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“………..structures of this kind are hidden away securely under the thick overgrowth: thus does nature preserve what man would surely destroy” (from Sumet Jumsai, 1970)

We investigate the geometry, age, and history of several enigmatic northern Thailand earthwork entrenchments that are mostly located on hills and could not have held water to form moats. The earthworks are either oval or rectangular in map view; and they typically encircle 0.3-to-1-km2 areas that do not have potsherd debris indicative of former towns. Most trenches are 3-5 m deep with inner walls 4.5-8 m high. Some encircling earthworks are concentric double trenches spaced approximately 10 m apart. Historians have suggested these earthworks enclosed defensible areas where people in outlying villages sought refuge when under attack by neighboring rulers, the Chinese Ho, or the Burmese. We believe that some encircling entrenchments may have been for the capture or containment of elephants. Nearly all of the once near-vertical original walls have degraded to slopes of 32-47°. Fitting calculated curves of the diffusion-based scarp-degradation model to our height-slope data, and assuming most scarps have degraded since the end of La Na Kingdom time A.D. 1558. We derive a diffusion coefficient of 0.002 m2 y-1. Slopes of the rectangular earthwork at Souvannkhomkham, Laos, across the Mekong River from Chiang Saen Noi, are significantly more degraded (approximately 32°), indicating an age of 800-1200 years. Locations of these earthworks are established in hope that they will be preserved as part of the Thai and Lao archaeological legacy.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Journal of Field Archaeology, published by Maney Publishing. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1080/00934690.2015.1103645