In this paper, I shall discuss the issue of the Iron Age in Southeast Asia under two headings - mainland Southeast Asia and island Southeast Asia. On the mainland, I shall discuss the evidence from Vietnani, Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia, but exclude Burma, Laos and Kampuchea for lack of relevant data. In the islands, I will discuss Indonesia, Sabah, Sarawak and the Philippines. I would argue that the Iron Age as a separate cultural entity is evident on the mainland, but in the islands there is no identifiable Bronze Age preceding the adoption of iron. By the Iron Age, I mean a period associated with iron artefacts, wet rice farming, brisk internal exchange and external trade and, in the lowland at least, a ranked society. This corresponds roughly to the General Period C of Bayard (1984b, 163, see also Higham and Kijngam 1984, 13-21). But two points should be made about this scheme:
This is a heuristic device, so all sites in Southeast Asia can not be easily fitted into it.
There is as yet no general agreement among scholars regarding the chronology of various periods.