History overturned

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Metallurgy and pottery have thrived in Ban Chiang, Thailand, as far back in time as any place in the world.

The archaeologists, I read on this exhibit’s explanatory plaque, scraped away 10cm layers of dirt at a time.

They first uncovered three large earthen pots, then four ceramic “impress rollers”, and lastly, a small skeleton. The child was buried in the same way most were in this pre-historic settlement – surrounded by the ceramic wares and artifacts that were intrinsic to its family’s daily lives.

The place I had come to was Ban Chiang – a small rural village in the northeast of Thailand – the region called Isan. This humble little hamlet managed to confound the archaeological world when it was confirmed, in the mid 1970’s, that a community living here was precocious enough to be manufacturing its own bronze weapons, implements and jewellery, if not before, then at least contemporaneously with Egypt, Mesopotamia and China. South-east Asian history had to be rewritten.

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