Charles Higham first dug with Rachanie Thasarat at Khok Phanom Di. Located in central Thailand near the seacoast, the site was interesting to the two archaeologists because it was in a mangrove swamp.
A large amount of pottery was found at the site, both in the graves and elsewhere. It was determined, in fact, that the people of Khok Phanom Di actually made this pottery themselves, with the huge kilns found a little later on in the dig, and perhaps used these for trading for food and other things.
The ceramics were of good quality. Even in their first period, i.e. what was determined to have been the first years of the settlement, the pottery made at Khok Phanom Di was shown to be well-made. The kilns found at the site were apparently used after the second period of ceramics, and it was also noted that potters were seemingly of very high status among the group. The information we have from this site about pottery is invaluable, because there isn’t often such detailed findings at Thai archaeological digs.
The biggest issue that the archaeologists wanted to settle with this site was whether or not the people there had actually cultivated the rice they seemed to have eaten. At first glance, the folk of Khok Phanom Di had seemed to be hunter-gatherers, and the many fishhooks found at the site seemed to agree with this idea.
After a bit, Higham and Thasarat found farming tools that proved to have been used much later on in the life of the site: they were mainly of bone and shell, as far as was found. However, farming seems to have come very late to Khok Phanom Di, perhaps too late for the health of the people.
Skeletons found at Khok Phanom Di were in good shape, though their bearers in life apparently hadn’t had good health. These findings provide a bit of insight into how they lived, for instance what kind of conditions the people of the site were living in, like good water and food supply. Both were apparently scarce, the archaeologists proved in a thesis done after the fact. Khok Phanom Di, a settlement from 2000 to 1500BC along the southeast coast of Thailand, seems to have suffered a great deal as did its neighbors to north and south on that coastline. The people were found to have been stunted in growth, have poor dental hygeine and joint problems as well.
Much disease happened at Khok Phanom Di while people lived there: everything from malaria to parasites attacked the people. The survival rate was low, and life expectancy could not have been much better. It’s true that the skeletons found there show that people who first lived at Khok Phanom Di were tall, but by the second phase of the settlement, the infant mortality rate was around 55%. There were a great number of cemetaries found at the site to confirm this idea. People were buried facing northwise.
The graves found in the cemetaries of Khok Phanom Di were often set one atop the next, as in the case of a princess whose family members were on top of her own grave. This seems to have been a common practice, though men and women were kept separate as a rule. It’s interesting to note that in the later phases of the group at Khok Phanom Di, people had better teeth but died earlier and had wealthier graves.
The site of Khok Phanom Di has since its original excavations proved to be very useful to archaeologists and historians; findings about the people there and what they were like show yet another chapter in the history of the world. More importantly, these findings offer us more questions that we still need to answer about ourselves and our predecessors.