Browse Charles Higham’s excavation records online

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via Prof Charles Higham: Charles Higham has created an archive of all his excavation records, including photographs, site plans and notebooks, on the internet. This is the URL:​

Source: Charles Higham

All images can be downloaded and used with no need to ask permission, but a form of acknowledgement would be appreciated if published or used for teaching. I will also link this on the Resources page.

[Reply] Wrong date given for prehistoric Ban Chiang

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Prof. Higham has asked me to highlight his published reply to The Nation’s report on the Ban Chiang lecture on 27 September 2018.

Re: “Special talk and seminars on the archaeology of Ban Chiang to commemorate 185 years of Thai-US diplomatic relations”, September 27, Foreign Ministry advertorial.

Your issue of September 27 included a report on a lecture delivered by Dr JC White on the archaeological site of Ban Chiang that contained two errors. It stated that Dr White was a member of the excavation team at Ban Chiang in 1974-5. I was, but she was not.

It also states that Ban Chiang was the centre of a Stone Age civilisation at around 5,000BC. As your article rightly notes, HM King Bhumibol asked during his visit to Ban Chiang if the human bones had been dated, and hearing that they had not, encouraged that this should be done. I have radiocarbon-dated the human bones from Ban Chiang. The earliest is about 1,500BC, not 5,000BC as stated.

Charles Higham

Research professor, University of Otago, New Zealand

Source: Wrong date given for prehistoric Ban Chiang

Categories: Thailand


Charles Higham honoured

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Archaeologist Charles Higham was honoured as a Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to archaeology. Congratulations Prof. Higham!

A celebration of service
Otago Daily Times, 31 December 2015

Prof Higham was appointed as a lecturer in the Otago anthropology department in 1966, becoming Foundation Professor in 1968.

He spent the next 10 years heading a department which he expanded, and whose international reputation he developed.

He has directed archaeological research in Southeast Asia, and particularly in Thailand and Cambodia, since 1969 and is regarded as the leading authority on the region’s prehistory.

His most recent research has concentrated on the origins of the civilisation of Angkor and in 2013 his research was voted one of the world’s top 10 projects, at the Shanghai Archaeological Forum.

Full story here.

Public Lecture: Ban Chiang: a new perspective of Thai prehistory

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Another one for Bangkok readers, a lecture at the National Museum by Charles Higham.

ban chiang flier

Ban Chiang: a new perspective of Thai prehistory
By Charles Higham
Venue: National Museum Auditorium, Bangkok
Date: Thursday February 19th, 2015
Time: 10:00 AM – 12:00 AM
Donation: Member 100 Baht / Guests 200 Baht

Although the Fine Arts/University of Pennsylvania excavations at Ban Chiang took place 40 years ago, the results have never been published. In this lecture, Charles Higham, who excavated at Ban Chiang in 1974-5, presents a new chronology for this site, based on radiocarbon dates taken from the bones of the prehistoric people themselves. This new dating framework necessitates a radical reappraisal of the place of Ban Chiang in the prehistory of Thailand, which comes into sharp focus when compared with new and dramatic archaeological discoveries in the upper Mun Valley that have uncovered princely Bronze Age graves and later, an agricultural revolution that stimulated the rise of early states, including that of Angkor. In this interpretation, Ban Chiang is seen as a provincial backwater, while the Mun Valley was a centre of seminal and rapid cultural changes.


Review of Early Thailand: From Prehistory to Sukhothai

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The Bangkok Post carries a review of Higham and Thosarat’s Early Thailand: From Prehistory to Sukhothai, which is an update to their earlier work, Prehistoric Thailand: From Prehistoric Settlement to Sukhothai. You can get a copy of the book here.

Early Thailand, The Nation 20121105

Early Thailand, The Nation 20121105

Digging Thailand
The Nation, 05 November 2012
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Public Lecture: The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia

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Prof. Charles Higham will be presenting a lecture this Thursday at ANU on the Bronze Age of Southeast Asia. Don’t miss it if you’re in Canberra!

The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia: Timing and impact
Venue: Manning Clark Theatre 1, Manning Clark Centre, Union Court, ANU
Date: Thursday, 29 April 2010
Time: 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
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Teams Explore Roots of Angkor Civilization

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29 November 2006 (Earthwatch Institute. released by Newswise) – Discovery Kids is featuring the Origins of Angkor project in Thailand in an episode airing Dec 3 and 10.

Teams Explore Roots of Angkor Civilization

Five seasons of excavations at Ban Non Wat, in Northeast Thailand, have unearthed 470 human burials covering a time span of more than 2,000 years. Earthwatch-supported research at this great moated site, led by anthropologist Dr. Charles Higham of University of Otago (New Zealand), gives clues to the roots of the famous Angkor civilization. A Year On Earth, a new film about students making a difference through participation in scientific research, features some of these discoveries.

“The earliest graves, dating to about 2000 BC, contain the remains of the first rice farmers to settle Thailand from their ancestral homelands in the Yangtze Valley of China,” said Higham, principal investigator of Earthwatch’s Origins of Angkor project. “They were buried with ceramic vessels that were decorated with amazing designs, representing the earliest art in this part of the world.” Some of the lidded pots discovered by Earthwatch teams were large enough to contain the remains of adults, while many newly born infants were buried in smaller versions.

Historians typically attribute the rise of the magnificent Angkor civilization, which also built Ankgor Wat, to external, mostly Indian, influences. Earthwatch volunteers working in Thailand have made discoveries that support Higham’s view that the Angkor civilization sprang, at least in part, from indigenous roots. For example, in about 1200 BC, the descendents of the early farmers mentioned above entered the Bronze Age in grand style.

“Until the investigations at Ban Non Wat, Bronze Age cemeteries contained relatively poor burials, the dead being accompanied by a handful of pots and perhaps some shell beads or bangles,” said Higham. “But at Ban Non Wat, excavators found groups of princely graves in which the aristocrats were accompanied by up to 50 pottery vessels, some of which were large and beautifully decorated with red painted designs.”

Related Books:
The Excavation of Ban Lum Khao (The Origins of Civilization of Angkor, Vol. 1) by C. Higham
The Civilization of Angkor by C. Higham
– Northeast Thailand before Angkor: evidence from an archaeological excavation at the Prasat Hin Phimai by S. Talbot and C. Janthed