New Lithic Assemblages of the Early Holocene Culture of Central Myanmar

Department of Archaeology, National Museum of Myanmar, Myanmar

Recent archaeological explorations (2005-2019) by the Field School of Archaeology (Pyay) from the Shinmadaung Hill range west of Ayeyarwaddy to the Chindwin River confluence and the Mt. Popa region has revealed numerous Palaeolithic sites possessing Late Anyathian (circa. 30,000 - 12,000 yrs BP) and Early Holocene (12,000 - 6,000 yrs BP) stone artefacts. Located in the Dry Zone of Central Myanmar, the finds begin to fill an existing gap between the Late Anyathian Upper Pleistocene and Holocene Neolithic in the region. Among the sites recorded, several produced microlithic implements, identified as Mesolithic due to their size (1 - 6 cm) and techniques of production tradition, as well as their geographical context, preserved stratigraphic associations, and environment. With reference to Mesolithic characteristics, the recent finds of microlithics from the Shinmadaung Hill range and the Mt. Popa region suggest a new typology is required for the region. The Mesolithic of the Shinmadaung Hills is distinct from the contemporary Hoabinhian culture of tropical Southeast Asian Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene with clear differences in the way tools were manufactured and utilized. There are also noticeable differences in the way settlements were patterned in geography and ecology between typical Hoabinhian settlements and Mesolithic sites. This paper briefly discusses the explorations and excavations of Mesolithic sites, classification of stone artifacts based on appearance and tool types of surface and excavated finds. Moreover, the regional significance of the discovery of an Early Holocene Culture in the Shinmaduang Hills of Myanmar is addressed. The results enable the construction of a chronological framework linking to the Neolithic, and comparative studies with neighbouring contemporary cultures to be undertaken.