A new year has started again

I have read somewhere that making too many wishes for the coming year just increases the stress, because one will almost always not be able to fulfill most of these wishes and/or all the good intentions. Thus – no wishes for myself for 2014, except perhaps less commitments? Did I not write in one of my last blogs, that I have become better at saying no to all the many requests that tumble into my mail box, from reviewing manuscripts to evaluating research proposals or assessing candidates for academic positions! I would say that the ‘no’ is less than half true, because I have already involved myself in several manuscript reviews, one research proposal review and one assessment of candidates for a professorship. On top of these tasks, which of course always lead to learning many new things and therefore are interesting, I also managed to submit abstracts for the EGU meeting in Vienna in Apri/May. We need to place more focus on our Thailand monsoon project and the plan is that we present different aspects of our research in different sessions. However the abstracts need to be approved first ….

During the past days I have been diving into archaeological literature, and especially focused on what is known about the hunter-gatherers, the Neolithic, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Khmer period on the Khorat Plateau of NE Thailand. A wealth of information exists from excavated sites in the Mun and Chi River valleys to the south of our two lake sites, Kumphawapi and Pa Kho, especially for the time period between the Neolithic and the Khmer period. However much less is known for our area, although the famous sites of Ban Chiang and Ban Na Di are located close by. The transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in the Mun River valley (ca. 400 BC or 2400 BP) saw an increase in population density and the construction of moated settlements, where people redirected the water from river channels into several concentric moats that may have been used for different purposes (see for example C. Higham 2011. The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia: New Insight on Social Change from Ban Non Wat. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21:3, 365–89; C. Higham 2011. The Iron Age of the Mun Valley, Thailand.The Antiquaries Journal, 91, 2011, pp 101–44; W. E. Boyd 2008. Social change in late Holocene mainland SE Asia: A response to gradual climate change or a critical climatic event? Quaternary International 184 (2008) 11–23).

Archaeologists do not really seem to agree what these moats were used for: as water storage, for defense, for agriculture, to mitigate flooding or if they are an expression of religious symbols. Geoarchaeological studies in the Mun River valley moreover suggest that Early Iron Age people cleared the forests and enlarged their farming areas, and that this led to grassland expansion later on. If Iron Age people had such an impact on the landscape, this should also be seen in the records from Lake Kumphawapi – but the problem is that our record shows several hiatii between 5000 and 1600 BP, which means during the whole interval of the Neolithic and Bronze Age up to the later part of the Iron Age (400 AD or 1600 BP). It would of course be tempting to relate what we interpret as phases of reduced or increased moisture availability to marked social changes seen in the archaeological records, but I doubt whether people responded in a linear way to shifts in climatic conditions. I need to scratch my head a little bit more, maybe I come up with a really great solution? 🙂

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