Hunter-gatherers were already established in the area of modern-day Thailand by around 40,000 BC. They lived in semi-permanent settlements and made tools from wood and stone. Ancient seed husks found in caves in Northern Thailand have led to speculation that agriculture began to develop around 9000 BC. Rice was being cultivated around 3000 BC. Subsequently, in the area of Ban Chiang, elaborate pottery and bronze work began to be produced. This Bronze Age culture is believed by some historians to be the earliest in the world.
Ban Kao Tripod
This three-legged, terracotta pot was made by Neolithic artisans around 2100 BC. It was found at Ban Kao in the Central Plains.
Bronze Axe Head
The earliest bronze artifacts found at Ban Chiang, such as this axe head, are thought to date from about 2100 BC.
Clay molds confirm that bronze objects were cast at Ban Chiang and not imported from elsewhere.
These paintings at Pha Taem date from around 1000 BC. The artists were probably descended from the early inhabitants of Ban Chiang
Iron Age Rooster
A find of bronze and iron artifacts at Don Tha Phet, near Kanchanaburi, includes this iron rooster from about 1000 BC.
As well as practical objects, the craftsmen of Ban Chiang were skilled at making elaborate jewelry. These bracelets probably date from the height of Ban Chiang’s Bronze Age, around 300–200 BC.
Ban Chiang Pottery
Pots found at Ban Chiang date from 2100 BC to AD 200. Until their discovery in 1966, this area of Southeast Asia was thought to have produced little of cultural merit in prehistoric times. These, and other finds, show that the indigenous peoples were capable of producing sophisticated, beautiful works of art.
Where to See Prehistoric Thailand
At Ban Chiang visitors can see burial sites and artifacts housed in the Ban Chiang National Museum. More Ban Chiang artifacts can be seen in the Bangkok National Museum. At Ban Kao there are burial sites and a museum, and cave paintings can be seen at Pha Taem and Phu Phrabat Historical Park.