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Publication Detail
Isotopic and technological variation in prehistoric Southeast Asian primary copper production
Abstract
The 'Southeast Asian Lead Isotope Project' (SEALIP) is intended to provide reliable geochemical proxies for late prehistoric through early historic (2nd/1st millennium BCE and 1st millennium CE) local, regional, and inter-regional social interactions, in an archaeological arena lacking established ceramic typologies with which to cross modern national boundaries. We present lead isotope characterisations of the three currently known Southeast Asian prehistoric primary (mining/smelting) copper production centres: Phu Lon and the Khao Wong Prachan Valley in Thailand, and the recently discovered Xepon complex in Laos. Kernel Density Estimation shows that these production centres can be clearly distinguished isotopically, as such fulfilling the core tenet of the 'Provenance Hypothesis' (Wilson and Pollard, 2001: 508) and permitting SEALIP to proceed as a research programme tracing regional copper/bronze/lead exchange and provenance patterning. In addition we provide a provisional technological reconstruction of copper smelting processes at Phu Lon to complement our more established understanding of the Khao Wong Prachan Valley. Combined lead isotope and technological datasets allow us to tentatively identify trends in the evolution of Southeast Asian metal technologies and of regional social perceptions of metal exchange. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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