Research Paper

Iron Age in Southeast Asia

Author: Kishor Basa

  • Iron Age in Southeast Asia

    Research Paper

    Iron Age in Southeast Asia



In this paper, I shall discuss the issue of the Iron Age in Southeast Asia under two headings - mainland Southeast Asia and island Southeast Asia. On the mainland, I shall discuss the evidence from Vietnani, Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia, but exclude Burma, Laos and Kampuchea for lack of relevant data. In the islands, I will discuss Indonesia, Sabah, Sarawak and the Philippines. I would argue that the Iron Age as a separate cultural entity is evident on the mainland, but in the islands there is no identifiable Bronze Age preceding the adoption of iron. By the Iron Age, I mean a period associated with iron artefacts, wet rice farming, brisk internal exchange and external trade and, in the lowland at least, a ranked society. This corresponds roughly to the General Period C of Bayard (1984b, 163, see also Higham and Kijngam 1984, 13-21). But two points should be made about this scheme:

  1. This is a heuristic device, so all sites in Southeast Asia can not be easily fitted into it.
  2. There is as yet no general agreement among scholars regarding the chronology of various periods.

Keywords: iron age

How to Cite:

Basa, K., (1991) “Iron Age in Southeast Asia”, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 2, 52-64. doi:

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Published on
15 Nov 1991