Diet and Health Assessment of Metal Age Populations in Central Thailand: Evaluating Social Differentiation Using Paleopathology and Stable Isotope Ratio Analysis


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Grants to Individuals in East and Southeast Asian Archaeology and Early History Dissertation Fellowships (North America)




With the emergence of metallurgy in mainland Southeast Asia, evidence for social differentiation becomes increasingly evident. In Thailand, copper smelting is traced back to the beginning of the Bronze Age (2,000 - 500 B.C.) and intensified during the Iron Age (500 B.C. - A.D. 500). Abundant metal ore deposits in central Thailand make this region, in particular, an important center for metal production during the Metal Age and later a state epicenter after A.D. 500. Archaeological data document a major demographic change in Thailand during the Metal Age. However, where Bronze Age contexts elsewhere in Thailand document intrasite social differentiation in burial features, central Thai sites are noteworthy for their lack of social differentiation until the beginning of the Iron Age. This research addresses this issue using human remains from Metal Age sites in central Thailand; specifically, it analyzes isotopic and paleopathology data collected from eight sites in central Thailand and one in southeast Thailand to address issues of Metal Age diet and health. Research objectives include the reconstruction of paleodietary trends and critical assessment of diet and health trends with respect to social differentiation in central Thailand prior to the formation of state (ca. A.D. 500). This bioarchaeological study integrates novel data sets, promotes interdisciplinary prehistoric research, and fosters international collaboration and training.