Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this lecture at the Siam Society by my colleague Wannasarn Noonsuk in 10 August 2017. Dr Noonsuk is the Senior Specialist in Visual Arts at SPAFA.
This talk provides observations concerning socio-cultural development in Peninsular Siam and its significance in maritime Southeast Asia since the Iron Age. This area between two oceans was an important link for the East-West maritime trade as well as a production hub of jewelry, tin and forest products since the late centuries BCE. Among several principalities later developed in this isthmian tract, Tambralinga was an outstanding kingdom. Its material remains from the 5th century CE suggest that Hinduism was prominent and offered different artistic idioms from the Dvaravati expression of central Thailand in the same period. In terms of social interaction, the distribution of Bronze drums indicates that the isthmian tract was part of the neighborhood of communities around the Gulf of Siam, which was a busy hub of trade and a large market with common vision. It is likely that the ornaments produced at the sites such as Khao Sam Kaeo and Phukhao Thong were for the growing market in the Gulf and beyond to the east, rather than for India in the West. The Vishnu images from this area may have been the prototypes of those in the Mekong Delta. Perhaps similar to the Funan polity of the 1st- 6th centuries, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya in the 15th century launched military campaigns to the peninsula as an attempt to control the Gulf neighborhood.