Site formation processes of outdoor spaces in tropical environments: A micro-geoarchaeological case study from backyard Lo Gach, southern Vietnam

Elle Grono, David E. Friesem, Rachel Wood, Tim Denham, Nguyen Khanh Trung Kien, Dang Ngoc Kinh, Philip J. Piper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the tropics, outdoor areas are important arenas of social life and the scene of economic and daily activities. Yet, outdoor areas are not often detected due to destructive post-depositional processes and low archaeological visibility. Here, we use microarchaeology to establish the settlement history and outdoor use of space at Lo Gach in Long An Province, southern Vietnam. The radiocarbon chronology identifies two phases of occupation: an initial presence at 3300–3000 cal. BP and later activity at 2750–2400 cal. BP. Microarchaeological analysis of the stratigraphy reveals complex sequences of organic waste severely transformed by chemical diagenesis. The results indicate that the excavated area at Lo Gach was an outdoor ‘backyard’ containing external surfaces utilised for a range of activities including rice processing, disposal of combustion residues, in situ burning, and recurrent foot traffic. Intensified rice agriculture and the systematic management of organic waste were the main structuring rhythms of social life that were performed at the Lo Gach settlement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number211
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The 2014 archaeological investigations at Lo Gach were conceived and directed by Nguyen Khanh Trung Kien and Philip J. Piper as a collaboration between the Centre for Archaeology, Southern Institute of Social Sciences (Ho Chi Minh City), Long An Provincial Museum (Tan An) and the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University (Canberra). The authors would like to thank the investigative team for all their hard work on the project: Le Hoang Phung, Nguyen Hoang Bach Linh, Nguyen Nhut Phuong, Nguyen Ngoc Hong, Van Ngoc Bich, Do Thi Lan, Tran Thi Kim Quy, Jasminda Ceron, Cristina Cobo-Castillo and Fredeliza Campos. The authors kindly acknowledge Adelaide Petrographics and John Vickers and Shane Paxton, Australian National University for assistance with thin section preparation; Ulrike Proske, Janelle Stevenson and Jack Fenner for laboratory access and support; the Geoarchaeology Research Group, Australian National University; and the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science, Weizmann Institute of Science for the online Library of Infrared Standards. The time and effort devoted by three anonymous reviewers to improving the quality of this manuscript is gratefully acknowledged. In addition, Elle Grono extends thanks to three anonymous thesis reviewers whose comments improved research presented here.

Funding Information:
This research was funded by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship (2015–2018) awarded to Elle Grono. The 2014 excavations at Lo Gach was funded by a small grant from the Research School of Humanities and Arts, College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU awarded to Philip J. Piper and Nguyen Khanh Trung Kien.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Agricultural transition
  • Metal age
  • Microarchaeology
  • Southeast Asia
  • Use of space
  • Waste management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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