Pre-historic period. - Ban Chiang

            Date back to more than 2000 years ago, Ban Chiang, Nong Han District, Udon Thani Province. It is far away from the province to the East about 60 kilometers. The land is on high hills and the size is estimated about 400 Rai or 640,000 square meters. It is the pre-historic archaeological site around bronze to metal age. Evidently at the time, there are archaeological evidences indicating that people were already skilled with art crafts, making accessories and potteries. With the used of bronze as materials for tools and equipments, possibly represents the beginning of technology. Various potteries were commonly found in Ban Chiang but had not been recognized for its history behind it. Not until, Steve Young, who were a student at Harvard college, found out about the place. There were a lot of potteries that have been dug up in the areas, and if one has a chance, should definitely visit and see the famous attractive red painted potteries. The painted designs are simple yet beautifully crafted. Moreover, most appliances were made from bronze such as bracelets, rings, and beads.

 Aside from these artefacts, there are some culture beliefs attaching to it. It is common to find the bronze crafts together in graves as gift for those who have passed away. This represents a burial ritual as a part of their long-inherited culture. Furthermore, rice fragments were also founded, together with animal skeletons, some are animals for domestication and some for hunting. For example, the buffalo’s skeletons had some abnormality in their hoofs. Speculating that they were used to plow the rice field. This could possibly indicate that the people in Ban Chiang were farmers. Interestingly, the oldest graves did not have bronze artefacts, but artefacts from the late stone age period, made from stones. Thus, Neolithic and bronze age civilization can be both found here. Moreover, there are some evidences that the beginning of using metal and technology can also be found here. The bronze that were used in Ban Chiang has two components, tin and copper. Surprisingly, both metals cannot be found in nature around the village. Instead, the metals were bought from other villages. Communication and trading have already long been established within the community. The people in Ban Ching has rather short life spans, in the beginning only around 27 years. Later on, the average life span went up to 37 years. Fortunately, the skeletons do not show any signs of brutal death, rather natural death and a peaceful life.

 

            According to UNESCO, Ban Chiang is a very important discovery and possibly the oldest pre-historic sites in South East Asia. In 1992, Ban Chiang was listed as world heritage. Not only the place had us discovered the human lives and civilization which continued for more than 2000 of years, but also give us a better understating of Thai history and civilization today. Because, Ban Chiang’s culture and civilization did not only existed in Udon Thani Province, but also the whole area in northeast of Thailand.

 

Two main important Kingdoms.

            Thailand has many archaeological sites. The most important ones are Muang Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. Both is the old historic kingdom that have historical evidences of civilization and prosperity. Today, the places have been developed for education and is opened for tourism.

 

Sukhothai

            According to the archaeological evidences, indicate that there were communities resided long before around Muang Sukhothai. It has started as a small community and grown into a city. From the evidences, the houses were made out of wood, people know how to mold earthenware and smelt metal. Moreover, they have communications with other communities.

 

            Sukhothai has a city plan in the shape of rectangle. The walls have three layers of ridges, alternately with canals. There is Wat Mahathat in the Centre of the city, and many other temples surrounding it. There are a lot of ponds in various sizes. The big ponds were created under the Buddhism belief as part or boundary of a temple. Even the surrounding parts of the city, also have many archaeology sites and temples. The city has received Buddhism and Cambodia’s influences, considered it as the centre idea throughout the city plan. Until 1800 BE, Cambodia’s influences on architectures and sculptures work has begun to decline due to political conflicts.

 

            The prime time of Sukhothai is during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng, and the most important civilization in this era is the invention of Thai letters by King Ramkhamhaeng, in 1826 BE. Then, it had some reformation later, and permanently use the letters still today. During this, Sukhothai was described in the 1st stone inscription as great prosperous, well-known to every direction. Not because of military power but political influences. Furthermore, under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng, the city is governed by Paternalism. Because there are not too many settlers within the city, people can visit the King by ringing the bell.

 

            Sukhothai was very prosperous with three economic areas. First, the agriculture was doing very well. According to the 1st stone inscription, “Muang Sukhothai is great, in the water there is fish, and in the field there is rice”. Second, Hand crafts were the most profitable earning for the city. Especially, Potteries coated in green colour called “Celadons”. The most common pattern were fishes, wheels, ear of rice, and flowers. The hand-crafted art has been carried on for more than 700 years generation to generations. The kiln for Celadons are called “Tao Tu Riang”. There are more than 200 kilns with the city of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. lastly, Sukhothai were the centre of trading, connected both with inner cities and seaport cities. Because all of this, Sukhothai was very prosperous through its era.

 

            Sukhothai has shown us the great civilization in many perspectives. Especially, arts and influenced from other cultures. People have changed their beliefs as the cultures has grown and developed.

 

Ayutthaya

            Ayutthaya, the word has the meaning of non-destructible city. It is considered as the historical city, founded in 1893 BE, second Siamese capital after Sukhothai, and continuously ruled for 417 years. It was very prosperous within the South East Asia region. Evidently, splendor places such temples, palaces (called “Wang” in Thai), and fortresses. These reflect the Kingdom’s welfare. Later on, Ayutthaya was listed on UNESCO world heritage.

 

            Main sighting parts in the Kingdom are the palace, in which seated by the King U-thong or Ramathibodi I, who was the first king in the Ayutthaya Kingdom. The next is the royal temple or Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. It has one of the biggest bronze image of Buddha in Thailand called Phra Mongkhon Bophit, and is placed within the temple.   

 

            The city plan has an interesting structure. The city has 12 meters long length. Irrigations built around the outside of the city walls. The land is filled with abundant resources. The fortresses protect outside enemies. From the point of geography, the communication is great for trading from both inside and outside the country. The major Rivers from the northern part to Ayutthaya are the main transportations in Thailand, brought products from the northern down to here. Therefore, Ayutthaya was the centre of economic in Asia of that time. In addition, Ayutthaya Kingdom was politically and militarily powerful. The numbers of people were however less, compared to the land’s size and resources. However, this could possibly explain why the land has more than enough resources to use according to the population, keeping the people happy.

The reason why Ayutthaya had reigned for so long, compared to other Kingdom, it was because of the existing previous civilizations. There are areas located near the Ayutthaya Kingdom like Dvaravati. Ayutthaya has received the old civilizations and adapted into its own new civilization.

 

            Furthermore, Ayutthaya has the geography of alluvial plains. The important rivers such as Chao Phraya River, Mae Klong River, Bang Pakong River, and Tha Chin River flow down to the gulf of Thailand. Great for businesses with faraway lands which need to travel by sea. Ayutthaya is placed right in the centre of sea route between India and China, received cultures and civilizations through trading. Moreover, the weather is warm and in the humid climate zone. Three seasons consisting summer, raining, and winter seasons. Affected by the Northeast and southwest monsoon, it rains the whole year, and water is adequate to use for agriculture. Also, the rivers brought natural fertilizer down to the farming filed. Rice paddy is especially suitable here according to geography and weather. The people in Ayuthaya recognized this and adapted this knowledge into practice, the rice exportation becomes one of the profitable earnings for the Kingdom. In addition, valuable ores like metal and gold or rare wooden like teak wood and agar wood can be gathered in this land. These were in high demand from foreign merchant, and evidently these exhaustible goods were the main products sending out to countries like China and Japan as a tribute present. The sea ports were freely open to business and exploration. Around 2000 BE, was the time when Ayutthaya has begun diplomatic and commercial relations with western countries like Portugal, England, France and Holland. Trading policies have also help the Kingdom in peace with others, decrease the tension of wars by balancing the power with several business partner in exchange for protection and colonization.

 

            Thai languages have some borrowed words for things that were received from western countries and adapted into Thai word like the word for rose flower, call “Gularp” from “Golab” in Persian language. Art in Dances like Khon in Ayutthaya has the exact standard form like today. Believed that Thai dance drama has been fully developed in this Kingdom era. The dances were considered as high-quality form of art and with meticulous outfits, this outstanding beautiful performance has influenced neighbor countries greatly. Also, representing the splendor of Ayutthaya’s rich culture and civilizations.

 

            Thai civilization has grown out from the previous civilization as the based for further development in Ayutthaya Kingdom. Learning mistakes and improving its culture appropriate to the current situation, keeping up with the technologies especially with other foreign lands.

 

            In conclusion, Thailand is located in the South East Asia where southwest monsoon brings humid climate and rainfall within the region, which is great for agriculture. Also, the geographic areas in Thailand are rich with wild abundant resources, which affects the setters lives choices according to the environment, scattered across the land, and mostly as farmers. Therefore, civilizations progress in the agriculture area was continuing improved. The people had also long before communicated between villages and later on taken the advantage of being in the centre of many countries, placing capital cities conveniently for trading between countries like India, China, Persia, and Roman. But, not without consideration of arranging good fortresses sheltered and protect from enemies. Thus, changes in social progress and cultural influenced were greatly affected by the communications thought the History. Interestingly, the Kingdoms and archaeology sites was established because of many factors, different to the others, according to geography, political, and History.

            For example, Sukhothai was established because of fitting geography, not too warm and has the flow of cool air between the mountain range. While Ayutthaya chose to be established its Kingdom beside Rivers, due to agriculture and communication reasons. Both was also influenced by the previous existing civilization city before establishing the Kingdom. All of this has created civilization progress within Thailand.