A Brief History of Angkor’s Iron: Reconstructing multi-scalar chronologies in the Phnom Dek metallurgical landscape, Cambodia.

Dr Mitch Hendrickson1, Dr. Quan Hua2, Dr.  Shuhui Cai3, Dr. Lisa Tauxe4, Dr. Stéphanie Leroy5, Dr. Kaseka Phon6

1University Of Illinois At Chicago, , United States, 2ANSTO, , Australia, 3State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, , China, 4Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, , USA, 5LAPA-IRAMAT Saclay, CNRS, , France, 6Royal Academy of Cambodia, , Cambodia

Iron was an essential commodity in the rise of Angkor, the largest and most influential state in mainland Southeast Asia between the 9th to 13th centuries. Multidisciplinary research around Phnom Dek in northern Cambodia revealed an extensive metallurgical landscape spanning over 1300 years of production activity and a dramatic increase in the scale of smelting correlating with the expansion of the Khmer Empire. Extensive AMS radiocarbon dating of in-slag charcoals from across the Phnom Dek region and materials recovered from furnaces and occupation at the site of Tonle Bak are used here to reconstruct the multi-scalar chronologies of production (furnace, mound, site, region) during this important time in Southeast Asian history. By integrating geomagnetic intensity data from furnace bases, we demonstrate that it is possible to identify temporal differences between ‘contemporary’ smelting sites within a single mound. At the scale of the slag mound and site we posit that the terminal use relates to ritual while the regional pattern indicates the Khmer state’s desire to increase production and improve access to iron resources needed for temples, warfare and daily life.


Mitch Hendrickson is an archaeologist focussing on the intersection between technologies, landscape and transportation in Cambodia’s past. He and his international collaborators seek to understand the role of iron production in the expansionary phases of the Angkorian Khmer Empire using multidisciplinary approaches.

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Nov 15 2021


1:00 pm - 1:45 pm