The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Social evolution in the Upper Mun River Valley, Thailand: using isotopic, non-metric and geometric morphometric evidence to elucidate past social structures


Department of Anthropology, Durham University

Saturday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

Social structures can be difficult to pinpoint in the archaeological record, as they do not leave obvious material traces. As archaeologists we can look at mortuary wealth and correlate this with social hierarchy, but studies have shown that this is not always the best interpretation of the evidence. In this study we look at multiple lines of osteological evidence in order to better understand prehistoric social systems at the site of Ban Non Wat, in the Upper Mun River Valley of Northeast Thailand. As one of the largest cemetery samples in the country, spanning from the Neolithic (approximately 1750BC) through to the Iron Age (around 100AD), this site has huge potential to shed light on social evolution during prehistory.We have conducted isotopic analysis on dental enamel from over 200 individuals from the site, evidence from these analyses has been combined with data associated with genetic relatedness; dental non-metric traits and cranial shape analysed using geometric morphometric analysis. These techniques give an idea of kinship groups within the site and can be related to patterns seen within the isotopic results. Our current results indicate an intrinsic growth in population throughout the site’s history. We also find evidence for strong sex-based differences in the Neolithic periods, prior to the emergence of rank-based hierarchy in the Bronze Age.

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