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Hoabinhian

    The term '''Hoabinhian''' was first used by French archaeologists working in northern Vietnam to describe Holocene period archaeological assemblages excavated from rockshelters It has become a common term to describe stone artefact assemblages in Southeast Asia that contain flaked cobble artefacts The term was originally used to refer to a specific ethnic group restricted to a limited time period with a distinctive subsistence economy and technology More recent work (eg Shoocongdej 2000) uses the term to refer to artefacts and assemblages with certain formal characteristics

    History of definitions

    In 1927 Colani published some details of her nine excavations on northern Vietnamese province of Hòa Bình As a result of her work the First Congress of Prehistorians of the Far East in 1932 agreed to define the Hoabinhian as
    a culture composed of implements that are in general flaked with somewhat varied types of primitive workmanship It is characterised by tools often worked only on one face by hammerstones by implements of sub-triangular section by discs short axes and almond shaped artefacts with an appreciable number of bone tools (Matthews 1966)

    Despite the general terms of the definition Colani’s Hoabinhian is an elaborate typology as indicated by the 82 artefacts from Sao Dong that Colani classified into 28 types (Matthews 1966) The original typology is so complicated that most Hoabinhian sites are identified simply by the presence of sumatraliths (White & Gorman 1979) The chronology of Hoabinhian artefacts was assumed to be Holocene because of the extant fauna found in the assemblages and the absence of extinct fauna by Colani and others working before the availability of radiocarbon dating methods in the 1950s
    Problems with Colani's typology were exposed by Matthews (1964) who analysed metric and technological attributes of unifacially flaked cobble artefacts from Hoabinhian levels at Sai Yok Rockshelter Kanchanaburi west-central Thailand His aim was to determine if Hoabinhian artefact types described by Colani could be defined as clusters of constantly recurring attributes such as length width thickness mass length-width ratio and cortex amount and distribution Matthews found that Hoabinhian types did not really exist and instead Hoabinhian artefacts reflect a continuous range of shapes and sizes
    Following his archaeological excavation and surveys in Mae Hong Son northwest Thailand Chester Gorman (1970) proposed a more detailed definition as follows
    1. A generally unifacial flaked tool tradition made primarily on water rounded pebbles and large flakes detached from these pebbles
    2. Core tools ("Sumatraliths") made by complete flaking on one side of a pebble and grinding stones also made on rounded pebbles usually in association with iron oxide
    3. A high incidence of utilized flakes (identified from edge-damage characteristics)
    4. Fairly similar assemblages of food remains including remains of extant shellfish fish and small-medium-sized mammals
    5. A cultural and ecological orientation to the use of rockshelters generally occurring near fresh water streams in an upland karstic topography (though Hoabinhian shell middens do indicate at least one other ecological orientation)
    6. Edge-grinding and cord-marked ceramic occurring (though perhaps as intrusive elements) individually or together in the upper layers of Hoabinhian deposits

    Gorman's work included a number of radiocarbon dates that confirmed the Holocene age of the Hoabinhian
    The term was redefined in 1994 by archaeologists attending a conference held in Hanoi At this conference Vietnamese archaeologists presented evidence of Hoabinhian artefacts dating to 17000 years before the present A vote was held where is was agreed that [1]
    1. The concept of the Hoabinhian should be kept
    2. The best concept for "Hoabinhian" was an industry rather than a culture or technocomplex
    3. The chronology of the Hoabinhian industry dates is from "late-to-terminal Pleistocene to early-to-mid Holocene"
    4. The term "Sumatralith" should be retained
    5. The Hoabinhian Industry should be referred to as a "cobble" rather that a "pebble" tool industry
    6. The Hoabinhian should not be referred to as a "Mesolithic" phenomenon

    References

    Colani M. (1927) L'âge de la pierre dans la province de Hoa Binh Mémoires du Service Géologique de l'Indochine 13
    Gorman C. (1969) : A pebble tool complex with early plant associations in Southeast Asia Science 163: 671-3
    Gorman C. (1970) Excavations at Spirit Cave North Thailand: Some interim interpretations Asian Perspectives 13: 79-107
    Gorman C. (1971) The Hoabinhian and After: Subsistence Patterns in Southeast Asia during the Late Pleistocene and Early Recent Periods World Archaeology 2: 300-20
    Matthews JM. (1964) The Hoabinhian in Southeast Asia and elsewhere PhD thesis Australian National University Canberra
    Matthews JM. (1966) A Review of the 'Hoabinhian' in Indo-China Asian Perspectives 9: 86-95
    Phukhachon S. (1988) Archaeological research of the Hoabinhian culture or technocomplex and its comparison with ethnoarchaeology of the Phi Tong Luang a hunter-gatherer group of Thailand Tubingen: Verlag Archaeologica Venatoria: Institut fur Urgeschichte der Universitat Tubingen
    Shoocongdej R. (2000) Forager Mobility Organization in Seasonal Tropical Environments of Western Thailand World Archaeology 32: 14-40
    Van Tan H. (1994) The Hoabinhian in Southeast Asia: Culture cultures or technocomplex? Vietnam Social Sciences 5: 3-8
    Van Tan H. (1997) The Hoanbinhian and before Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association (Chiang Mai Papers Volume 3) 16: 35-41
    White JC, Gorman C. (1979) Patterns in "amorphous" industries: The Hoabinhian viewed through a lithic reduction sequence Unpublished Conference Paper