Urgeschichte und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie

Circle-shaped earthworks in Cambodia

Originally, the circle shaped Mimotien earth works in the red earth region in the east of Cambodia and the south of Vietnam were assumed to be Neolithic defence facilities due to the ceramics and lithics recovered. Before the civil war, 17 of these earth works were known, 5 of which in Cambodia. On average, they measure 250-350, in diameter, counting the outer walls and inner trenches. They were excavated by Bernard Phillipe Groslier in 1962; however, he did not publish his results. 

Since 1997, the scientists of the DAAD have been conducting research concerning the earth works in cooperation with the Royal University of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh. Since 2000, the Memot Centre of Archaeology has also been providing resources for the project. So far, 26 further earth works have been discovered in the Cambodian Regions of Ponhea Krek, Memt and Snoul; more than 100 m² of the earth work Krek 52/62 have been excavated, trial trenches at six more earth works have been opened, and six of the structures have been measured. 

The Mimotien ceramics are tempered with organic materials such as rice glume as well as mineral materials and burned at low temperatures. Ceramic anvils indicate that vessels were produced with the paddle-and-anvil-technique. The thin walls of the ceramic vessels have been slipped, partially polished and were decorated in different ways. Some intact vessels could be recovered. They are mostly found together, along with spindle whorls, and have been interpreted as depository, perhaps in the context of a burial, within the settlement's context. 

Among the lithic artefachts, mostly shouldered and neck- axes and chisels crafted from horn stone and grinding- and whet stones of sand stone have been recovered. Silex was rarely used for the production of fine blades and ornamental objects. Additionally, fragments of so-called Litophones were found in the earth works. 

No metal artifacts preserved in the extremely acidic red earth (pH<4). All the more surprising was the discovery of 5 fragments of glass armrings, which are in a good condition due to their high contents of aluminium oxide. They allow for dating the end of the earth work settlements into the second half of the first millenium BC. Contact between the rice farmers of the Mimotien groups and the iron age Sa Huynh culture in Vietnam seems plausible due to the typical form of the glass arm rings. 


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Albrecht, Gerd, Miriam Noël Haidle, Chhor Sivleng, Heang Leang Hong, Heng Sophady, Heng Than, Mao Someaphyvath, Sirik Kada, Som Sophal, Thuy Chanthourn & Vin Laychour 2001: Circular Earthwork Krek 52/62: Recent Research on the Prehistory of Cambodia. Asian Perspectives 39/1-2, 2000, 20-46.

Haidle, Miriam Noël 2001: Ein Land auf Pfählen – Pfahlbauten in Kambodscha. Die Plattform 9/10, 2000/01, 32-39.

Haidle, Miriam Noël 2002: Fragments of glass bangles from Krek 52/62 and their implications for the dating of the Mimotien culture. Asian Perspectives 40/2, 195-208.

Neumann, Udo & Miriam Noël Haidle 2002: Stone artefacts and glass fragments from prehistoric circular earthworks in Eastern Cambodia and South Vietnam. Berichte der Deutschen Mineralogischen Gesellschaft, Beiheft zum European Journal of Mineralogy 14, 118.

Haidle, Miriam Noël & Udo Neumann 2004: Shiny exceptions? Glass in Mimotien context. Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 24, 121-128.