The case for proto-Dvaravati: a review of the art historic and archaeological evidence
Stephen Murphy (Asian Civilisations Museum)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper I argue that evidence from growing number of sites excavated in central Thailand over the past two decades makes a strong case for postulating a proto-Dvaravati period spanning ca. the fourth to fifth centuries CE.
Paper long abstract:
For more than a century, the transition from prehistory to history in Mainland Southeast Asia has been a central issue of scholarship ever since the first attempts to explain the origins of its "classical states" such as Angkor in Cambodia or Sukhothai in Thailand. The mid-first millennium CE represents a crucial period in the emergence of early polities in Southeast Asia. However, disagreement remains between archaeologists and art historians as to the precise dating of this shift from prehistory to history. This paper focuses on the Dvaravati period and re-evaluates evidence in Thai and Western language publications. A growing number of sites excavated in central Thailand over the past two decades in particular show occupation from ca. the fourth to fifth century onwards while others provide a continual sequence stretching back well into the Iron Age. In this paper I argue that evidence from these sites makes a strong case for postulating a proto-Dvaravati period spanning ca. the fourth to fifth centuries. In doing so it proposes this period as the timeframe within which the Dvaravati polity(s) of central Thailand developed politically, culturally and artistically.
Recent advances in the archaeology of central Thailand