The Bronze Age necropolis of Koh Ta Meas: who were the earliest inhabitants of the Angkor region?
Mélanie Frelat (Aix-Marseille Université)
Caroline Christelle Souday
Paper short abstract:
The Koh Ta Meas necropolis (Bronze Age), representing the first inhabitants in the Angkor region, suggests a remarkable funeral tradition continuity. Characterized by an interesting antemortem tooth loss pattern, it is a relatively healthy group, similar to other skeletal samples of Southeast Asia.
Paper long abstract:
Koh Ta Meas, near Angkor, Cambodia, has revealed a partially excavated necropolis from the Bronze age (2870 BP +/- 60) comprising 27 burials. This site represents the earliest settlement known to date in the region of Angkor, demonstrating the existence of an early settlement, clearly older than the Angkorian period. The burial of some individuals wrapped in matting, the type of funeral artefacts and the presence of pig skulls, suggests sophisticated mortuary ritual, which evoke other sites excavated in Southeast Asia. It also suggests a remarkable continuity with the funeral tradition observed hundreds of years later in several Cambodian necropolises from the Iron Age. The analysis of the remains, though poorly preserved, sheds light on the inhabitants in the Angkor region. The sample is characterized by short stature and gracile bones, but there was very little significant pathology, including linear enamel hypoplasia, dental caries, antemortem tooth loss, advanced attrition, infections and trauma. The presence of Schmorl's nodes indicates that the group likely experienced heavy mechanical demands on their lower backs as a result of activities most likely related to rice agriculture. The high prevalence of caries observed in females suggests differences in diet stemming from sexual divisions in the tasks of food procurement, but other factors may have been at stake. An interesting antemortem tooth loss pattern was identified in three women exhibiting intentional ablation of the upper lateral incisors and canines. Overall, the general pattern of health at Koh Ta Meas is similar to contemporaneous skeletal samples.
Addressing regional and world-scale archaeological questions through human bioarchaeology in Southeast Asia