During the past decade, archaeology in Southeast Asia has forged ahead, with many new discoveries being made in all areas. This new synthesis begins with the early hunters and gatherers, and concludes with the early states, with particular reference to Angkor. It reflects the new maturity of our understanding of Southeast Asia's past, moving well beyond the claims of extraordinary early agriculture, bronze and iron that bedevilled the discipline in the 1970s. New ideas and interpretations abound. The hunter-gatherer sequence now stretched back over 10,000 years, and continues to the present day. Where formerly the transition to rice cultivation was sought locally, it is now documented first in the Yangzi Valley whence, the author suggests, farming communities expanded southwards along the major river valleys into a new, tropical world.
The first knowledge of copper and bronze casting is seen as the southward extension of a process of diffusion that began in the Near East. Crossing the steppes, metallurgy came to Gansu and the Yellow River Valley before spreading into Southeast Asia.
In conjunction with his own excavations in Northeast Thailand, Higham has reviewed the widespread evidence for deep-seated cultural changes with the Iron Age that heralded the transition to early states. This allows for a deeper understanding of the strong local cultural currents found in the civilizations of Angkor, Champa and Dvaravati.
This book stands as the only up to date systhesis of the early cultures of a huge area. Richly illustrated with many previously unpublished color images, it is a unique compendium essential for all those interested in this region.