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Research Articles

ScienceAsia 33 (2007): 047-056 |doi: 10.2306/scienceasia1513-1874.2007.33.047

Teak Log Coffin Head Styles in Northern Thailand: Time Sequencing with Dendrochronology

Sineenart Wannasria, Nathsuda Pumijumnonga* and Rasmi Shoocongdejb

ABSTRACT: This paper reports the chronology of the styles of the log coffin heads from Bo Krai Cave and Ban Rai Rockshelter in northern Thailand using tree-ring data. This is the first attempt to apply dendrochronology in archaeology fields for age determination, which otherwise only C-14 has been used. The study was undertaken to test the hypothesis that the styles of the coffin heads became increasingly complex over time. At Bo Krai Cave, 71 wood samples were taken from 36 log coffins and 3 supporting posts. At Ban Rai Rockshelter, 116 wood samples were taken from 27 log coffins and 26 supporting posts. Analysis of the wood samples showed that Bo Krai Cave was used as a burial site continuously with log coffins of the same styles over a relatively long period. This means that the people of the Log Coffin Culture probably used multiple log coffin styles continuously and simultaneously. At Ban Rai Rockshelter, the crossdating of the wood samples showed that this area was used as a burial site episodically over several periods. The chronology of the log coffin head styles again indicated that different styles were used simultaneously. Therefore, the chronology of log coffins in this area does not support the concept of a development from simple to complex styles. The simultaneous use of different coffin styles suggests that the style may be related to the status of the buried individuals or their ethnic affiliation rather than indicating cultural changes over time.

KEYWORDS: Dendrochronology, teak (Tectona grandis L.), log coffins, Thailand.

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a Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, Mahidol university, Nakhon Pathom 73170, Thailand.
b Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok 10200, Thailand.

* Corresponding author, E-mail: grnpm@mahidol.ac.th

Received 27 Feb 2006, Accepted 4 Aug 2006