via Asian Perspectives, 28 May 2021: A new paper by Carter et al. on the beads found at Angkor Borei and Oc Eo, showing that these sites were increasingly trading with South Asia in the early first millennium.
Angkor Borei, Cambodia was an important urban center related to the early first millennium c.e. polity known as Funan. Excavations in the protohistoric period Vat Komnou Cemetery site uncovered over 1300 glass and stone beads, which are important material indicators of trade. In this article, we review data from earlier studies and add new previously unpublished data on glass and stone beads from this collection as well as previously unpublished glass compositional analyses from the nearby site of Oc Eo, Vietnam. Examinations of the glass beads highlight the presence of large quantities of high alumina mineral soda glass associated with Sri Lankan or South Indian bead production as well as smaller quantities of other glass types in circulation throughout Southeast Asia. Compositional and morphological studies of agate/carnelian beads show strong affinities with the Indian bead industry, while the garnet beads came from raw material sources in southern India. Overall, Angkor Borei’s bead collection shows strong contacts with different regions of South Asia. Comparison with the bead assemblages of other contemporaneous sites demonstrate strong affinities with sites farther inland, such as Phum Snay and Prei Khmeng, Cambodia and Ban Non Wat, Thailand rather than other maritime coastal sites in Southeast Asia. We argue that the stone and glass beads at Angkor Borei are related to intensified interaction with South Asia and that elites at Angkor Borei used these exotic prestige goods to build alliances with sites farther inland forming an intraregional exchange network we call the Mekong Interaction Sphere.