Ancient communities in Isaan had social classes: study

national February 22, 2014 00:00

By Kasem Chanathinat
The Nation

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An archaeological dig in the Northeast has found that prehistoric communities in Ban Non Chak had social classes, with many pieces of earthenware and ornaments clearly devoted to some ancient skeletons.

“If we study such information carefully, we will be able to understand Thai ancestors who lived in prehistoric times,” Dr Nigel Chang, from Australia’s James Cook University, revealed yesterday. He is a participant in the Ban Non Chak excavation. 
The site is considered part of Ban Non Wat, a famous archaeological site in Nakhon Ratchasima province that is about 10 kilometres away. Ban Non Wat is near Phimai Historical Park.
According to Chang, a total of 80 human skeletons from prehistoric periods have been discovered in Ban Non Chak. Some were adults, some teenagers, some children and others infants.  “The findings offer demographic information of people back then,” he said. 
Of the 80 skeletons, five had a higher number of ornaments and earthenware pieces than others. This indicated that ancient communities had social classes. 
Ratchani Thosarat, an archaeologist from Thailand’s Fine Arts Department, said available evidence suggested there had been ancient communities in Ban Non Chak from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age and to more recent eras. 
“We have found evidence of Dvaravati and Ancient Khmer culture here,” she pointed out. 
Excavations in Ban Non Chak have been carried out under the supervision of Wilawan Watcharakiatisak, who heads a research project on how to develop a learning centre on prehistoric communities. She is the director of the Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University’s Office of Arts and Culture. 
“We hope to integrate relevant efforts together for the sustainable development of communities. The conservation of arts and cultures, research, teaching, learning and academic services can be integrated with a cultural paradigm,” Wilawan said. 
Warika Thongkha, the head of Nong Krua Chud Pattana village, said members of her village discovered ancient items while they were preparing land for mobile plantations. 
“Because of their belief in superstition, none dared to sell those items. And when officials contacted them for assistance with the excavation, they were more than willing to cooperate.”  She said they now hoped Ban Non Chak would be developed into a cultural attraction that can generate income for local people. 
The research project under Wilaiwan’s supervision has received grants and support from the United Nations, EarthWatch, and the National Research Council of Thailand. 
“We have also won cooperation from the Fine Arts Department,” she said. 

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