Kolkata 2011 – Abstract B. Bellina

Bérénice BELLINA

CNRS, UMR 7528, Paris

Cultural dialogue between the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea from a cosmopolitan industrial city-port of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (late first millennium BCE)

The Thai-Malay peninsula is known to have been a crossroads for regional and trans-Asiatic exchange, receiving and redistributing cultural features from East and South Asia.

The Thai-French archaeological mission in the Thai-Malay peninsula[1] has conducted excavations from 2005 to 2009 at Khao Sam Kaeo which unravelled the earliest urban city-port of Southeast Asia. There, from the 4th c. BCE until the 2nd-1st c. BCE settled and interacted communities from various Asian horizons, mirroring later City-States like Malacca.

In the context of societies without written sources or where the written sources appear only late and\or concern only the political and religious arenas, the mission has developed a programme by which each socio-technical system is investigated through the anthropology of technologies initiated by Leroi-Gourhan. This systematic approach of the industries has allowed characterizing societies engaged in this exchange, to investigate their symbolic representations and their contacts through the study of the distribution, transfers or technological refusals. Data from these technological studies processed by the GIS developed for the peculiar tropical and disturbed environment characteristic of this region allowed mapping this industrial city-port with its communities and their quarters, their related crafts and the transfers their interactions induced. The programme has a particular focus on the little considered role craftsmen played in the creation and the reproduction of the “fluid identities” of the populations of this early cosmopolitan harbor. There can be observed the selection of technologies, their specific use, and their circulation and how those participated in the fostering shared symbolic language amongst the various social groups.

Geoarchaeological and archaeobotanical research define the agricultural systems in place in this type of polity able sustain local population but also temporary settlers and voyagers. These researches also investigate the role this trans-asiatic city-port played for crops’ circulation, not only for the evolution of agriculture in the region but also for the socio-political construction of its elite.


[1] The Thai-French mission benefited from the support of : the National Research Council of Thailand, the Thai Fine Arts Department, the University of Silpakorn (Bangkok), the National Centre for Scientific research (CNRS), the Direction des Relations Européennes et Internationales of the CNRS, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the French Embassy in Bangkok, University College of London the Institute of Archaeology, the Bureau des Recherches Géologiques et Minières (Orléans), le laboratory «Mondes iranien et indien » (U.M.R 7528, C.N.R.S); the Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient; the laboratory « Préhistoire et Technologie » (U.M.R 7055, CNRS).