Original Paper

Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 311-329

First online:

Prehistoric iron production technologies in the Upper Thai-Malay Peninsula: metallography and slag inclusion analyses of iron artefacts from Khao Sam Kaeo and Phu Khao Thong

  • Lynn BiggsAffiliated withUCL Institute of Archaeology Email author 
  • , Bérénice BellinaAffiliated withCentre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Mondes iranien et indien
  • , Marcos Martinón-TorresAffiliated withUCL Institute of Archaeology
  • , Thomas Oliver PryceAffiliated withUMR 208 “Patrimoines Locaux”, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This article presents a preliminary attempt to characterise Upper Thai-Malay Peninsula prehistoric iron technologies based on assemblages from two recently excavated coastal sites: Khao Sam Kaeo and Phu Khao Thong. These are the earliest known sites involved in the early trans-Asian exchange that connected the eastern Indian Ocean to the South China Sea from the mid-first millennium bc. It is from this period that iron assemblages start appearing at both continental and insular Southeast Asian sites. Three models have been offered confronting an indigenous vs. Chinese or South Asian impetus for the introduction of iron metallurgy in Southeast Asia. These models are discussed in the light of the metallographic and compositional analyses of iron and slag assemblages from these two sites using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectrometry, energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence and slag inclusion analysis techniques, together with other production materials from these and other contemporaneous Southeast Asian sites.


Iron Metallography Southeast Asia South Asia China Technological transmission Slag inclusions SEM-EDS