In February 2000 the site was subjected to clandestine excavations, promptly interrupted by the local district authorities. In March 2000, the Faculty of Archaeology was required to carry out scientific excavations in order to establish the nature and date of the accidentally discovered burials, the size of the site, and to assist the freshly established “Assembly for the conservation of archaeological sites and natural resources of the Huai Khun Ram sub-district” through a development program of the Ban Pong Manao site in a local education centre and museum. The archaeological investigations carried out from 2001 to 2004 ascertained that the graveyard extended well beyond the looted area. Most graves were richly furnished with vases of burnished red ware, beakers, rings, earrings, bracelets and anklets of bronze, necklaces of carnelian, agate and glass beads, iron tools, bimetallic and iron weapons. As for the date of the graveyard (ca. 6 ha), a time span in the first 500 years CE (late Iron Age) was proposed.
At Pong Manao LoRAP’s specialists investigated (2004) different areas along the presumed limits of the graveyard, with the aim to locate habitation evidences that might be related to the graveyard. Such a task was rather important for us as, in the past, little attention was paid to evidences of habitation activities, often rather poor in comparison to the richness of the graves. Therefore, many aspects of the prehistoric villagers everyday life are little known, e.g. the spatial organization of the settlement.
The LoRAP team investigated three excavation units: Trench 5 and 6 (3 x 2 m, and 2 x 5 m) to the east of the ones where Natapintu had found 13 tightly clustered burials, and Trench 7 (5 x 5,5 m) to the North of the river terrace.
In the Trenches 5-6 two compacted levels of discarded materials (30-50 cm thick) were found, consisting of potshards, fragments of bronze and glass bracelets, handles made of bone/antler, iron tools, fragmented cattle, pig, and deer bones, snails, freshwater fishes and clams. This evidence represent dumps associated to habitation areas contemporary to the graveyard, as suggested by the typology of the pottery shards as well as by fragments of bronze bracelets, finely decorated with concentric circles, spirals and/or nipples motifs, comparable to the entire ones laid in the graves (Fig. 2).
This layer of waste materials has sealed and been cut from several generations of fairly spaced post holes that testify to different stages of houses on stilts (Fig. 3). On the northern edge of the dump in Trench 6 the remains of an infant buried in a large jar were also excavated (Fig. 4). According to the stratigraphic position of the burial and to the typology of the container, it should be considered contemporary to the dump and to the adult burials.