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Man Bac

Man Bac: The Excavation of a Neolithic Site in Northern Vietnam

Marc F. Oxenham
Hirofumi Matsumura
Nguyen Kim Dung
Series: Terra Australis
Volume: 33
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Man Bac
    Book Description:

    The site of Man Bac in the Red River Delta of Vietnam, one of the most meticulously excavated and carefully analysed of Southeast Asian archaeological sites in the past few years, is emerging as a key site in the region. This book carefully analyses the human and animal remains and puts them into context. The authors describe in detail the health status, the unusual demographic profile and the interestingly divergent affinities of the cemetery population, and discuss their meaning, particularly in association with evidence for the use of marine and terrestrial animal resources; they argue convincingly that the site documents a time when the face of the region's population was undergoing a fundamental shift, associated with a changing economic subsistence base. Physical anthropologists and archaeologists have argued for years over the timeline, the manner and the very nature of Southeast Asian population history, and this book is essential reading in this debate. Two supporting appendices describe the individual remains in detail.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-23-6
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Contributors (alphabetical order)
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Marc F. Oxenham, Hirofumi Matsumura and Nguyen Kim Dung
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  6. 1 Introduction: Man Bac Biological Research Objectives
    (pp. 1-8)
    Hirofumi Matsumura and Marc F. Oxenham

    The principle aim of this volume is the examination and elucidation of the human biology of the Man Bac cemetery population and associated faunal assemblages, in order to reveal the micro-evolutionary history, palaeohealth, local palaeoenvironmental conditions, subsistence strategies and general life-ways of this ancient community. Building on previous Man Bac research we wish to provide a wealth of new information about population history, colonisation, diet, nutrition, adaptive shifts, and specific and general aspects of health in the current volume.

    Quantitative and qualitative cranio-dental analyses will speak to a complex population history involving both migration and in situ development. Ancient mitochondrial...

  7. 2 The Demographic Profile of the Man Bac Cemetery Sample
    (pp. 9-20)
    Kate M. Domett and Marc F. Oxenham

    The chief aims of this chapter are to describe the Man Bac human skeletal sample in terms of its sex and age-at-death distributions. Moreover, the preservation of the sample will be discussed in the context of a demographic reconstruction of the past population, which will include a range of measures of fertility. Inferences regarding the demographic ‘health’ of the population will be made with reference to major social and behavioural changes seen in the region some 3,500 years ago.

    Over the course of three excavations undertaken from 2004/5 to 2007 at Man Bac, 84 individuals with a range of skeletal...

  8. 3 Quantitative Cranio-Morphology at Man Bac
    (pp. 21-32)
    Hirofumi Matsumura

    The aim of this chapter is to quantitatively assess cranial morphology of the Man Bac assemblage and explore any evidence for biological relationships between Man Bac and surrounding populations dating from prehistoric through to more recent times. An assessment of the morphometric affinities presented here addresses the issue of the origin of this group of neolithic people in northern Vietnam.

    Of the human remains excavated from Man Bac between 1999 and 2007, comprehensive sets of cranial and mandibular measurements were available for 17 adult males and 13 females. A maximum of 32 measurements, and five indices, were recorded for each...

  9. 4 Qualitative Cranio-Morphology at Man Bac
    (pp. 33-42)
    Yukio Dodo

    Cranial nonmetric traits are widely accepted to be effective for reconstructing population histories, not only within limited regions but also globally (Ossenberg, 1986, 1994; Dodo and Ishida, 1990; Dodo and Kawakubo, 2002; Hanihara et al., 2003; Dodo and Sawada, 2010). In this chapter, the occurrence of cranial nonmetric traits is assessed for the Man Bac series, and the origins and affinities of the Man Bac people are discussed in the context of local and regional populations in East and Southeast Asia.

    The presence/absence of 22 nonmetric traits was examined for 33 adult and near-adult crania from the Man Bac site:...

  10. 5 Quantitative and Qualitative Dental-Morphology at Man Bac
    (pp. 43-64)
    Hirofumi Matsumura

    The aim of this chapter is to explore the local population history of northern Vietnam, specifically the relationship between the Man Bac sample and mid-Holocene Da But (represented by the cemetery site Con Co Ngua) and late Pleistocene/early Holocene Bac Son/Hoabinhian communities. Additionally, any potential relationship with Metal period Dong Son and present-day Vietnamese is explored. Moreover, this study will also provide a test of the “Two-layer” hypothesis. For nearly a century it has been argued that Southeast Asia was initially settled by people akin to present-day Australo-Melanesians that, in the later neolithic, underwent substantial genetic modification due tothe influx...

  11. 6 Quantitative Limb Bone-Morphology at Man Bac
    (pp. 65-76)
    Hirofumi Matsumura, Wataru Takigawa, Nguyen Kim Thuy and Nguyen Anh Tuan

    The aim of this chapter is to: (1) morphometrically describe the Man Bac adult infracranial remains, essentially the major long bones; (2) estimate sex specific stature in the series; and (3) compare the relative level of Man Bac infracranial robusticity with other samples in the region. It is hoped this analysis will contribute to a better understanding of generalised behaviours the Man Bac community may have been engaged in.

    The long bone sample for this study derives from the 2005 and 2007 excavation seasons. Measurements, left side only or right if missing, were taken for the humerus, radius, ulna, femur,...

  12. 7 Palaeohealth at Man Bac
    (pp. 77-94)
    Marc F. Oxenham and Kate M. Domett

    The purpose of this chapter is to review the evidence of adult and subadult health for individuals recovered from the Man Bac site during the 2005 and 2007 excavation seasons. A fuller appreciation of the inhabitants of Man Bac can only be realised through an examination of the nature and patterning of health markers in the context of other bio-variables such as preservation, demographic profile, stature, diet and genetic relationships with contemporaneous, previous and later populations in the region. To this end, the health profile of the Man Bac inhabitants has been developed towards the end of this monograph.


  13. 8 Mitochondrial DNA of Human Remains at Man Bac
    (pp. 95-104)
    Ken-ichi Shinoda

    Up until as recently as twenty years ago the genetic affinities, including intra and inter-sample comparisons, of skeletal remains in archaeological contexts was the domain of morphologists, using a suite of metric and non-metric skeletal characteristics believed to have an underlying genetic basis. Studies of the genes themselves were restricted to explorations of genetic variation, amongst contemporary, or living, human populations with subsequent inferences about their past evolutionary history (Ingman et al., 2000; Forster, 2004). While the latter approach has provided a panoramic, broad-stroke picture of our evolutionary past, such straightforward retrospective projections of the modern genetic composition and distribution...

  14. 9 Faunal Remains at Man Bac
    (pp. 105-116)
    Junmei Sawada, Nguyen Kim Thuy and Nguyen Anh Tuan

    This chapter describes the zooarchaeological findings from an analysis of the mammalian remains from Man Bac. Several hundred vertebrate remains were recovered during the excavations of Man Bac between 2005 and 2007. Mammalian and fish bones formed the main component of the recovered vertebrate assemblage. These animal bones provide primary information for an understanding of the subsistence behaviours of the Man Bac community during the neolithic and of the palaeoenvironment of the coastal plain where Man Bac is situated.

    Previous studies have examined the past mammalian fauna of northern Vietnam (Vu, 1981, 1984; Vu and Nguyen, 1988; Nguyen and Vu,...

  15. 10 Fish Remains at Man Bac
    (pp. 117-126)
    Takeji Toizumi, Nguyen Kim Thuy and Junmei Sawada

    Many fish remains were recovered from excavations at Man Bac during the 2005 and 2007 seasons. This chapter focuses on the identification of fish remains recovered in the 2004-5 season, with some general observations made on the 2007 assemblage. In addition, a discussion of the aquatic palaeoenvironment surrounding the site and the fishing activities of its inhabitants is outlined here. The analysis was carried out at the Institute of Archaeology, Hanoi in 2008. The elements considered for identification were maxillaries, premaxillaries, dentaries, angulars, quadrates, vertebrae and other identifiable elements. These specimens were identified through comparison with skeletal specimens of modern...

  16. 11 Man Bac: Regional, Cultural and Temporal Context
    (pp. 127-134)
    Marc F. Oxenham and Hirofumi Matsumura

    One of the most important issues facing us is the interpretation of Man Bac and its placement in a cultural and temporal context. The archaeological context of Man Bac places it firmly within a cultural complex identified as the Phung Nguyen, dated to around 1,800-1,400 BCE (Nguyen et al. 2004). In recent years, this cultural complex has been referred to as either Late neolithic or earliest Bronze Age (Nguyen et al. 2004, Oxenham et al. 2008). The term ‘neolithic’ has been traditionally used in Southeast Asia to characterise communities with presumed or proven agriculture and pottery, but without metal (Bellwood,...

  17. Appendix 1 Man Bac Burial Descriptions
    (pp. 135-168)
    Damien G. Huffer and Trinh Hoang Hiep
  18. Appendix 2 The Man Bac Burial Pottery – An Illustrated Corpus of the Whole Vessels from the Burials in Cultural Unit III.
    (pp. 169-186)
    Nguyen Kim Dung, Mariko Yamagata, Shinya Watanabe and Peter Bellwood
  19. Appendix 3 Individual Descriptions of Human Skeletal Remains at Man Bac: 2005 and 2007 Series
    (pp. 187-231)
    Hirofumi Matsumura, Nguyen Lan Cuong and Damien G. Huffer