samples LP1 and LP2B and samples LP2A and LP8 respectively, the
information derived from the thin-section analyses displays such characteristics
that it is possible that either they have been produced at the same occasion and/
or by the same potter.
In several of the vessels there are two types of grog temper, the dominating
iron poor type and a few grains of an iron rich grog. Whether or not these few
grains are deliberately added to the clay or are mixed by accident is not possible
to say, but there are several ethnographic notes that mention that a sherd from
an old broken vessel is crushed and ground and thereafter mixed with the clay
for a new pot in a symbolic passing of the old life to a new.
320
APPENDIX IV - THIN SECTION ANALYSIS
--
Fine
35
0,290
1,0
91
0,023
1,8
LP2A
T38/L5
+
-
Fine
8
0,097
0,3
129
0,016
1,3
LP2B
T38/L5
+
--
Fine
31
0,217
0,7
114
0,020
1,6
LP3
T38/L7
o
--
Silty
93
0,538
1,7
166
0,060
4,9
LP4
T38/L5
o
+
Fine
27
0,244
0,8
85
0,014
1,4
LP5
T46/L1
Uns. Coarse
176
6,108
19,9
272
0,050
3,9
LP6
T46/L1
-
Silty
195
2,378
7,7
186
0,075
6,1
LP7
T38/L5
++
Fine
6
0,073
0,2
112
0,026
2,1
LP8
T36/L2
-
Fine
11
0,137
0,5
106
0,013
1,2
LP9
T38/L5
Uns. Coarse
211
6,253
20,4
176
0,070
5,5
LP10
T36/L3
o
+
Fine
25
0,240
0,8
86
0,032
2,1
LP11
T36/L3
--
--
S. Fine-sand
248
2,230
7,3
25
0,030
2,6
Area of grains %, mean value
+
PCA axis
Grains in the interval
<0,1>0,01 mm
Area of grains mm², mean value
T36/L3
+
Grains >0,1 mm
Number of grains, mean value
Organic matter
LP1
-
Clay
Area of grains %, mean value
Grog
Added
inclusions
Area of grains mm², mean value
Square/
Layer
Number of grains, mean value
Sample
ID
Table A:1. Data derived at the
microscopical analysis. The Grog is
in most cases made of an almost
iron free clay fired at a high
temperature. The Organic matter is
in most cases identified as rice
chaff (++ = very rich, + = rich, O =
common, - = poor, - - = very poor).
The classification of Clay is based
on the visual impression of the
sample (Uns.= unsorted, S. =
sorted).
Initial Eigenvalues
Total
% of Variance
Cumulative %
1
2,033927067
50,84817668
50,84817668
2
1,695953489
42,39883724
93,24701391
3
0,23895008
5,973751993
99,22076591
4
0,031169364
0,779234092
100
Table A:2. The Eigenvalues and percentage of variance explained in
the 1st , 2nd, 3rd and 4th axis of the Principal Component Analysis (PCA).
Most of the information (93%) is explained by the 1st and 2 nd axis.
321
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Plate A:1. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP1, fine clay with a rich
temper of grog. Most of the grog has
poor iron content and is seen in the thin
section as grains or patches of grey
colour. Several of these grains have
begun to vitrify.
Plate A:2. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP2A, fine clay with a rich
temper of grog. Most of the grog has
poor iron content and is seen in the thin
section as grains or patches of grey
colour. Several of these grains have
begun to vitrify. Fragments of rice chaff
can be observed in the sample (e.g. at
the red arrow).
322
APPENDIX IV - THIN SECTION ANALYSIS
Plate A:3. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP2B, fine clay with a rich
temper of grog. Most of the grog has
poor iron content and is seen in the thin
section as grains or patches of grey
colour. Several of these grains have
begun to vitrify.
Plate A:4. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP3, slightly silty clay
tempered with grog. The grog has poor
iron content and several of the grains
have begun to vitrify. A few fragments of
organic matter occur.
323
AND THROUGH FLOWS THE RIVER
Plate A:5. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP4, fine clay tempered with
grog. Most grains of the grog temper
consist of clay with poor iron content
and several of the grains have begun to
vitrify. There is also a substantial
amount of organic matter that can be
identified as rice chaff in the sample
(e.g. at the red arrow).
Plate A:6. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP5, a coarse unsorted silty
and sandy clay. In addition to the
common minerals quartz and feldspar
this sample also contains some mica
(mostly biotite) and minerals of the
amphibole group. No added temper can
be observed.
324
APPENDIX IV - THIN SECTION ANALYSIS
Plate A:7. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP6, a silty clay tempered
with grog. Most of the grog is dark
reddish-brown in colour, an indication
of an iron rich clay. Fragments of
organic matter that displays the
characteristics of rice chaff occur (e.g.
at the red arrow).
Plate A:8. Micrograph in polarised light
of sample LP7, fine clay tempered with
a large amount of rice chaff.
325
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Plate A:9. Micrograph in polarised
light of sample LP8, fine clay with a
rich temper of grog. Most of the grog
has poor iron content and is seen in the
thin section as grains or patches of
grey colour. Several of these grains
have begun to vitrify. Fragments of rice
chaff can be observed in the sample
(e.g. at the red arrow).
Plate A:10. Micrograph in polarised
light of sample LP9, a coarse unsorted
silty and sandy clay. In addition to the
common minerals quartz and feldspar
this sample also contains some grains of
the amphibole group and epidote. No
added temper can be observed.
326
APPENDIX IV - THIN SECTION ANALYSIS
Plate A:11. Micrograph in polarised
light of sample LP10, fine clay tempered
with grog. Most grains of the grog
temper consist of clay with poor iron
content and several of the grains have
begun to vitrify. There is also a
substantial amount of organic matter
that can be identified as rice chaff in
the sample (e.g. at the red arrow).
Plate A:12. Micrograph in polarised
light of sample LP11, coarse sorted
fine-sandy clay with very few fragments
of organic matter.
327
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3,5
Values according to the 2nd axis of the PCA-analysis
3
2,5
2
1,5
1
0,5
0
-1
-0,5
0
0,5
1
1,5
2
2,5
3
-0,5
-1
Values according to the 1st axis of the PCA-analysis
LP1
LP2A
LP2B
LP3
LP4
LP5
LP6
LP7
LP8
LP9
LP10
LP11
Diagram 1. Scatter-plot diagram displaying the data from the 1st and 2nd axis derived from the
Principal Component Analysis (PCA). The samples made of fine clay are concentrated to the
lower left corner. The silty clay samples deviate in that they are placed in a direction towards the
upper right of the plot. The coarse unsorted clays are both more or less located in the lower
right part of the diagram and the well-sorted clay is placed in the upper left corner.
328
PUBLICATIONS FROM AFRICAN AND COMPARATIVE ARCHAEOLOGY
DEPARTMENT OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND ANCIENT HISTORY, UPPSALA UNIVERSITY
STUDIES IN AFRICAN ARCHAEOLOGY
Editor: Paul J. J. Sinclair
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Stockholm, Maputo. 96 pp.
2 Sinclair, P. J. J., M. Törnblom, C. Bohm, B. Sigvallius & B. Hultén 1988. Analyses of Slag, Iron, Ceramics and Animal Bones from Excavations
in Mozambique. Stockholm, Maputo. 54 pp.
3 Morais, J. M. F. 1988. The Early Farming Communities of Southern Mozambique. Stockholm, Maputo. 201 pp.
4 Duarte, R. T. 1993. Northern Mozambique in the Swahili World: an archaeological approach. Stockholm, Uppsala. 154 pp., 24 figs., 24
plates.
5 Matenga, E. 1993. Archaeological figurines from Zimbabwe. Uppsala, Harare. 63 pp., 12 maps, 40 figs., 2 plates.
6 Pikirayi, I. 1993. The Archaeological Identity of the Mutapa State: towards an historical archaeology of northern Zimbabwe. Uppsala. 199
pp., 74 figs., 39 maps, 39 plates.
7 Chami, F. 1994. The Tanzanian Coast in the First Millennium AD: an archaeology of the iron working, farming communities (with
microscopic analyses by A. Lindahl). Uppsala. 120 pp., 27 figs., 19 maps, 3 plates.
8 Chipunza, K. T. 1994. A Diachronic Analysis of the Architecture of the Hill Complex at Great Zimbabwe. Uppsala. 94 pp., 17 figs. (Out of
print)
9 Swan, L. 1994. Early Gold Mining on the Zimbabwean Plateau: changing patterns of gold production in the first and second millennium
AD. Uppsala. 181 pp., 52 figs., 6 plates. (Out of print).
10 Walker, N. J. 1995. Late Pleistocene and Holocene Hunter-gatherers of the Matopos: an archaeological study of change and continuity in
Zimbabwe. Uppsala. 284 pp., 135 figs., 123 tables, 24 plates.
11 Lindahl, A. & E. Matenga 1995. Present and Past: ceramics and homesteads: an ethno-archaeological project in the Buhera district,
Zimbabwe. Uppsala. 116 pp., 79 figs.
12 Jama, A. D. 1996. The Origins and Development of Mogadishu AD 1000 to 1850: a study of urban growth along the Benadir coast of
southern Somalia. Uppsala. 135 pp., 15 figs., 5 plates.
13 Pwiti, G.. 1996. Continuity and Change: an archaeological study of farming communities in northern Zimbabwe AD 500–1700. Uppsala.
180 pp., 43 figs., 21 plates.
14 Pwiti, G. (ed.) 1997. Cave, Monuments and Texts: Zimbabwean archaeology today. Uppsala. 159 pp., 16 figs., 3 plates.
15 Radimilahy, C. 1998. Mahilaka: an archaeological investigation of an early town in northwestern Madagascar. Uppsala. 293 pp., 165 figs., 38
plates.
16 Jonsson, J. 1998. Early Plant Economy in Zimbabwe. Uppsala. 141 pp. 30 figs., 11 plates.
17 Kinahan, J. 2000. Cattle for Beads: the archaeology of historical contact and trade on the Namib coast. Uppsala, Windhoek. Uppsala. 119
pp., 22 tables, 62 figs.
18 Manyanga, M. 2001. Choices and constraints: animal resource exploitation in south-eastern Zimbabwe c. AD 900–1500. Uppsala. 139 pp.,
38 figs., 25 tables.
19 Ndoro, W. 2001. Your Monument our Shrine: the preservation of Great Zimbabwe. Uppsala. 130 pp., 3 figs., 15 plates, 9 tables.
STUDIES IN GLOBAL ARCHAEOLOGY
Editor: Paul J. J. Sinclair
1 Isendah, C. 2002. Common knowledge: lowland Maya urban farming at Xuch . Uppsala. 242 pp., 28 figs., 48 maps, 6 plates, 78 tables 10
appendices.
2 Blundell, G. 2004. Nqabayo’s Nomansland: San rock art and the somatic past. Uppsala. 204 pp., 75 figures, 3 appendices.
3 Juma, A. 2004. Unguja Ukuu on Zanzibar: an archaeological study of early urbanism. Uppsala. 198 pp., 211 figures, 20 plates, 2 appendices.
4 Johansson de Château L. (forthcoming) From Roman to native: colonialism and the archeology of rural water management in the Maghreb.
5 Ekblom A. 2004. Changing Landscapes: an environmental history of Chibuene, southern Mozambique. Uppsala. 195 pp., 48 figs., 16 tables,
14 plates, 4 appendices.
6 Källén, A. 2004. And Through Flows the River: Archaeology and the Pasts of Lao Pako. Uppsala. 336 p, 105 figs, 4 appendices.
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