An Ethnoarchaeological Study on Salt-Fermented Fish in the Upper Mun River Valley, Northeast Thailand


  • Andrea Yankowski Independent Researcher, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • Dr. Nigel Chang James Cook University, Australia
  • Puangtip Kerdsap Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand



Fermented fish, salt, ethnoarchaeologyfoodways, Northeast Thailand


Salt-fermented fish is a staple food item in the traditional diets of Northeast Thailand. Rural households make fermented fish by using local salt resources to preserve seasonal fish supplies, allowing them to ferment and store surplus fish for the dry season. Evidence suggests that this food preservation strategy predates modern dietary practices, and was important in the prehistoric foodways of Northeast Thailand. Using ethnoarchaeological methods, we examine and compare contemporary fermented-fish production, which relies heavily on locally made salt, with archaeological data for these same prehistoric food items and industries. Ethnographic data is compared to archaeological data from the site of Ban Non Wat and the greater Upper Mun River Valley of Northeast Thailand during the Iron Age, which demonstrates a significant increase in the procurement and production of fish and salt resources, and rice cultivation, during the 1st millennium AD. It was also a period of significant social and environmental change, with a marked climatic shift towards distinct wet and dry seasons favoring the exploitation of and reliance on seasonal supplies of fish and salt, as is done today. From this evidence, we establish a correlation between ancient and modern fish and salt production, procurement, preparation, preservation, and consumption practices.

Author Biographies

Andrea Yankowski, Independent Researcher, Berkeley, CA, USA

Andrea Yankowski is an anthropologist/archaeologist based in Berkeley, CA. Her current research interests include ethnoarchaeology, traditional salt production, traditional foodways, earthenware petrography, and Southeast Asian prehistory

Dr. Nigel Chang, James Cook University, Australia

Dr. Nigel Chang works predominantly in Southeast Asian archaeology. His research interests include early mining and metallurgy and, more broadly, the interconnections and identities of communities through the Neolithic and Metal Ages. He works with stakeholder communities for whom archaeology and heritage is a part of their identity, and which provides a focus for bringing together students with others from different cultures and backgrounds.

Puangtip Kerdsap, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand

Puangtip Kerdsap specializes in contemporary Thai-Chinese cultures. She is interested in the everydayness of the prehistoric, such as spinning equipment (spindle whorls and fibres) and foodways (salt making and fish fermentation).


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How to Cite

Yankowski, A., Chang, D. N., & Kerdsap, P. (2023). An Ethnoarchaeological Study on Salt-Fermented Fish in the Upper Mun River Valley, Northeast Thailand . Archaeology of Food and Foodways, 1(2), 178–198.



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