Across the prehistoric period in Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA), very few architectural remains and settlements have been identified and there is an absence of evidence for dwellings and domestic spaces. Loc Giang (3980–3270 cal BP) in Long An Province, southern Vietnam is one of the few prehistoric settlements excavated in the region, revealing compacted, laterally extensive layers hypothesised to be floors in association with several other occupation deposit types. Due to the complex occupation stratigraphy encountered in the field, as well as intensive post-depositional processes of tropical environments, a state-of-the-art micro-geoarchaeological approach was used to identify site formation processes. Here, we present a description and depositional history of eight major deposit types (microfacies); among these, we identify constructed lime mortar floors, pile dwellings, evidence for the systematic treatment of waste, and prepared organic deposits likely associated with the management of dog and pig populations. Through the study of site formation we reconstruct at high resolution the nature of dwellings and organisation of domestic spaces within one of the earliest neolithic and sedentary settlements in the region. We demonstrate that within destructive burial environments of the tropics, micro-geoarchaeology offers an effective scientific toolkit for detecting settlement features with low macro-archaeological visibility, thereby enabling us to reconstruct pile dwellings and associated lime floors that were poorly characterised previously in MSEA prehistory.
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The secure microarchaeological identification of lime mortar supports previous hypotheses of lime mortar floors based on field observations of hard floor surfaces at the adjacent and contemporaneous neolithic settlement of An Son (c. 4300–3400 cal BP) (Bellwood et al., 2011; Nishimura and Nguyen, 2002) and the late neolithic settlement of Rach Nui (c. 3500–3300 cal BP) (Oxenham et al., 2015) located at the confluence of the Dong Nai and Vam Co Dong rivers (Fig. 1a). Taken together, the regional field-based evidence combined with the microarchaeological evidence from Loc Giang suggests that lime mortar was a tradition of settlement construction during the neolithic of southern Vietnam (Piper and Oxenham, 2014; Grono et al., in press).This research formed part of EG's doctoral research completed at the Australian National University funded by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship (2015–2018). EG's laboratory stay at the Charles McBurney Laboratory for Geoarchaeology, University of Cambridge in 2017 was funded by the Australian National University Vice-Chancellor's Travel Grant. Materials investigated in this research were recovered from the 2014 excavation of Loc Giang which was funded with support from the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP140100384.The fieldwork project and post-excavation analyses at Loc Giang were directed by Nguyen Khanh Trung Kien, Philip Piper and Peter Bellwood as a collaborative research project between Long An Provincial Museum, Tan An, Center for Archaeology, Southern Institute of Social Sciences, Ho Chi Minh City, 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 during the excavations and post-excavation research: 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 and Fredeliza Campos. The authors extend their thanks to Armand Mijares, University of the Philippines who, with Philip Piper and Dang Ngoc Kinh, undertook sampling of kubiena tins from the quarry profile in 2010. Luc Vrydaghs is sincerely thanked for providing guidance on discriminating between diatoms, sponge spicules and phytoliths in thin section. Thanks are also due to John Vickers and Shane Paxton at the Australian National University and Adelaide Petrographics for assistance with thin section preparation; Ulrike Troitzsch for assistance with X-Ray Diffraction; Frank Brink and the Center for Advanced Microscopy, Australian National University for assistance with QEM-EDS analyses; Ulrike Proske, Janelle Stevenson and Jack Fenner for laboratory access and support; the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science, Weizmann Institute of Science for the online Library of Infrared Standards which assisted with FTIR spectral identifications; and the Geoarchaeology Research Group, Australian National University. The authors extend their thanks to three reviewers for their constructive comments and efforts towards improving the manuscript. EG would also like to thank three anonymous thesis reviewers whose comments improved research presented here.
This research formed part of EG's doctoral research completed at the Australian National University funded by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship (2015–2018). EG's laboratory stay at the Charles McBurney Laboratory for Geoarchaeology , University of Cambridge in 2017 was funded by the Australian National University Vice-Chancellor's Travel Grant. Materials investigated in this research were recovered from the 2014 excavation of Loc Giang which was funded with support from the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP140100384 .
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- Constructed lime floors
- Pile dwellings
- Prehistoric settlement
- Sedentary transition
- Site formation processes
- Southeast Asia
- Tropical geoarchaeology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics