Beds of Ochre and Painted Walls in Northern Thailand 

Valéry Zeitoun1, Prasit Auetrakulvit2, Chinnawut Winayalai3, Antoine Zazzo4, Hubert Forestier5

1UMR 7207 CNRS-MNHN-Université Paris VI, Sorbonne Université, Centre de Recherche sur la Paléobiodiversité et les Paléoenvironnements, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France

2Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Thailand

3Fine Arts Department. Ministry of Culture, Thailand

4Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques et Environnements (AASPE, UMR 7209), Sorbonne Université, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, CNRS, France

5UMR 7194 CNRS-MNHN-UPVD, Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, France

Several burials have been uncovered in the Ban Tha Si massif in recent years. These burials were placed at the bottom of rock-shelter walls painted with red ochre depicting various geometric, anthropic or animal motifs. Thus, from the painted walls of Phratu Pha, to those of Ban Tha Si and Doi Pha Kan (district of Ban Dong, Mae Moh, Province of Lampang), the flexed and extended burials provide an opportunity to document the evolution of funerary practices by mobilising the tools of archaeothanatology. The characteristics of the different burials dated to between 2900 and 3200 BP at Prathu Pha, 7047±53 BP at Ban Tha Si and from 12,930 ± 50 BP onwards at Doi Pha Kan open up new perspectives concerning the funerary practices and settlement of Northern Thailand. Beyond the classical extended/flexed position, a more detailed archaeothanatological approach of the variability of burials can provide an incremental step towards a better understanding of ancient mortuary practices in Northern Thailand and in Southeast Asia as a whole. Indeed, the descriptions of the positions of the burials in Southeast Asia still lack standardisation, which hinders comparisons between the different sites. By applying more comprehensive archaeothanatological techniques it would be possible to make comparisons between burials in Northern Thailand and those recorded at well-studied sites belonging to the Dingsishan in China, and Da But and Bacsonian in northern Vietnam. Questions also arise with regards to the resilience of certain practices, such as the use of red ochre for funerary purposes and more particularly the use (or reuse) of painted rock shelters as burial sites.