Prehistoric Thailand – Early and New Stone Age

View of the Khwae Noi River.

Prehistoric Thailand may be drawn back as far as 1,000,000 years ago from the remains and stone tools found in northern and western Thailand. At an archaeological site in Lampang, northern Thailand Homo erectus fossils, Lampang Man, dating back 1,000,000 – 500,000 years, have been found. Stone tools have been extensively seen in Kanchanaburi, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Lopburi. Prehistoric cave paintings have also been discovered in these areas, dating back 10,000 years.

Early Stone Age

The Lower Palaeolithic is the most prime subdivision of the Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age. It spans the time from around 2.5 million years ago, when the first craft and use of stone tools by hominids arrives in the archaeological record, until around 120,000 years ago when significant evolutionary and technological changes guided in the Middle Palaeolithic.

Early species

The earliest hominids, known as Homo erectus and recognizable as human, arrive in the archaeological record between 1,000,000-500,000 years ago. 

About 1,000,000 years ago, Homo erectus moved to Asia from Africa, where it had started. Its use and control of fire was an essential tool in its hunter-gatherer means of subsistence. Homo erectus’s skull was shorter and more concentrated than that of new human beings. It lived in the mouth of caves near streams or other water supplies. Its main natural enemies included the giant hyena Hyaena sinesis, the saber-toothed tiger, and the orang-utan.

In 1999, Somsak Pramankit alleged to have found skull fragments of Homo erectus in Ko Kha, Lampang, though most scholars do not recognize these finds as credible. It was comparable to the skull fossils of Sangiran II Man found in Java, (Java man), which is 400,000 – 800,000 years old, as well as Peking Man. Stone artifacts dating to 40,000 years ago have been discovered at Tham Lod Rockshelter in Mae Hong Son.

New Stone Age

The Neolithic or “New” Stone Age was a time in the evolution of human technology that is traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic era mirrors the terminus Holocene Epipalaeolithic periods, starting with the rise of farming, which affected the “Neolithic Revolution” and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on geographical region. At the Khao Toh Chong rockshelter in Krabi, archaeologists have found evidence of a change in diet leading up to domestication due to changes in sea levels.

Recent archaeological excavations advise that domesticated rice was introduced to central Thailand by immigrating rice farming societies about 4000 B.P.

Domestication

Neolithic culture developed in many parts of Thailand, Mae Hong Son, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani about 9000 BCE. People pioneered wild cereal use, which then evolved into true farming. For peninsular Thailand sign of rice, agriculture exists from 2500 – 2200 B.P. However, the chance of an early appearance of rice agriculture in southern-peninsular Thailand has recently been discussed by scholars.

Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of crops, both wild and domesticated, which included betel, bean, pea, nut, pepper, cucumber, and domesticated cattle and pigs. The establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited villages, and the use of pottery.

In Southeast Asia, the independent domestication events led to their own regionally distinctive Neolithic cultures which arose completely independent of those in other parts of the world.

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