Many Iron Age sites on the flood plain of the Mun River in northeast Thailand are encircled by channels commonly known as moats. Also, the sites are closely associated with complex paleochannels of the river. A comparison between the seemingly human-constructed moats and paleochannels provided an opportunity to assess the relationship between prehistoric human settlement and paleohydrological conditions. In this study, the results of physical, sedimentological, and geochemical analyses are used to characterize sediments deposited within the channels around the Iron Age site of Ban Non Wat and within a paleochannel at nearby Ban Non Ngiu. This allowed us to test the results of previous research that has suggested significant changes in the floodplain hydrology and the geoarchaeologically important conclusion that Iron Age human activity was associated with one particular paleohydrological phase. Our analyses broadly confirm the results of previous stratigraphic studies, but add detail regarding sedimentation processes. The evidence indicates that there are significant sedimentological differences within the complex of archaeological channel features, differences that provide critical evidence for the formation and sedimentation processes of the channels. More importantly, comparison between the archaeological features and the natural channel fills highlights the relationships between the archaeological sites and landscape. Drawing also on previously published chronological, geomorphological, and stratigraphical data, it is possible to place the sites into a floodplain hydrological regime that may have been unique to the Iron Age. Specifically, the moats may have been constructed in response to enhanced water availability on the floodplain. The sites, therefore, may reflect a human response to increased availability of water beyond the main river channels. This water supply, however, appears to have been short-lived (centuries at most), and with its loss, the human adaptation to this enhanced natural resource became unviable.
The publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/gea.20210