Public Lecture: Daily Life in Myanmar’s Ancient Cities

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Another talk for readers in Singapore, this time by Bon Hudson on the Pyu Cities.

Daily Life in Myanmar’s Ancient Cities
25 July 2014 (Friday), 7 to 8.30pm
Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum

Bob Hudson
Archaeology Department
University of Sydney

Three huge brick-walled cities in Myanmar are currently going through the UNESCO World Heritage nomination process. They date to around AD 150, many centuries earlier than the Myanmar capital, Bagan. Many fascinating finds have been unearthed during excavations at the sites.

This presentation builds a picture of those long-lost societies through the material goods they left behind. Objects from Brahman and Buddhist agriculturalists and traders wary of intruders from the spirit world, and the treasures enshrined in Buddhist monuments tell us much about daily lives and religious aspirations. Modern-day treasure hunters, who until recently panned illegally for gold in what are now ricefields, and dug for beads in ancient cemeteries, will also be discussed. That they were still finding valuable items in the 21st century is further proof of the wealth and creativity of the ancient inhabitants.

More details here.

Ancient Burmese capital may have existed in a longer range than originally thought

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The ancient capital of Sri Ksetra, of the now-extinct Pyu people in central Burma may have existed even earlier than the conventional 5th century date it was supposed to have been established, and endured longer after its supposed fall to the Bagan kingdom in the 11th century. These assertions were made on the basis of similar artwork found in India dating three centuries earlier, and the number of Bagan-style architecture found in Sri Ksetra dating to after its supposed fall.

Archaeologists shed new light on old Sri Ksetra
20081112 The Myanmar Times
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Bagan: beautified or sacrificed?

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12 November 2006 (a Reuters story, seen on CNN) – The restoration of Bagan using modern tools and materials risk turning it into another “Disneyland”.

Bagan: beautified or sacrificed?

Restorations are not new to Bagan, a victim of many floods, fires and earthquakes over the centuries.

A severe 1975 quake destroyed or damaged scores of clay brick and mud buildings and stunning wall murals some say are Bagan’s greatest treasure.

The junta allowed UNESCO experts in to help, but it later ignored the U.N. culture agency’s recommendations for World Heritage status, which would have required a conservation plan and unwanted international scrutiny.

After UNESCO withdrew in the mid-1990s, the generals launched their own restoration drive and solicited donations from wealthy Burmese and merit-seeking Buddhists from across Asia in pursuit of their own temple for the next life.

“They just wanted it to look beautiful,” said Gustaaf Houtman, editor of UK-based magazine Anthropology Today, who believes it is part of a wider campaign to rewrite history.

“Generals sponsored the renovation of a pagoda as a merit-making exercise, as a way of demonstrating to the whole of Burma, and to the world, that they were in control,” he said.

A forthcoming study by Australian archaeologist Bob Hudson says 650 complete buildings have had major repairs — including new spires, roofs or corners — since 1996.

Related Books:
Ancient Pagan by D. Stadtner
Bagan by B. Broman
Cultural Sites of Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia b. J. Dumarcay and M. Smithies