The relevance of contemporary bronze casting in Ubon, Thailand for understanding the archaeological record of the Bronze Age in Peninsular Southeast Asia



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Texas A&M University


A direct historical approach is used in this thesis to document the lost wax casting technique as currently practiced by indigenous metallurgists in northeastern Thailand. The smiths observed at Ban Pba Ao, Ubon Ratchathani Province are the last practicing members of a bronze working tradition that has been in continuous operation at the village for two centuries. An account of the processes used to create bronze bells is provided. Of particular significance is the fact that the yard in which casting activities are performed did not receive clean up operations following the bells production. As a result, hearths, bowl furnaces, crucibles and fragments of clay moulds are left scattered about the yard. These materials accumulating in one location would eventually create a mound of cultural debris. The discarded materials from the lost wax casting process as practiced at Ban Pba Ao provide considerable insight into what might be found in the stratigraphy of Peninsular Southeast Asian prehistoric sites that were involved in the production of bronze objects. The study concludes that attention needs to be paid to the stratigraphic sequences from which bronze artifacts are extracted, rather than relying on the artifacts to determine the type of process used in their manufacture.