The Transition from Bronze-Iron Age to Buddhism in Myanmar – a seminar by Elizabeth Moore & Terence Tan (Wed, 27 August 2008)

Speakers: Elizabeth Moore & Terence Tan
Date: Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Time: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Elizabeth Moore and Terence Tan in their paper, the Transition from Bronze-Iron Age to Buddhism in Myanmar, compare artefacts from the Samon and Pyu cultures of Upper Myanmar. The Samon sites extend from Halin to Pyinmana with the Samon culture dated to circa 600 BC – 400 CE. The most noteworthy aspect of the Samon finds is their uniqueness: the majorities are not found outside the central zone of Myanmar. The Samon chiefdoms were displaced by ‘Pyu’ Buddhism kingdoms in the early centuries CE, when the links to Yunnan fade away and new artistic and proto-urban criteria are seen. These include enclosure of sites that include royal and religious areas and a range of terracotta and precious metals used to make ritual and ornamental objects. As with the Samon culture, the most significant aspects of the Pyu assemblages are unique to Myanmar. The contrast between the Samon and Pyu cultures highlights both an intensification of religious and social ranking, but also reflects fluctuating competition in relations between Myanmar, midway between Yunnan and South Asia. The South Asian influences initiated in the Pyu cultures have been sustained until this day, as has the unique characted of Myanmar culture in Southeast Asia. In addition, the unbroken Buddhist sustenance from circa 300 CE to the present gives Myanmar a unique legacy amongst the Theravada cultures of the region.

About the speakers
Elizabeth Moore is a Reader in the Art & Archaeology of Southeast East Asia and Head of the Department of Art & Archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).Recent and in press publications include: Early landscapes of Myanmar, River Books, Bangkok (2007); ‘Astrology in Burmese Buddhist culture, Decoding an illustrated manuscript from the SOAS Archives’, Orientations, October 2007:38/8: 79-85; 2007; ‘The Gold Coast: Suvannabhumi? Lower Myanmar Walled Sites of the First Millennium A.D.’ With San Win. Asian Perspectives. (2007) January 46/1: 202-232; ‘Buddhist narratives and the ancient topography of Dawei’ Buddha and the Sacred Mountain (ed P. Gutman).Bangkok, Silkworm Press (2008); ‘Place and space in early Burma: a new look at ‘Pyu Culture’’ Journal of the Siam Society (2009).

Terence Tan lives in Yangon, Myanmar. He received a diplomat in 1980 on Aquatic Technology from Yangon University, and a BSc in 1982 on Zoology. Changing disciplines, he then did a diploma in 1987 at the Asia Institute of Gemological Science (AIGS) Diploma, AIGS, Bangkok, which led in turn to another diplomat in 2001 in Archaeology from Yangon U. Yet more degrees and diplomas followed: in 2004 he obtained a Master of Public Administration (MPA), Yangon U., in 2006 a diploma from the Gemological Institute of America, New York, and another in 2008 in Anthropology, Yangon U. He is now pursuing further studies on “Ornaments: comparative study of technology, style and meaning in Dvaravati and Pyu art”, at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He will present a paper on “Changing Technology, Ornaments from Prehistory to Proto-History in Thailand and Myanmar” at the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists 12th International Conference (EurASEAA), 1-5 September, Leiden, the Netherlands 2008. His book entitled Ancient Jewellery of Burma is in press with Orchid Press, Bangkok. He and Elizabeth Moore have just published “Eyes on the Past: Samon and Pyu Beads in Myanmar” in Arts of Asia 38.