Origins of Angkor

Archaeology & Culture

Origins of Angkor

What are the roots of Thailand’s first state society? On one of the longest-running archaeological digs in Southeast Asia, Earthwatchers looked for clues.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Volunteers helped these researchers make the connections between Thailand’s prehistoric people and those that founded its first state society.

Earthwatch supported this research for nearly two decades.

When the excavations at Non Ban Jaark began in 2013, they marked the beginning of a new chapter. Before then, Earthwatch teams worked at Ban Non Wat, a nearby site rich in prehistoric artifacts from early hunter-gatherers and rice farmers. The finds at Non Ban Jaark came from a later period, when an organized state society began to emerge in the region.

The recent more work helped fill in details about this period in Thai history. Around the world, state societies first began to form in places where large-scale agriculture had already developed. In some parts of the world, this happened over five thousand years ago. But the transition came much later in Non Ban Jaark—closer to two thousand years ago. This research began exploring why; one theory is that state societies may have developed later in tropical areas because hunter-gatherers found it easier to survive in such climates, and therefore had less motivation to lay the foundations for an organized state. Earthwatchers contributed to the search to understand exactly how that might have happened in Thailand.

This was one of the longest-running archaeological projects in Southeast Asia

Volunteers helped excavate archaeological sites and log artifacts.

About the research area

Ban Non Wat, Thailand, Asia

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists


Lecturer, James Cook University

ABOUT Nigel Chang

Earthwatch archaeologist Dr. Nigel Chang of Australia leads the ongoing dig at Ban Non Wat in northern Thailand, exploring the history of an area that once included the seat of the Khmer Empire.


Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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