Thung Tuk is the name of the ancient village discovered in the south of Kho Khao Island. It has proved an interesting archaeological site due to the eclectic nature of the items recovered from the area. More work needs to be done at Thung Tuk to try and accurately map the history of the area; until then we can only speculate about the region.
One theory is that Koh Kho Khao was an important staging post for very early waves of human immigration coming from mainland Asia south into southern Asia. Among these waves could be the present day Thais. The writer Krom Praya Damrong Racha Nuparb claims the Thais originated from "Untai" Mountain in China. The only evidence for this theory seems to be the word ‘Untai’ which contains the sound ‘Thai’.
No doubt China’s links to the region of Siam goes back a long way. Indeed Thailand has the largest population of ethnic Chinese outside of China. The site at Thung Tuk has uncovered a Tang Dynasty pottery. This does not prove the Thais came from China since human remains have been found in Thailand dating back to the Stone Age in Koh Samui.
Rather Thung Tuk became an important trading center. It was part of the Thai Silk Road that started on the Andaman coast and finished in modern day Suratthani. The overland route had the advantage of avoiding the dangerous Malacca Straits.
As sailing technology improved, Thung Tuk became more important as a port because it offered safe waters to moor a boat as it was sheltered. Thung Tuk (known to locals at the time as Muang Thong) flourished during the Ninth to Tenth centuries. It was a resting point for traders and a market for local products, such as spices, wild products and probably tin, and goods from China, India, the Middle East and the West. Artifacts discovered at Thung Tuk include domestic wares and beads, glass ware from the Middle East and areas by the Mediterranean, Chinese ceramics and porcelain of the Tang period of about 618-907AD, Basra turquoise wares from Persia and beads from the Middle East and India, including eye beads and gold beads. An impressive Ganesh statue has also been found at the site.
The excavation of Thung Tuk has also revealed that similar construction techniques as found in Bujang Valley in Malaysia were used. This could lead to speculation that the people of Malaysia came from the north via Koh Kho Khao.
Nearby at Khao Phra Neur in Takua Pa on the mainland a Vishnu statue has been unearthed, showing that people in the region worshipped Hindu gods. Close to the statue was found a stone with Tamil inscriptions.
After several centuries it seems that the Thai Silk Road and Thung Tuk declined. Archaeologists are unsure about the reason. Perhaps it was that people started using the Malacca Straits or that the Chinese closed door policy ended the route. Another theory is that Chola invaders sacked the ports.
The breaking off of the strong cultural ties with India may have been as a result of the spread of Buddhism in the area.
The fascinating story of the Thai Silk Road makes Thung Tuk and Koh Kho Khao important in the history of Thailand, and a campaign has been mounted to make areas along the route World Heritage sites.