Asian Section Research at the Penn Museum

Thailand Archaeometallurgy Project (TAP) excavated Southeast Asian’s only currently known prehistoric copper mine at Phu Lon on the Mekong River in northeast Thailand.


Phu Lon is located on the Thai side (southern bank) of the Mekong River just west of Vientiane, the capital city of Laos (northern bank). The Khao Wong Prachan Valley is located just north of the city of Lopburi in central Thailand.


TAP is focused on the period from the late 3rd millennium BCE to the early centuries of the 1st millennium CE.


  • Dr. Vincent C. Pigott , Co-Director, Penn Museum Research Associate and Honorary Visiting Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London
  • Surapol Natapintu, Co-Director, Dept. of Archaeology, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Prof. Judy Voelker, Co-PI, Northern Kentucky University

Project Overview

Additionally, TAP excavated and continues to conduct active research on Southeast Asia’s only known major regional prehistoric copper production center in the Khao Wong Prachan Valley of central Thailand. The sites of Non Pa Wai, Nil Kham Haeng and Non Mak La were the focus on TAP research in the Valley.

The Thailand Archaeometallurgy Project, a collaboration between the Thai Fine Arts Department and the Penn Museum, began in 1984 with a site survey in northeast Thailand. In part, TAP was designed to follow up on the remarkable discovery of early bronze at Ban Chiang . The survey resulted in the excavation (1985) of a prehistoric copper mine at Phu Lon (ca. 1000 BCE) which may have been supplying sites in the Ban Chiang vicinity. From 1986-1994 TAP excavated in central Thailand at the sites of Non Pa Wai and Nil Kham Haeng (mid-2nd millennium BCE - early 1st millennium CE) - among the largest copper smelting settlements known in Eurasia, as well as a major contemporaneous settlement at Non Mak La.

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