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History of Thailand Page 1

History of Thailand


Thailand means "land of the free", and throughout the country's 800-year history, the Thai people can boast the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonised.

Formally known as Siam to foreigners who first came to this region as early as the 12th century, the country's name was changed to Thailand with the arrival of a democratic government in 1939.

Long before the emergence of what is conventionally called the Thai kingdom during the 12th Century, the area known as the chao Phraya valley was inhabited by ancient civilisations that can be traced back to prehistoric times.


The Prehistoric Era


By far the most important archaeological discoveries confirming these ancient people were made in the tiny village of Ban Chiang near Udon Thani in the northeast. Systematic excavation of Ban Chiang began only two decades ago, revealing painted pottery, jewelry, bronze and iron tools. Settlement began about 3600 B.C. and lasted until about 250 B.C. The Ban Chiang people farmed rice, domesticated their animals, and were skilled potters.


But even before human beings roamed the northeastern plateau, the region was once home to a more ancient species of animal - the dinosaur (see picture). In 1984, fossils from plant-eating dinosaurs were found in Phu Wiang province, and was named Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae, while a more recent fossil discovery unearthed the Siamotyrannus isanensis, a fierce meat-eating ancestor of the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex.


Over the centuries, the area was influenced by various cultures, from the Indians in the 3rd Century, the Mons between the 6th to the 11th centuries, and the Khmer's who built the wondrous Angkor Wat and who left their legacy in the form of numerous stone sanctuaries scattered across the Thai kingdom. Thailand's dominant culture is believed to have arrived with tribes who moved down from southern China almost a thousand years ago. They settled in what is now northern Thailand before expanding south to the rich plains and valleys, gradually asserting their independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms.



History of Thailand Page 2 Getting Around in Thailand, Private Cars, Taxis, Buses