The Dynamics of Sukhothai Ancient City Landscape Management: A View from Geographic and Archaeological Evidence

Office of Archaeology, Fine Arts Department, Thailand

Sukhothai was the ancient city capital of the Sukhothai Kingdom and Thai Empire during the 13th and 14th centuries AD. Sukhothai and the surrounding geographic region provide an interesting case study in landscape management. By applying a range of analytical data derived from geographical information (satellite images, geology and topographic mapping) and archaeological data (archaeological reports, artefacts and Sukhothai epigraphics) it has been possible to demonstrate that both the dynamic physical and cultural landscapes (with religious perspectives playing an important role) were important in the development and spatial patterning of Sukhothai and its surrounding region through time. This research was able to identify an initial prehistoric occupation at Sukhothai prior to 13th century, founding of the city. It also demonstrated that Wat Phra Phai Luang, constructed before the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom, was associated with Khmer Empire and this had a strong influence on the design and patterning of the settlement, and that during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the new city to the south was constructed and patterned to emphasise adopted religious and political practices. Finally, whilst King Li-Thai was in power, population density increased substantially, and as a result residential areas were expanded, and the areas of Aranyavasi or Aranyika established to the south and west of Sukhothai city.