Creating a cupboard for our skeletons

26 August 2006 (Bangkok Post) – An exploration of the physical anthropology scene in Thailand: many questions unanswered,and still much room to develop research although local archaeologists/anthropologists receive little support themselves.

Creating a cupboard for our skeletons

From today’s perspective, the people who roamed what is now Thailand thousands of years ago may not have been particularly handsome – but interpretation of their appearance, and the ramifications for archaeology, could be very striking indeed.

Comparing the skeletons could unravel some of the myths, and settle some of the debates, about the origins of the T(h)ai people. Are we really descendants of the Chinese, migrants from the Altai mountains in southern Siberia, as we have repeatedly been taught in school? Or have we always lived in this region, as a few scholars have subsequently argued?

These and other questions were raised recently at a gathering on “Tracing the Human Race: The Study of Physical Anthropology in Thailand”. No definitive conclusions were reached at the conference but some of the suggestions presented there could turn widely held beliefs upside down.


Related Books:
Prehistoric Thailand: From Early Settlement to Sukhothai by C. Higham and R. Thosarat
Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago by P. Bellwood

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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