Science: Hidden Treasures at a Dead End

Ban Chiang finds point to a mysterious cradle of civilization

On a hot day in July 1966, Stephen Young was walking through the village of Ban Chiang in northeastern Thailand when he tripped across history. "I stumbled over the root of a kapok tree and ended up spread-eagle in the dirt, and under my face was the rim of a pot," recalls Young, who was then a 20-year-old Harvard student spending the summer researching a political-science thesis.

Once on his feet, he saw that the sloping path was studded with broken pots. Examining some of the fragments, Young, who is now dean of...

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