Update: 2013-02-17 02:37 AM +0630


Prehistory of Myanmarpré: 2


A collection by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA), and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL  Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , http://www.softguide.net.mm , www.romabama.blogspot.com

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Note: Since this is a collection, the reader may find discrepancies amongst the various sources.

Physical Geography of Southeast Asia - by Avijit Gupta, Physical Geography of Southeast Asia, Oxford Univ. Press, 2005,

  Geological Framework
  Landforms of Southeast Asia

Early history of Burma - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_history_of_Burma 080915
Irrawaddy River Valley (Burma) or Dry Zone - Peregrine and Ember, Encyclopedia of Prehistory , 2001.
Pyu city-states - Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyu 080945
Creation of enduring patterns in the Pyu period - by Janice Stargardt 
Origin of Pagan - by Bob Hudson
What's in a name? {pu.gän} and {pu.thaim} - by UKT
Pagan and Early Burma - by Tilman Frasch
  Art and architecture
  Historical research on Pagan

Stargardt fn • no fn by Frasch

List of authors

Important facts
the later Pyu spoke a Tibeto-Burman language (in Irrawaddy River Valley)

UKT notes

Contents of this page

Physical Geography of Southeast Asia

UKT: 130107 . The following map does not show the positions of both Mt. Popa, 20.92°N. 95.25°E., and Mt. Victoria, 21.23°N 9390°E.


Pushing into the history of Myanmarpré as far back as possible, I have landed myself in the geological ages when presumably there were no humans as we know of them today. The following is from Physical Geography of Southeast Asia edited by Avijit Gupta, Oxford Univ. Press, 2005, ISBN 0199248028, 9780199248025, 440 pages


From: http://books.google.ca/books?Physical+geography+of+Southeast+Asia  080922

Note: Since, Ma = million years ago, the time frame of formation of what we now know as Myanmar is 1 to 100 million years ago - roughly the Cenozoic. (to check with Myanmar geologists.)

To appreciate the maps given, I always refer to the latitude 20°N where find the most prominent landmark of the region, Mount Popa, 20.92°N 95.25°E, summit elevation 4,980 feet (1518 m). It is an extinct volcano, which according to local legends last erupted in 442 BC. -- info from: http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=0705-08- (download 080923).
   The nearest major town to Mt. Popa is Meiktila 20°53'N, 95°53' E. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiktila 080923). You may also use its coordinates instead of those of Mt. Popa in studying the maps.

Contents of this page

Chapter 1. The Geological Framework by Charles S. Hutchison

General Plate Tectonics, p.003:

The Indo-Australian Plate is converging at an average rate of 70 mm a-1 in a 003° direction, pushed from the active South Indian Ocean spreading axis. For the most part, it is composed of the Indian Ocean, formed of oceanic sea-floor basalt overlain by deep water. It forms a convergent plate margin with the continental Eurasian Plate, beneath which it subducts at the Sunda or Java Trench.

The Eurasian continental plate protrudes as a peninsular extension (Sundaland) southwards as far as Singapore, continuing beneath the shallow Straits of Malaca and the Sunda Shelf as the island of Sumatra and the northwestern part of Borneo (Figure 1.1 - UKT: I have taken the part related to Myanmar, the reader is adviced to consult the original map.)

Indian Ocean, p.003: Based on magnetic anomaly identification, calibrated by drill site data, three distinct episodes of sea-floor spreading can be discerned (Curry et al. 1982).

1. Anomalies M10 to M25 (Neocomian-Oxfordian) have been identified (Heirtzler et.a. 1978) in the Argo Abyssal Plain, beneath the Sunda (Java) Trench and western Australia (Fig.1.3. UKT: I have left out this figure because it is not relevant to Myanmar). ... [{p003end - p007begin}]

2. The spreading pattern was completely reorganized between magnetic anomalies M0 and 34, which is the Cretaceous magnetic quiet period (110-80 Ma ago). From anomaly 34 to 19 (84-44 Ma ago) India made its spectacular rapid northwards flight with rates of 15 to 17 cm a-1: the anomalies are aligned east-west, offset by major north-south transform faults. One of the faults is the Investigator Ridge; others lie close to and parallel to the Ninety-East Ridge.

 The prominent Nine-East Ridge is the trace of a single mantle hotspot, which now lies under the Kerguelen Plateau in the south Indian Ocean. The furthest end of it is the Rajmahal Traps, 200 km north-northwest of Calcutta, where the basalt has an age of 105 Ma. The average rate of relative motion of the hotspot trace was about 11 cm a-1 (Curray et. al. 1982).

3. Around magnetic anomaly 19 time (44 Ma ago), spreading completely ceased at the Wharton Ridge in the northern Indian Ocean (Curray and Munasinghe 1989). This striking event in Southeast Asia coincides with the prominent widespread unconformity within the Bengal Fan and with the unconformable continental beginning of many Southeast Asian Cenozoic basins (e.g. Central Sumatra.) ...

Bengal and Nicobar Fans, p007:


 The Bay of Bengal contains the largest subaerial delta in the world, the Ganga-Brahmaputra [UKT: roughly the area of present day Bangladesh], filling the Bengal Basin, grading outwards into the Bay of Bengal and  Nicobar Deep Sea Fans, the largest turbidity complex in the world. ... Most of the fan sediments have been derived by erosion of the Himalaya Mountains and transported by the two great rivers.

Active Plate Margins, p007: A nearly continuous arc-trench convergent plate margin extends throughout the region. The correct terminology of the direction is that an observer, standing on the volcanic arc and facing the related trench, has the fore-arc in front of him and the back-arc behind. Fore-arc sedimentary basins lie between the volcanic arc and the accretionary prism. All the deep marginal basins and the oil- and gas-producing sedimentary basins, characterized by shallow-water sediments, lie in the back-arc. Hence the term 'back-arc basin' is of such diversity as to be useless for the petroleum industry [Hutchison 1996b]. In Myanmar the plate margin has been uplifted to form the Indo-Burman Ranges because of the collision of India to the west and the volcanic arc [{p007end}] through Mount Popa is extinct. However, an active plate margin continues southwards west of the Andaman Sea, west of Sumatra, and south of Java, curving northwards in the Banda Sea (Figure 1.4). ...

Myanmar, p009: Cratonic India began its collision with Asia around 50 Ma ago and rotated anticlockwise to cause a major indentation at the Assam-Yunnan syntaxis. Subduction was converted to collision, and the acretionary prism active along the length of Sumatra was strongly uplifted to form the Indo-Burman Ranges, immediately west of which Precambrian India outcrops in the Shillong Plateau and Mikir Hills of Assam (Fig.1.5). Accretionary prism and trenches (subduction systems) are known to be regions of low geothermal gradient. Accordingly an uplifted and eroding accretionary prism should contain outcrops of glaucophane shist (low-temperature-high-pressure metamorphism) and they have been described from several locations in the Naga Hills (Hutchison 1989). Discontinuous bodies of ophiolite, representing dismembered oceanic basement, also occur along the eastern margin of the ranges. The Indo-Burman Ranges accordingly have all the characteristics of a suture, or uplifted plate margin, formed between India and the Burma Plate (Hutchison 1975).

UKT: Fig.1.5. shows the presence of two north-south troughs in Myanmar through which the Chindwin and Irrawaddy rivers flows. Originally, the Irrawaddy flowed due south and became the Sittang and emptied into the Gulf of Martaban. However, at one time, the land rose about the area north of Pyinmana due to which the Irrawaddy turned west and combines with Chindwin, and finally empties into the sea forming a large delta. From the area north of Pyinmana, a relatively small stream known as the Samoan flows northwards and empties into the Irrawaddy near Mandalay. The Sittang, now reduced to a minor river continues to flow southwards and empties into the Gulf of Martaban. (These statements of mine still to be checked my peers.)

The volcanic rocks lie on three distinct lines (Chhibber 1934; Stephenson and Marshall 1984). The Western Line, through Narcondam and Barren Islands is tholeitic and still active. The Central Line, through Mount Popa [UKT: Mount Popa, 20°52'N 95°14'E, is the most prominent landmark], is calc-alkaline and high-K calc-alkaline and extinct in the Pleistoncene. The volcanoes of this line are subduction-related and the Benioff zone was easterly dipping. An Eastern Line, through Thaton and Madaw Island, is alkaline and probably related to continental rifting in the back-arc area related to the Sagaing-Namyin Fault system. A broad zone of earthquakes, wedge-shaped in east-west cross-section, extends eastwards from the western margin of the Indo-Burman Ranges, but there is no longer any well-defined Benioff zone. A formerly eastwardly dipping is inferred because the earthquakes become deeper eastwards.

Note: The above Gupta-fig3-4-w500.gif, w.500xht.905 - needs editing. -- UKT130216

The Burma or West Burma Plate is bounded on the west by the Indo-Burman Ranges suture, and on the east by the Sagaing right-lateral wrench fault, beyond which the terrain of the Shan Highlands belongs to the Sinoburmalaya or Sibumasu Plate, a northward continuation of western Thailand, western Penninsular Malaysia, and part Sumatra. Most of the Burma Plate is covered by Cenozoic strata, deposited in basins formed in the fore-arc (the Interdeep or Western Trough) and the back-arc (the Back Deep or Eastern Trough), but these terminologies are not useful because the collision of India on the west has caused a change from a convergent plate margin to a collison zone from the [{p009end-p011begin}] Eocene onwards. The sediments were from the proto-Irrawaddy River, confined to a southerly course towards the sea in the Gulf of Martaban, where the strata contain significant productive gas deposits.

Contents of this page

Chapter 3. Landforms of Southeast Asia by Avijit Gupta

Introduction, p038 : ... This assemblage of landforms has resulted from a combination of plate tectonics, Pleistocene history, Holocene geomorphic processes, and anthropogenic modifications of the landscape. Most of the world has been shaped by such a combination, but unlike the rest of the world, in Southeast Asia all four are important. The conventional wisdom of a primarily climate-driven tropical geomorphology is untenable here. The first two factors, plate tectonics and the Pleistocene history, have been discussed in Chapters 1 and 2 respectively. In the Holocene, Southeast Asia has been affected by the following phenomena:
• The sea rose to its present level several thousand years ago
• The present natural vegetation, a major part of which includes a set of rainforest formations, achieved its distribution
• A hot and humid climate became the norm, except in the high altitudes and the extreme northern parts.
• The dual monsoon systems blowing from the northeast hemispheric winter [UKT: {mrauk-lé} which is dry making the trees shed their leaves] and from the southwest in the summer (and in general producing a large volume of precipitation) [UKT: {taung-lé} which brings in heavy rains - the rice growing season in the Irrawaddy delta] became strongly developed.
• Countries away from the equator (Myanmar, VietNam, and the Philippines) became prone to tropical storms, which could reach hurricane force.
• Anthropogenic alteration of vegetation, slopes, and river systems intensified over the last 200 years.

UKT: The last two generalizations do not appear accurate in case of Myanmar because A. Gupta did not take into account the mountain ranges and highlands to the east of Myanmar.

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Early History of Burma

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_history_of_Burma 080915
Note accompanying: This article does not cite any references or sources.
Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and removed. (May 2008)

Humans lived in the region that is now Myanmar as early as 11,000 years ago, but archeological evidence dates the first settlements at about 2500 BC with cattle rearing and the production of bronze. By about 1500 BC, ironworks were in existence in the Irrawaddy Valley but cities, and the emergence of city states, probably did not occur till the early years of the Christian era when advances in irrigation systems and the building of canals allowed for year long agriculture and the consolidation of settlements. (fn01).

Little is known about life in early Burma but there is evidence that land and sea traders from China and India passed by and left their mark on the region and the local people traded ivory, precious stones, gold and silver, rhinoceros horns, and horses with these traders. Roman envoys from Alexandria also passed through the Irrawaddy valley in A.D. 79 en-route to China. Second century Burmese sea-farers, trading with Southern India across the Bay of Bengal, are thought to have brought Buddhism to Burma in the 2nd Century C.E. and by the 4th Century, much of the Irrawaddy Valley was Buddhist including the then dominant city-state, Prome (modern Pyay). (fn01).

Oral traditions
While little is known about the early people of Burma, the Mon were the first of the modern ethnic groups to migrate into the region, starting around 1500 BC. Oral tradition suggests that they had contact with Buddhism via seafaring as early as the 3rd century BC, though definitely by the 2nd century BC when they received an envoy of monks from Ashoka. Much of the Mon's written records have been destroyed through wars. The Mons blended Indian and Mon cultures together in a hybrid of the two civilisations. By the mid-9th century, they had come to dominate all of southern Myanmar. From that time, Northern Burma was a group of city-states in a loose coalition. The 'King' of each city-state would change allegiance as he saw fit, so throughout history, much of the Shan-Tai north has been part of the Tai countries of Nan Zhao (now Yunnan and GuangXi, China), SipSong Panna, Lanna (Chiangmai in Thailand - Siam), Ayuttaya (old capital of Siam) and even affiliated with Laos.

Wikipedia References
early-fn01. Myint-U, Thant (2006), The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma, New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, p. 45, ISBN 0-374-16342-1 
Go back early-fn01b | early-fn01b2

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Irrawaddy River Valley (Burma) or Dry Zone

From Encyclopedia of Prehistory by P. N. Peregrine and M. Ember, Human Relations Area Files, inc., published by Springer, 2001, ISBN 0306462575, 9780306462573. p181-186 http://books.google.ca/Pyu+kings+of+Burma 080927

Time Period: 2200-1500 B.P.
[UKT: B.P. means "Before Present", where the year 1950 is used as the "present."
-- http://nemo.sciencecourseware.org/VirtualDating/files/RC_3.html 080927]

Location: The "Pyu" tradition covers a 400-km long region in central Burma that surrounds the Irrawaddy, Chindwin, and Mu rivers. The area stretches from Halin (in the dry zone of Upper Burma) to Winka (in the far south), then probably on the Gulf of Martaban. Like the Khorat plateau/northwest Cambodia tradition for this period, the Dry Zone is located inland from the modern (and ancient) coast of Burma.

Diagnostic material attributes: Mortuary customs of grouped urn burials in brick or earthen mounds; brick/stone/terracotta plaques inscribed with Pyu script; Pyu silver coins; sculptural traditions (that probably postdate 1500 B.P.), and brick masonary walls around sites. For summaries of the region and period, see Aung Thaw (1972), Aung-Thwin (1982-83, and Stargart (1990).

Cultural Summary

We know nearly as much about developments in the dry zone c. 2500-1500 B.P. from documentary records (Chinese annals, indigenous inscriptions and Burmese chronicles) as we do from archeological investigations (Aung-Thwin 1982-83; Luce 1932, 1980; Stargart 1990). Both sources, however, emphasize developments after 1500 B.P., and something of a gap exists between the end of the prehistoric period (c. 2500 B.P.) and the establishment of patterns associated with the later historic period (post-1500 B.P.). By 1700 B.P., Chinese annals describe the Pyus as one tribe that lived along the Burmese border, and accounts written c. 1200 B.P. provide much more detail on the location and traditions of these groups (e.g. Luce 1980; Wheatley 1983). Indigenous inscriptions in the Pyu language provide another line of evidence; these inscriptions are found on burial urns and on gold plates and may date as early as 1400 B.P.

Aung Thaw (1972) has summarized archeological research on the Pyu; this research consists largely of work by the Archaeological Survey of India and of Burma from the early 1900s through the late 1960s (see also Stargardt 1990: 382-384). Work has concentrated on architectural and sculptural remains, rather than on subsistence and sociopolitical organization. Most excavations have focused on areas within, rather than around, a handful of walled sites. Radiocarbon dates from these sites suggests that the Pyu period began between 2400 and 2000 B.P. (a time that lacks documentary evidence) and continued until at least 1100 B.P. The site of Sriksetra, first occupied at the end of the period discussed in this entry, is viewed as the embodiment of Pyu culture (Guy 1998, Stargardt 1990).


The topography of Burma shows an overall north-south trend in the folding pattern of hills, mountains and rivers, will hill country in eastern Burma. The central portion of Burma consists of a structural depression that the Irrawaddy and Sittang rives have [{p181end}] . p182 is not given in the review. [{p183 begin}].


Researchers generally assume that populations in the Dry Zone practiced irrigation agriculture for at least two reasons. the first is because Pyu sites are found in areas that today have inadequate rainfall for year-round farming (e.g. Stargardt 1990), and the second is because irrigation systems dating back into the pre-European period are found in this region today (van Liere 1985). Aung Thaw (1968:64), also suggested that the Pyu cultivated rice. Stargardt (1990) is emphatic in her assumption that the Pyu developed their hydraulic systems between c. 2300 B.P. and 1600 B.P. To date, however, no ground-truthing has been undertaken on these systems to collect samples for radiometric dating. Nor have tools associated with intensive agriculture (like plow fragments)been reported from excavations of Pyu sites.

Although no paleoethnobotanical research has yet been published that might shed light on Pyu cultigens, documentary sources (and the recovery of rice grains embedded in daub from sites that predate the Pyu like Taungthaman (Stargart 1990: Plate 3) suggest that irrigated rice cultivation formed the staple for Pyu diets by 2500 B.P. If rice cultivation formed the subsistence base by this time, then populations may have followed a subsistence regime seen in Thailand during this time: farming, fishing, and limited forms of animal husbandry.

It is possible that ironworking began at Taungthaman soon after 2600 B.P. (Stargardt 1990;38). Other industrial arts, including the manufacture of utilitarian goods like ceramics and textiles, may have been widespread. At Beikthano, Aung Thaw noted that "a considerable number of inhabitants were engaged in pottery and bead-making, weaving and producing metal objects of utility and ornaments (1968:64). He based this conclusion on the recovery of many earthenware and precious minerals (agate, amethyst, carnelian, jasper, quartz crystal), and various metal remains (especially iron, but also lead, gold, bronze, and copper). To date, however, no excavations have concentrated on areas that contain direct manufacturing evidence, like kilns, smelting installations, or even stockpiles of raw materials.

UKT: Whenever you encounter a conclusion with a word such as "to date" or "to the present", you are advised to look up for the date of writing of a text. This conclusion of the present paper, published in 2001, has been updated by the discovery of iron making kilns in areas around the original 19 villages of Pagan in 2002 -- see Bob Hudson and U Nyein Lwin, Old iron-producing furnaces in the eastern hinterland of Bagan, Myanmar - Field survey and initial excavation, 2002. http://acl.arts.usyd.edu.au/~hudson/furnaces.PDF 080915. See the downloaded paper: iron-Pagan.htm

Brick manufacture was clearly an important occupation in or around each Pyu settlement. The Pyu may have produced bricks in standardized sizes, and bricks from the sites of Beikthano and Sriksetra have marks stamped or scratched into their surfaces (e.g., Stargardt 1990: 290-295). In the Pagan period that followed, brick marks named the manufacturing villages that supplied bricks to the political center. The fact that Pyu brick structures contain bricks of varying composition and scratching supports a model in which some villages surrounding each center distributed some of their products to the regional center.

Stargardt (1990:250, 254-264) suggested that the Pyu made several types of ceramics locally in the Pyu region, and perhaps specialists worked in each major center. These types included vats, water pots, cooking pots, a variety of bowls, and lamps. The focus of research on "Pyu cities" has directed attention away from studying residential areas where such utilitarian materials would be recovered. Based on the restricted nature of artifacts recovered from sites like Beikthano (see special entry), it seems likely that most of the population lived in areas of the site that archaeologists have not yet excavated, or that most of he population lived in small settlements surrounding this political and ritual center.

As is true elsewhere in the region for this period, populations engaged in ornament manufacture and exchange (see also the Island Southeast Asia Late Prehistoric tradition, this volume). Earthenware beads and beads made of semiprecious stones (onyx, carnelian, quartz crystal, jasper and amber, and glass) were recovered from KKG17, which is an early Buddhist "monastery" (Stargardt 1990: 280-283). So, too, was a thin stone slab that may have served as a jewelry mold. Pyu populations used ornaments in mortuary rituals, and it is also likely that - as often happened across Thailand and Cambodia - populations interred preciosities at the base of new brick monuments that served as religious building. Insufficient work has thus far concentrated on excavating architectural remains to test this hypothesis.

Historians suggest that the Pyu participated in the "international" (India-Rome-China) trading network that linked polities throughout mainland Southeast Asia. Chinese documentary records describe Pyu coinage. Silver Pyu coins, found in and around archaeological sites as far east as the Mekong delta, may have been used for trade. Silver Pyu coins are characterized by their size and design: One common symbol on these coins is the rising sun, and others are the srivatsu (the shrine of sri) and the baddhapitha (or throne). The fact that coins are easily portable makes them problematic for dating, but they have been found in parts of Thailand and the Mekong delta at contemporary sites (see also Cribb 1981; Moore and Aung-Myint 1993; Wicks 1992). [{p183end}]

Mainland Southeast Asia

Other forms of archaeological evidence recovered from the Pyu sites, like earthenware ceramics, also suggest long-distance connections through their composition, vessel forms, and construction techniques. Archaeologists have recovered sherds of red polished ware, a ceramic form manufactured in northwestern India and Rome, from the site of Beikthano, which dates between 2100 and 1900 B.P. Excavations at Beikthano also produced rouletted ware sherds that resemble ceramics from the south Indian site of Arikamedu (see special entry). Nearly identical fine-bodied sherds of spouted vessels (kendi) have been found at contemporary settlements in the Mekong delta, central Vietnam, and Bali during this period (e.g., Ardika and Bellwood 1990; Ardika et al. 1993). The template (and less likely, the raw materials) of kendi vessels found in Pyu sites resemble such vessels found in most early historic period population centers in mainland Southeast Asia after c. 1600 B.P.

The recovery of carnelian and onyx beads from Beikthano (whose origin lies beyond Burma's contemporary boundaries) also suggests trade relations to the west. These beads may have South Asian origins, with parallels from Hastinapura and Brahmapuri. Archaelologists have also noted architectural parallels in religious shrines called stupas from Beikthano and stupas from Nagarjunakonda (south-central India); at Beikthano, these stupas date to c. 1800-2000 B.P. (Aung-Thaw 1968: 64-66).

No direct information is available on the mobilization of labor, or on the gendered division of labor. The documentation of massive brick architecture (particularly building and walls) and water control features suggests that labor was organized for public works. Stargardt (1990: 366) draws an ethnographic analogy from the Pagan and colonial periods to suggest the Pyu division of labor. In each of these periods, rural villages had work groups and local officials who coordinated their irrigation activities. Whether communal labor was voluntary or compulsory is unknown; also unknown is the role of religion in structuring the division of labor for public works.

One might assume that the presence of internally walled areas (which Aung Thaw calls "citadels" and "palaces") represents elite quarters. One might also assume that any polity with the power to marshal public labor for monumental construction (as is evident in the Pyu centers) would also have restricted access to valuable resources. The lack of associated mortuary remains with urn burials, however, and the lack of mortuary studies on Pyu materials precludes discussion of empirical support for these claims. Again, the emphasis on excavating areas of brick architecture skews the nature of evidenc that archaeologists have recovered.

Sociopolitical Organization

The site of Taungthaman, located just outside the former capital city of Amarapura, has been under archaelogical investigation since 1971. Taungthaman predates the Pyu sites and may have been occupied until  c. 2500 B.P. (based on thermoluminescence dates from burial pottery.) The recovery of 44 primary inhumations from Taungthaman provides some suggestion of social organization immediately before the period under study (see review in Stargardt 1990: 15-16). Individuals were interred singly, with varying arrays of grave goods; some burials had ceramic bowls, while others also had stone and clay beads, fishhooks, and metal tools. Although no mortuary analysis has yet been undertaken for these burials, the patterning suggests some degree of social stratification by 2500 B.P. and a collective tradition of community organization.

Inscriptions found at Pyu sites that postdate 1500 B.P. suggest that the later Pyu spoke a Tibeto-Burman language, belonging to the same family as Burmese, the dominant tongue. ¶UKT

UKT: This would show that the languages of Burmese and Pyu are closely related and are different from Mon which is an Austroasiatic language spoken by the Mon, who live in Burma and Thailand. Mon, unlike most languages in the Southeast Asian region, is not tonal.
- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mon_language 080928
   The difference in attitude between Anawrahta and Kyansittha towards the Ari suggests that Anawrahta with a Sanskrit name (Sanskrit names were found more among the Mons and Thais than among the Burmese) was more close to the Mons than Kyansittha who being a "kalan" was a local chieftain of the Burmese. And thus Kyansittha would have a more tolerant attitude towards the Ari who undoubtedly were ethnic Burmese.
   The question now arises: who was Anawrahta ethnically? And who was his father ethnically, or to be more specific what languages did they speak? Of course, his father was King Kunsaw Kyaungpru (sp to check). Then, why did Kunsaw Kyaungpru become a nat - {htipru-hsaung nat}? It is generally believed that a person becomes a nat when according to the popular saying "{a.yu-taim:lo. nat-saim: pric ra.tèý}" meaning "because of the slanted view at the time of death, the person has become a "green" nat (who is no better than a ghost).

The following is from ch07-anal36.htm
"the Lord with the White Umbrella, was a tragic figure -- a king who regained his father's throne from the usurpers, only to lose it again; a king who ascended the throne amidst popular acclaim, only to be deposed with no hand lifted to defend him; a king who started his reign with such rich promise of achievement and glory, only to find that his hopes came to [{Dr. Htin Aung, p105}] naught, and who waited and waited for years after being deposed for someone to come to his aid; we can glimpse a broken heart behind these words to his son Anawrahta, 'I am old to look upon, old in years. Be thou king thyself.' "

Thirdly, we should be asking: Why did Anawrahta engage a Mon wet-nurse for his son Sawlu - not a Burmese? That would have assured that young Sawlu would be speaking Mon in addition to Burmese. And why did Sawlu, even as a prisoner of Raman, had more trust in a Mon than in Kyansittha (a Burmese) who had come to rescue him?
   However, I must admit that more evidence would be needed to confirm my suggestion.

This close connection has suggested to some archaeologists (i.e., Stargardt 1990: 297) that the Pyu population came to Burma from southwestern China and Yunan province in the first millennium B.C. If this is the case, we must explain continuities in material culture between pre-Pyu and Pyu sites through means other than a shared language.

Despite the recovery of intriguing artifacts from several Pyu sites, archaeologists have devoted little attention to reconstructing the economic and political systems of the Pyu. Documentary evidence (primarily from the Chinese) suggests that the Pyu political system was based on a monarchy, which may have once unified the central plains of Burma under a single administration. Scholars agree that the Pyu depended on rice agriculture as their economic staple and may have used tank and perhaps weir irrigation.

Little is known about the nature of political organization between 2500 and 1500 B.P., although occupation of Pyu settlements continued until at least 1100 B.P. Between 1500 and 1100 B.P., populations embraced Buddhism as a religion and, perhaps, as a structure for political organization. The ideology of the four buddhas of this kalpa (age) became an important component of [{p184end. p.185 is not part of this book preview. p.186begin.}]


Guy, J. (1998). "A Warrior-Ruler Stele from Sri Ksetra, Pyu, Burma. " Journal of the Siam Society 85 (1-2): 85-94.

Higham, C. F. W. (1989). The Archaeology of Mainland Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Higham, C. F. W. (1996). The Bronze Age of Southeast Asia. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.

Luce, G. H. (1983). "The Ancient Pyu. " Journal of the Burma Research Society 27: 239-253.

Moore, E., and U Aung-Myint (1993). "Beads of Myanmar (Burma): Line Decorated Beads amongst the Pyu and Chin." Journal of the Siam Society 81(1): 57-87.

Myint Aung, U. (1970). "The Excavations at Halin." Journal of the Burma Research Society 53(2): 55-64

Stargardt, J. (1990). The Ancient Pyu of Burma, vol. 1: Early Pyu Cities in a Man-Made Landscape: Cambridge PACSEA: and Singapore ISEAS.

Van Liere, W. J. (1985). "Early Agriculture and Intensification in Mainland Southeast Asia." In Prehistoric Intensive Agriculture in the Tropics, Part II, ed. I.S. Farrington. BAR International Series 232. Oxford: BAR, 829-834.

Wicks, R. S. (1992). Money, Markets, and Trade in Early Southeast Asia. The Development of Indigenous Monetary Systems to A.D. 1400. Ithaca." Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University.

UKT: The next section (still p.186) is on: Mekong Delta (Cambodia/Vietnam): not copied


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Pyu city-states

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyu 080915
Reference: Janice Stargardt: The ancient Pyu of Burma, Cambridge 1990, ISBN 1-873178-01-8

Pyu (also Pyuu or Pyus; in Chinese records Pyao) refers to a collection of city-states and their language found in the central and northern regions of modern-day Burma (Myanmar) from about 100 BCE to 840 CE. The history of the Pyu is known from two main historical sources: the remnants of their civilization found in stone inscriptions (some in Pali, but rendered in the Pyu script, or a Pyu variant of the Gupta script) and the brief accounts of some Chinese travellers and traders, preserved in the Chinese imperial history.

UKT: From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gupta_script 080915
The Gupta script (or Gupta Brahmi) was used for writing Sanskrit and is associated with the Gupta Empire of India which was a period of material prosperity and great religious and scientific developments. The Gupta script was descended from Brahmi and gave rise to the Siddham script.
Go back Gupta-script-note-b

The people of Pyu are believed to have been an ethnic group distinct from the Bamar (Burmans), although they may have intermarried with Sino-Tibetan migrants who later became part of the Bamar ethnicity.

The Pyu arrived in Burma in the 1st century BCE and established city-kingdoms at Binnaka, Mongamo, Sri Ksetra, Peikthanomyo, and Halingyi. During this period, Burma was part of an overland trade route from China to India. In 97 and 121, Roman ambassadors to China chose the overland route through Burma for their journey. The Pyu, however, provided an alternative route down the Irrawaddy to Shri Ksetra and then by sea westward to India and eastward to insular Southeast Asia.

Chinese historical sources state that the Pyu controlled 18 kingdoms and describe them as a humane and peaceful people, and note the elegance and grace of Pyu life. War was virtually unknown amongst the Pyu, and disputes were often solved through duels by champions or building competitions. They even wore bombax (silk cotton) instead of actual silk so they would not have to kill silkworms. Crime was punished by whippings and jails were unknown, though serious crimes could result in the death penalty. The Pyu were Theravadin Buddhists, and all children were educated as novices in the wats from the age of seven until the age of 20.

UKT: From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_route 080910
Buddhist missions thrived along the Silk Roads, partly due to the conducive intermixing of trade and cultural values, which created a series of safe stoppages for both the pilgrims and the traders. [34] Among the frequented routes of the Silk Route was the Burmese route extending from Bhamo, which served as a path for Marco Polo's visit to Yunnan and Indian Buddhist missions to Canton in order to establish Buddhist monasteries. [35] This route - often under the presence of hostile tribes - also finds mention in the works of Rashid al-Din. [35]

UKT: If a trade route from Pataliputra to China was passing through northern Burma around the 1st century CE, is it possible that Buddhism could have arrived in northern Burma along that route rather than through the Mon territory in the south? If so a script directly derived from Asoka script could also have arrived in northern Burma long before the Pagan era.  

The Pyu city-states never unified into a Pyu kingdom, but the more powerful cities often dominated and called for tribute from the lesser cities. The most powerful city by far was Sri Ksetra, which archaeological evidence indicates was the largest city that has ever been built in Burma. The exact date of its founding is not known, though likely to be prior to a dynastic change in the year 94 that Pyu chronicles speak of. In the 7th century the Pyu shifted their capital northward towards Halingyi in the dry zone, leaving Shri Ksetra as a secondary centre to oversee trade in the south.

Sri Ksetra was apparently abandoned around 656 in favour of a more northern capital, though the exact site is not known. Some historians believe it was Halingyi, and may be related to the ancient city of Tagaung. Wherever the new capital was located, it was sacked by the kingdom of Nanzhao in the mid-9th century, ending the Pyu's period of dominance.

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Creation of enduring patterns in the Pyu period

- by JANICE STARGARDT , http://www.iias.nl/iiasn/25/theme/25T6.html 080915

Pyu civilization flourished during most of the first millennium AD at an urban and complex level, and three patterns established by the Pyu were to leave major imprints on the historical geography of Burma that endured until the late nineteenth century, when the colonial conquest transformed the country demographically and economically. Firstly, the Pyu preferred settlement in the Dry Zone, particularly in the valleys of the tributaries of Burma's greatest rivers; secondly, there was development of a repertoire of Pyu irrigation works operating on a variety of scales and firmly imbedded in social structures as well as in these particular environments and economies; and thirdly, at a time of dominance of Mahayana sects in Indian Buddhism, the Pyus adopted Theravada Buddhism, thereby striking a note that has reverberated in Burma ever since.

Pyu settlement in Burma undoubtedly goes back to late prehistory, to the centuries from c. 400 ­ 100 BC1. Throughout c. 1,400 years, the Pyu demonstrated a consistent preference for a particular environmental niche in Burma: the perennial, but highly seasonal tributary streams of Burma's Dry Zone, which flow into its great rivers, the Irrawaddy, the Sittang, the Chindwin, and the Mu. In research published in 19902, I first delineated this preference on the basis of my knowledge of site distribution along the side valleys of the Irrawaddy from Pagan southwards to Prome and eastwards into the Kyaukse area, and along parts of the Chindwin, the Mu, and Samon Rivers, and predicted that many more Pyu sites would be discovered in such niches. Further research on the Pyu in the 1990s by Professor Than Tun, U Win Maung, U Nyunt Han, U Sein Maung Oo, and other Burmese scholars has revealed Pyu sites in the tributary valleys of the central Irrawaddy in the heartland of traditional Burmese settlement from Pagan to Ava and Mandalay, including the Sagaing District, and also in the tributary valleys of the northern parts of the Sittang River. This means that when, in the last centuries of the first millenium AD, the Burmese settled in these valleys, they were inheriting and perpetuating a pattern already established by the Pyus. These areas together formed the Mranma [mod. pronunciation Myanmar] of the Pagan inscriptions. They remained the core territory of the Burmese kingdoms and of Burmese history until the terrible conquest of Upper Burma in the third Anglo-Burmese war of the 1880s.

Pyu settlements in the Dry Zone, where rainfed crops fail today every two years out of three, would have remained small and poor had they not developed highly effective irrigation systems based on the smaller tributary streams already mentioned, which have only recently been recognized and mapped 3. Their techniques depended on the construction of low weirs just below natural bends in the streambed, which directed part of the waterflow straight ahead into diversionary canals. These then wound about, accurately following the contours of the landscape and deliver water into smaller distributary canals and eventually into the fields. The same techniques were, and still are, employed on a variety of scales, from small works irrigating only 500 hectares to immense systems irrigating c. 3000 hectares. In the large-scale works, storage tanks were constructed to hold buffer stocks of water provided by the diversionary canals and to control releases into the distributary canals. ¶UKT

Three large Pyu cities developed out of clusters of late prehistoric irrigated villages in the Dry Zone. In approximate chronological order of origin, they were Beikthano first century BC (9 km2 land area within the walls) and Halingyi first to second century AD (5 km2), both in the heart of the Dry Zone, and Sri Ksetra third to fourth century AD (18 km2) on its southern fringe. Each of these cities in its final form devoted between 50 per cent and 75 per cent of the land within its outer walls to irrigated rice fields and gardens. A striking example is Sri Ksetra, shown here in fig.1, which contained a particularly dense network of irrigation canals and tanks that, in addition to their immense practical value, were the signposts to the symbolic spaces of the royal city as microcosm4. There were many smaller Pyu sites as well, Allakapa, Beinnaka, Wadi I and II, Hmaingmaw, Pyaubwe among others - all in similar environmental niches.

(Fig.1) Archaeological map of Sri Ksetra, based on aerial and surface surveys

The Pyu irrigation works in the Yin River Valley around Beikthano, the Nawin River Valley around Sri Ksetra, the Mu River Valley around Halin, along the Samon River, and in the Kyaukse District were repeatedly restored (and no doubt modified) by the kings of Pagan, Ava, and Mandalay for over a thousand years after the last recorded destruction of a Pyu kingdom in AD 832 by the Nanzhao. The following field observations of 1998 provide typical glimpses of the longevity and excellent environmental and social integration of these works: large parts of the Beikthano irrigation works still function around Taungdwingyi on the upper levels of the ancient system, which is badly sedimented in parts, but fragments still operate effectively as small-scale village systems including some within the downstream Beikthano site itself.

Beikthano evolved to an urban level of socio-economic complexity during the first century BC.5 At that time, the Pyus and other peoples of Central Burma already had technical contacts with parts of Eastern India, which took place without the adoption of Indian cultural or religious traditions. Thus, the Pyu evidence shows that concepts of Indianization as a process of 'cultural colonization' need modifying to account for the significant levels of civilization attained in Southeast Asia before aspects of Indian culture were selectively adopted and adapted6. The Pyus probably began to convert to Buddhism between the second to third century AD, and by the fourth century, at the latest, a major monastic building in fired brick was constructed at Beikthano. By the fifth century AD, Sri Ksetra was the centre of a rich society whose influence was spreading to other parts of Burma and where Buddhism flourished under royal patronage. 

(Fig.2) The Great Silver Reliquary from Sri Ksetra, fifth ­ sixth century AD.

The oldest surviving Buddhist texts (Theravada/Hinayana) in the Pali language come from the relic chamber of a Buddhist stupa at Sri Ksetra. They consist of a twenty-leaf manuscript of solid gold and a large gilded reliquary of silver (Fig. 2). A new and exhaustive palaeographic study of these inscriptions shows that they date from the mid-fifth to mid-sixth century AD7. Unlike all the other early Buddhist societies of Southeast Asia, evidence of Mahayanist contacts in Pyu sites is scant. It is clear that the Pyu kingdoms were in contact with several Indian kingdoms in the south east as well as in North India, but stood in a tutelary relationship to none. From the earliest evidence, Pyu Buddhist writing, art, and architecture show processes of adaptation at work that laid the foundations for distinctively Burmese traditions of Buddhism within the greater Buddhist eucumene. *

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Stargardt footnotes

1. Stargardt, J., The Ancient Pyu of Burma, Vol. I, Early Pyu Cities in a Man-Made Landscape, Cambridge & Singapore: PACSEA & ISEAS (1990; repr. 1991), pp. 52, 145-90, 297-310, 344.

2. Ibid., p 45.

3. Ibid., pp 45-142 (but see Professor Daw Thin Kyi's hypotheses in 'The Geographical Setting of Sriksetra, Visnu City [Beikthano] and Halingyi,' The Guardian [Rangoon], XII, 10 (1950), pp 50-2.

4. Stargardt, J. 'Le cosmos, les ancêtres et le riz: l'eau dans l'espace urbain des pyus en birmanie,' in Condominas, G et al. (eds.), Disciplines croisées, hommages a Bernard-Philippe Groslier, Paris: E.H.E.S.S. (1992)

5. The Ancient Pyu, op. cit., pp 145-52.

6. Ibid., pp 155-90.

7. cf. Falk, H. 'Die Goldblätter aus Sri Ksetra,' Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens, XLI, (1997), pp 53-92; and Stargardt, J.'The Oldest Known Pali Texts, 5th-6th century; results of the Cambridge Symposium on the Pyu Golden Pali Text from Sri Ksetra, 18-19 April 1995,' Jnl. Pali Text Soc. XXI, 199-213; Stargardt, J. Tracing, Thought through Things: The oldest Pali texts and the early Buddhist archaeology of India and Burma, 7th Gonda Lecture ­ Amsterdam: The Royal Netherlands Academy (2000), pp 20-9.

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The Origins of Pagan:
The archaeological landscape of Upper Burma to AD 1300.

by Bob Hudson, University of Sydney, 2004. Abstract of A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements .

The archaeological landscape of Upper Burma from the middle of the first millennium BC to the Bagan period in the 13th-14th century AD is a landscape of continuity. Finds of polished stone and bronze artifacts suggest the existence of early metal-using cultures in the Chindwin and Samon River Valleys, and along parts of the Ayeyarwady plain. Increasing technological and settlement complexity in the Samon Valley suggests that a distinctive culture whose agricultural and trade success can be read in the archaeological record of the Late Prehistoric period developed there.

The appearance of the early urban “Pyu” system of walled central places during the early first millennium AD seems to have involved a spread of agricultural and management skills and population from the Samon. The leaders of the urban centres adopted Indic symbols and Sanskrit modes of kingship to enhance and extend their authority. The early urban system was subject over time to a range of stresses including siltation of water systems, external disruption and social changes as Buddhist notions of leadership eclipsed Brahmanical ones. The archaeological evidence indicates that a settlement was forming at Bagan during the last centuries of the first millennium AD. By the mid 11th century Bagan began to dominate Upper Burma, and the region began a transition from a system of largely autonomous city states to a centralised kingdom. Inscriptions of the 11th to 13th centuries indicate that as the Bagan Empire expanded it subsumed the agricultural lands that had been developed by the Pyu.


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What's in a name? {pu.gän} and {pu.thaim}

by UKT

We rarely, if ever, pay attention to Burmese-Myanmar spellings especially in works written in English. The simple reason is there is no reliable way to represent the original spelling in Myanmar akshara into English-Latin alphabet. The method so far is reliance on the "sound" of the Burmese-Myanmar word heard by foreign ears, and lately by English-educated Burmese ears. Thus, what is rendered into English is done almost exclusively by non-phoneticians, and even when done by a trained phonetician (I haven't heard that was even done), the phonetician would be non-Burmese. The result is the English transcription of the Burmese names is sometimes unintelligible even to a Burmese reader reading the name in English. What had happened is we have forgotten that Myanmar is a phonetic script based on sound phonemic principles. This is because Myanmar is directly descended from the script of Asoka now known as the Brahmi. If only we had used the phonemic qualities of the Myanmar script in conjunction with the modern International Phonetic Alphabet, we could (my emphasis: we could) arrive at a reliable way of representing the Burmese names in English. With this in mind, I have applied my method of transliteration of Burmese-Myanmar into Romabama on the Burmese names.

Using Romabama, when we look at the names of two cities, Pagan in Upper Burma, and Bassein in Lower Burma, we notice a curious similarity. The reason why we have focused on these two cities is because they are connected by the Irrawaddy river and there have always been riverine traffic since prehistoric times.

Pagan is Upper Burma is {pu.gän} which suggests that it is derived from two syllables {pu.} and {gän}. Leaving the {pu.} for a while, it seems that {gän} is derived from Pali {ga-ma.} meaning "village" or place of habitation. Bassein on the other hand is {pu.thaim}. As before, if we leave aside the {pu.} for a moment, we at once see that {thaim} probably comes from "ordination hall".

Now look at the {pu.}: it is so similar to {pyu} or Pyu. Since the Pyu were Buddhists, there were bound to be ordination halls. And since, {pu.gän} was founded by the Pyu fleeing from the southern capital Sri Ksetra at the hands of the attacking Mons, {pu.gän} was Pyu who by now had become united with their brethren the Burmese.

After musing on the Burmese-Myanmar name of "Bassein" in Lower Burma, I looked for similar place-names on the Internet. I was surprised to find a similar name: this time in India.
"BASSEIN (VASAI) FORT" - http://www.indiainfoweb.com/maharashtra/forts/bassein-fort.html 081002

Location : In Vasai, 55-km From Mumbai, Maharashtra
Built By: Bahadur Shah
Present Form: In Ruins
Nearby Attractions: Nalasopara Village, Vajreshwari Temple, Akoli Hot Springs, Ganeshpuri
   Bassein Fort also known as Vasai Fort is an important sea fort located in Bassein, present day Vasai, at about 55-km from Mumbai . Built by Bahadur Shah, Sultan of Gujarat, it was initially one of a chain of forts intended to guard the coast against the Portuguese and the pirates.
   Bassein, however, fell into many hands such as- the Portuguese, the Marathas and finally the British and in the course of time Bassein became a flourishing shipbuilding centre and the famous Bassein stone was very much in demand.
   Bassein was known as a place for ship building in the 15th century. The Portuguese settled here because they were shrewd enough to recognise the importance of Bassein as a strategic place on western coast. They captured the fort from the Sultan of Gujarat and remodeled it by building a citadel inside.

It is recorded that Richard Hakluyt visited "Bassein" in the 16th century. http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hakluyt/voyages/v08/chapter54.html 081002 .
"the ships depart for the North, to say, for Chaul, Diu, Cambaia, or Bassaim". Which "Bassein" did he visit?

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Pagan and Early Burma

by TILMAN FRASCH http://www.iias.nl/iiasn/25/theme/25T4.html 080915

Pagan, today a small town of perhaps 2,000 inhabitants, was the capital of the first Burmese kingdom for about 250 years between the mid-eleventh and the end of the thirteenth centuries. During this period, more than 2,500 religious monuments, mostly Buddhist temples, stupas and monasteries, were constructed in and around the city. At the end of the thirteenth century, the city ceased to be a political center, having falled victim to demographic disruptions, economic exhaustion, and military pressure from the Mongols, though it kept its status as a sacred center and a place of learning until the end of the last Burmese kingdom.

Most of what we know about Pagan comes from the inscriptions in which donors recorded the details of their dedication. More than 400 come from the city of Pagan alone; another 250 contemporary records from other places in Burma. The study of inscriptions began in an early period when kings, who were eager to learn about and imitate the meritorious deeds of their predecessors, checked and even copied old inscriptions to preserve the memory of these deeds for posterity. The last, and perhaps most famous, epigraphic survey was begun in the last decade of the eighteenth century following an order by Badon Min (King Bodawpaya). The person in charge, the Twinthin Taikwun Mahasithu U Tun Nyo, used the opportunity to check the existing Burmese chronicles on the basis of epigraphic evidence. This traditional way of restoring Pagan and its inscriptions underwent a change when the British colonial government established the Archaeological Department of Burma in 1900. Besides excavations and the preservation of monuments, the Department's most noteworthy achievement was the publication of six volumes with inscriptions from Burma, known as the six 'elephant volumes' because of their size. Another project launched by the Archaeological Department was the edition of the Mon inscriptions in the Epigraphia Birmanica.

Epigraphic research entered a new phase with the arrival in Burma in 1913 of Gordon Hannington Luce. As a professor of History at the Rangoon College and later the University, he dedicated much of his time to the study of Burmese inscriptions, of which he deciphered and translated as many as he could find. The first selection of inscriptions, published in 1928, was followed by five portfolio volumes, Inscriptions of Burma, with rubbings of original inscriptions, which he edited with his brother-in-law, U Pe Maung Tin, between 1933 and 1959. Luce continued his epigraphical research even after he had been declared persona non grata in Burma, but without publishing any further results. His legacy, about twenty notebooks with readings and translations, is still awaiting resurrection. In the meantime, the Archaeology Department has published another set of five mimeographed volumes with readings of inscriptions (Shehaung Myanma Kyauksamya or 'Old Burmese Inscriptions', 1972-1984). This is the best edition so far, though it is still not complete, even for the Pagan period.

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Art and architecture

As capital of an empire, Pagan combined political and religious supremacy. The surroundings of the city were a field of merit where kings, members of the royal family, and the court, commoners and monks invested material wealth in order to accumulate religious merit. More than 2,500 religious buildings, constructed over a period of about 250 years, bear witness of this. But even after it had ceased to be capital, the city was able to maintain its position as a sacred centre, where new monasteries were built or damaged temples repaired. Both the chronicles and inscriptions contain numerous references to constructions throughout the ages. Despite these efforts, the city slowly fell into ruin. The damage was caused mainly by treasure hunters or by people in search of cheap bricks for their own homes, but on several occasions Pagan was also hit by earthquakes. The most recent one occured in 1974 and caused considerable damage, as some temples lost their tops or collapsed altogether. International aid came to the rescue, providing help for preservation and restoration, on the one hand, and a detailed survey of the monuments, on the other. The Inventory of Monuments at Pagan, published by Pierre Pichard from the EFEO in Paris, comprises seven volumes to date with two more to come. Since the mid-1990s, the restoration and renovation of Pagan has become a national affair. Newspaper advertisements solicit donations to sponsor the work done by the Archaeology Department and the Public Works Department. Excavations have brought to light a number of new inscriptions, but at the same time certain reservations have to be raised about the way ancient monuments were renovated or even rebuilt completely.

Pagan architecture provides several interesting features. One of the most striking is the regular use of the true vault arching over the halls of temples and monasteries. Another particularity are the pentagonal ground plans which seem to represent the five Buddhas of the present kalpa. As far as we can tell, the Dhammayazika stupa, finished in AD 1198 AD, is the oldest dated pentagonal monument in the world. Finally, the decoration of the monuments is very noteworthy. Many of them are embellished with very fine stuccoes made of a plaster which is extremely durable; it has been suggested that it was prepared with certain gum. Another means of external decoration were terracotta plaques, mostly depicting scenes from Buddha's former lives as narrated in the Jatakas. Sometimes a green glazing was added. The interior of about half of the temples at Pagan were painted all over with various motifs. Again, scenes from the Jatakas were prominent; but the history of Buddhism or simply an endless repetition of Buddha images (usually in the earth-touching gesture) are also common motifs.

While the study of single temples and their artistic attributes has a rather long tradition, the first overall survey of art and architecture was presented by Luce in his Old Burma Early Pagan. The most recent work on the art history of Pagan was edited by Don Stadtner (The Art of Burma, Mumbai: New Studies, 1999) and contains six articles on early Burmese art. Claudine Bautze-Picron and Pratapaditya Pal show how closely Pagan artists followed stylistic patterns borrowed from Pala Bengal, thereby indicating the direction in which comparative research in Pagan-Burmese, Bengal, and Tibetan art should proceed.

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Historical research on Pagan

It fell to Luce's pupil, U Than Tun, to write the first comprehensive history of Pagan. The dissertation was submitted to the University of London in 1956 and appeared in print in 1978 under the title History of Buddhism in Burma, AD 1000-1300 as the sixty-first volume of the Journal of the Burma Research Society (JBRS). U Than Tun, who later became Professor of History at Mandalay University, shared Luce's distaste for the chronicles and concentrated on the epigraphy from which he quoted extensively. Over a long period, Luce himself had written articles on various topics, in 1969 his efforts culminated in his magnum opus Old Burma Early Pagan, in which he treated the history, art, and architecture of Pagan before AD 1174 exhaustively. In its critical treatment of Burmese history and its flat rejection of the account of the chronicles, Old Burma provoked sharp reactions among Burmese scholars, of which U Lu Pe Win's review in the JBRS (1971) and U Htin Aung's 'Defence of the Chronicles' (Burmese History before 1287, Oxford, 1974) are two noteworthy examples.

FRANS H. JANSSEN: The ruined city of Pagan on the Irrawaddy river with the Shwesandaw pagoda,
built by King Anawratha in 1057 to contain the Sacred Hair Relic.

The approach taken by Luce and U Than Tun, who both put more weight on events and facts, was challenged by the American scholar, Michael Aung-Thwin whose thesis (of 1976) appeared in 1985 under the title Pagan: The origins of modern Burma. Aung-Thwin developed a theoretical framework into which he fitted his material. The exercise was clearly at the cost of the sources, which is shown by numerous misreadings and mistranslations that sometimes lead to gross misinterpretations. His conclusion that ever-growing monastic landholdings were the main cause for the decline of Pagan in the second half of the thirteenth century, a theory Aung-Thwin later applied on the whole history of Burma, is especially questionable. These views of Aung-Thwin were challenged by the present author in his own thesis (Pagan. Stadt und Staat, Stuttgart, 1996). On the basis of careful readings and translations of the inscriptions, combined with architectural evidence, it was shown that monastic establishments at Pagan were generally too small and too shortlived to accumulate material wealth on a notable scale.

In a way, Pagan was a multicultural state combining elements of various cultures such as that of Bengal, to which has already been referred, and influences from the Pyu or the Arakanese (described by Janice Stargardt and Jacques Leider in this theme section). The Mons also contributed heavily to the culture of Pagan, especially in the field of writing. The earliest inscriptions from Pagan are all written in their language. An inscription found in 1997 shows that this tradition was still continued as late as the 1130s. Unfortunately, the most recent attempt to shed light on the Mon civilization (Emmanuel Guillon, The Mons: A civilization of Southeast Asia, Bangkok, 1999) can hardly claim to represent the present state of research and throws up more questions than it answers. *

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List of authors

Professor Janice Stargardt is attached to the Cambridge Project on Ancient Civilization in South East Asia, at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge . E-mail: js119@cam.ac.uk
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Dr Bob Hudson specialises in the archaeology of the early urban systems of Myanmar (Burma). He is an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow with the Archaeology Department, University of Sydney, and a Visiting Professor at the Myanmar Field School of Archaeology at Pyay, Myanmar.
-- http://www.usyd.edu.au/research/opportunities/supervisors/430 080916
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Dr Tilman Frasch is assistant professor at the Department of History, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University. His current research concerns Burmese epigraphy and history, as well as Sri Lankan and Buddhist historiography. E-mail: frasch@sai.uni-heidelberg.de
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UKT notes


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