Public Lecture: Buddhist Archaeology in Myanmar: International and Local Landscapes

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A public lecture by Prof. Elizabeth Moore on her work in Bagan.


Buddhist Archaeology in Myanmar: International and Local Landscapes
Elizabeth Moore
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
13 April 2015, 3-4.30pm

With the 2014 UNESCO World Heritage inscription of the early Buddhist ‘Pyu Ancient Cities’, discussions are underway at the ‘Bagan Archaeological Area and Monuments’ included on the country’s Tentative List revised in 2014. Bagan’s arid environment, with less than 600 mm of rainfall per annum, has helped to preserve mural paintings in several hundreds of the thousands of brick structures of the ancient city. The temples and stupas are laid out across a broad floodplain between ranges on the opposite bank of the river and to the southeast. The traditional rural setting of the temples scattered between village fields has been sustained with cultivation of sugar palms, onions and beans relying on a delicate system of water management. There is the life of the Ayeyarwaddy River as well, with sand-cultivation and boats plying up and down at small jetties. Greening projects plus the infrastructure and water needs of expanding tourism have put increasing pressure on this extraordinary ecology and way of life. The living culture of Bagan includes at least 400 active monasteries. Bagan has a deep and long-lived significance as a pilgrimage destination, where the charitable donation underlying customary repair of pagodas often runs counter to international preservation norms. There is, in addition, the relationship of villages and monasteries to temple festivals and the most popular pilgrimage circuits. Both the rich archaeology and this living heritage of Bagan are part of current research as well heritage activities at international and local levels of Myanmar’s ancient landscapes.

More details here.

Asian Art History at the Asia Research Institute

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Dr Moore’s presentation “Public Art and the Shwedagon in the 19-20th century” might be of interest to readers of this blog. The roundtable on Asian Art History is happening TOMORROW (29 September 2009) at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore. Details and registration here.

Asian Art History Roundtable
Public Art and the Shwedagon in the 19-20th century (Dr Elizabeth Moore)
Date: Tuesday, 29 Sep 2009
Time: 4 – 5.30pm
Venue: ARI Seminar Room, Tower Block Level 10, National University of Singapore @ BTC
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Public Lecture: New Archaeological Evidence from the Southern Silk Road

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Archaeological exploration in the past decade has revealed a new Bronze-iron Age culture in central Myanmar. As most finds are located along the Samon River valley, they have become known as the Samon culture. Principally mortuary goods, many of the artifacts are unique and not found outside Myanmar. Other objects, however, parallel bronzes of the elaborate Shizhaishan Dian cultures of Yunnan. These include Heger I cowrie-drum containers and decorated mouth organs. Potential links are also seen in recent Shizhaishan excavation of headless burials and Samon headless bronze ‘mother-goddess’ figures used to decorate coffins as well as disarticulated inhumations found in both Samon and Dian cultures. There are few radiocarbon results for the Samon culture (circa 600 BCE-400 CE) but most predate the early centuries CE. This lecture will examine the origins of bronze production in the Myanmar-Yunnan cultural sphere.

More details and registration here.

The Gold Coast: Suvannabhumi? Lower Myanmar Walled Sites of the First Millennium A.D.

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Spring 2007 (Asian Perspectives) – This year’s first edition of the journal Asian Perspectives has a paper on Burmese archaeology, focusing on three walled and moated sites. Asian Perspectives is a subscription-based journal; the abstract is featured in this post.

The Gold Coast: Suvannabhumi? Lower Myanmar Walled Sites of the First Millennium A.D.
Elizabeth Moore, San Win

The high rainfall of the Lower Myanmar coast is balanced by the aridity of the country’s inland plains. The article profiles three sites in a laterite-rich area located in the northern part of the Lower Myanmar peninsula. The walls and moats of these sites underline their role in water management, one where control of water was the decisive catalyst. The sites of Kyaikkatha, Kelasa, and Winka illustrate how slight changes in topography signal critical junctures, the points where walls and moats were constructed. As a result, up to seven walls flank the higher edges of these sites; these protected the interior by diverting excess water to lower areas. Using large finger-marked bricks and terra-cotta artifacts such as votive tablets, plaques, and architectural elements, a broad chronology of c. the sixth to ninth centuries A.D. is proposed, although a majority of the pieces dated to the seventh century A.D. Attention is also drawn to evidence of Lower Myanmar prehistoric habitation in lowland areas close to the coast, where natural and man-made changes continue to alter the ecology and affect archaeological interpretation. The survey is used to encourage comparative studies, drawing in environmentally diverse but culturally related areas of South and Southeast Asia.

Related Books:
Uncovering Southeast Asia’s Past: Selected Papers from the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists by E. A. Bacus, I. Glover and V. C. Pigott (Eds)