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Thailand’s Iron Age Log Coffin culture

Ancient DNA helps researchers elucidate the structure of a prehistoric community from Southeast Asia

A mortuary practice known as Log Coffin culture characterizes the Iron Age of highland Pang Mapha in northwestern Thailand. Between 2,300 and 1,000 years ago, individuals were buried in large wooden coffins on stilts, mostly found in caves and rock shelters. An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the Prehistoric Population and Cultural Dynamics in Highland Pang Mapha Project in Bangkok, Thailand, has now analyzed DNA from 33 buried individuals from five Log Coffin sites, and found fascinating new connections between individuals from the same and different sites. The associated people seem to have been a large, well-connected community, where genetic relatedness played a significant role in the mortuary ritual.

© Selina Carlhoff