SHELL PERSONAL ORNAMENTS CRAFT AT THE SITE OF THA KAE, LOPBURI PROVINCE, CENTRAL THAILAND. TRACING THE SOUTHWARD DISPERSAL OF THE DRILLING TECHNIQUE
The collection of mollusk remains excavated at Tha Kae has been recently re-analyzed and identified as to genera or family level. Out of 5 main fresh/salt-water mollusk families, only Conus and Tridacna were used to make personal ornaments and, for Tridacna, small adzes, during the local Bronze Age (BA) (c. 1100-500 BCE).
The study of 100 kg of production debris and of whole/fragmentary ornaments demonstrated the manufacturing cycle consisted of two main steps: 1) Procurement of the raw material; 2) Transformation in a sequence of six stages of the raw material into the base material for luxuries that arguably entered inter-regional exchange circuits. The manufacturing cycle, possibly part of a system organized at the community level, implied procurement expeditions and skilled craftspeople able to organize and use the relevant tool kit, whose origin can be traced back to the lower Yangtze valley (late fourth millennium BC). The shell-craft cycle also sheds light on the cognitive processes of the craftsmen, who had to make a choice in order to maximize the output of their work.The study provides newly organized data of direct archaeological interest to the field of Southeast Asian pre-protohistory, as well as to those of social and cultural anthropology, cognitive science, marine palaeobiology and to palaeogeography.