Ancient Copper Mining in Upland Laos: A Study into Iron Age Mining in a Tropical Environment

23rd November 2014

Tucci, AntonioIn early 2009 the remains of wooden structures supporting ancient mining shafts were discovered during modern-day industrial copper mining in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Subsequent ‘rapid-response’ archaeological excavations within the Khanong A2 mining pit revealed over 130 tightly-clustered vertical shafts measuring between 1.5m and 2.5m in diameter, and dating to around 2000 BP. In 2012 another nearby ancient mining site was discovered at Tengkham South D which displayed many similar qualities to the Khanong site. Other sites have also been previously uncovered in the area comprising of both burial and smelting sites, known as Dragon Field and Peun Baolo (2008). This poster examines these sites, and the data gathered from subsequent excavations in later years, within the context of human interactions with the environment. What has been revealed through these excavations is an interesting insight into how upland communities engaged in mining practices in especially mountainous environments. Further research is still needed to better understand the society that created these structures; however these sites do provide some insight into how the environment might have impacted how these activities were conducted. Several possibilities are presented in this poster including seasonal mining within smaller upland communities along with post-state societies that were seeking to maintain distance from state institutions. While further excavations are still ongoing these sites have so far revealed fascinating insight into upland copper mining in remote mountainous tropical environments.

Citation for this paper:

Tucci, A., N. Chang, T. Sayavongkhamdy, V. Souksavatdy, S. Luangaphay and T. Luangkho 2014 Ancient Copper Mining in Upland Laos: A Study into Iron Age Mining in a Tropical Environment. Poster Presented at the AAA/ASHA Annual Conference, 1-3 December, Cairns.

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