Dating the Ban Chiang cultural tradition has been the subject of controversy and scholarly debate for nearly forty years. Excavations at Ban Chiang by the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the Fine Arts Department of Thailand (Penn/FAD) in 1974 and 1975 showed that the site had a long stratigraphy and was occupied for thousands of years.

Red-on-Buff Pottery, BCES 1390 Pot B.

In the early 1970s, thermoluminescence dates on unprovenienced ceramics suggested, incorrectly, that the striking red-on-buff pottery that had first brought Ban Chiang fame was more than 6000 years old. (We know now that this pottery dates to the Late Period, about 300 B.C.-A.D. 300.)

Black Incised and Impressed Pottery, BCES 1241 Pot A

The first radiocarbon dates on charcoal suggested that the black incised and impressed pottery from the Early Period may have dated to 3600 B.C. The earliest date for the black pottery has been revised to 2100 B.C. based on radiocarbon dating of rice remains from inside one of the lowest pots excavated by Penn/FAD. However, there is other evidence from northeast Thailand that societies had settled in the region in the fourth and perhaps even fifth millennium B.C.

For more information Dating Early Bronze at Ban Chiang, Thailand by Joyce White, EurASEAA 2006, Bougon papers

Period Burial Phase Working date range
Late Period (LP) X c. 300 B.C.-A.D. 200
Middle Period (MP) VIII c. 900-300 B.C.
Early Period (EP) upper V c. 1500-900 B.C.
lower IV c. 2100-1500 B.C.
Initial Period (occupation before Burial Phase I) ?-c. 2100 B.C.