Radiocarbon Dates from Jar and Coffin Burials of the Cardamom Mountains Reveal a Previously Unrecorded Mortuary Ritual in Cambodia's Late- to Post-Angkor Period (15th-17th Centuries AD)
We present the first radiocarbon dates from previously unrecorded, secondary burials in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia. The mortuary ritual incorporates nautical tradeware ceramic jars and log coffins fashioned from locally harvested trees as burial containers, which were set out on exposed rock ledges at 10 sites in the eastern Cardamom Massif. The suite of 28 14C ages from 4 of these sites (Khnorng Sroal, Phnom Pel, Damnak Samdech, and Khnang Tathan) provides the first estimation of the overall time depth of the practice. The most reliable calendar date ranges from the 4 sites reveals a highland burial ritual unrelated to lowland Khmer culture that was practiced from cal AD 1395 to 1650. The time period is concurrent with the 15th century decline of Angkor as the capital of the Khmer kingdom and its demise about AD 1432, and the subsequent shift of power to new Mekong trade ports such as Phnom Penh, Udong, and Lovek. We discuss the Cardamom ritual relative to known funerary rituals of the pre- to post-Angkorian periods, and to similar exposed jar and coffin burial rituals in Mainland and Island Southeast Asia.
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