Hoabinhian Hunter Gatherers of South Asia

The Hoabinhian Period is the name given to that part of Southeast Asian prehistory from about 13,000 to 3000 BC. Archaeological evidence at sites such as Spirit Cave (Thailand) and Cai Beo (Vietnam) reveal that people lived in caves, at open air sites, or along coastal locations as hunter-gatherers and fishers. Coastal Hoabinhian sites often have large shell middens.

Lifeways of the Hoabinhian

Animal bones recovered from Hoabinhian sites include primarily wild pigs and deer.

Plant remains from Spirit Cave have included almond, bamboo, and gourd. No evidence for domesticated millet or rice has been found at Hoabinhian sites to date.

Hoabinhian stone tools were made from pebbles, and include ground stone axes, grindstones and a dominant stone flake industry. Bone points and spatulas carved from animal bone are also known. In the later Hoabinhian period (argued to be about 5000 BC) sites are also found with potsherds, impressed with vines, mats, or cords.

Hoabinhian burials are generally flexed or contracted; they are often covered with hematite, a common trait of hunter-gatherers just about everywhere.

Hoabinhian Archaeological Sites

Tögi Ndrawa (Sumatra), Spirit Cave and Banyan Valley Cave(Thailand), Cai Beo (Vietnam), Tam Hang (Laos.


Bellwood, Peter. 1996. Hoabinhian. In Brian Fagan (ed). 1996. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Gorman, Chester. 1969. Hoabinhian: A Pebble-Tool Complex with Early Plant Associations in Southeast Asia. Science 163(3868):671-673.

Harvick, Ben. 2006. A Methodological Study of Technological Attributes in Hoabinhian Lithic Assemblages. In Social, Cultural and Environmental Dynamics in the Highlands of Pangmapha, Mae Hong Son Province: Integrated Archaeological Research into the Region Rasmi Shoocongdej, ed.

Australian National University.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.