The Bay of Bengal and Peninsular Myanmar Early Port-Settlements of the Maritime Silk Road (Late Centuries BCE-Early Centuries CE)

Bérénice Bellina1, Win Hsan Oo2, Kalayar Myat Myat Htwe3, Camille Colonna4, Baptiste Pradier5, Aude Favereau6, Laure Dussubieux7, Coline Lefrancq8, Cristina Castillo9, T.O. Pryce10, Emiri Miyama11, Patcharaporn Ngenkerd12, Paramita Punwong13, Mathilde Ferrari4, Khinsandar Kyaw3

1Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), UMR 8068 TEMPS, France

2Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, Myanmar

3University of Mandalay, Myanmar

4Institut national de recherches archéologiques (Inrap), (INRA), France

5Université Paris Nanterre, France

6National Cheng-Kung University, Taiwan

7Field Museum of Natural History, U.S.A.

8Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), UMR 8564-CEIAS, France

9University College London, United Kingdom

10Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), UMR 7065 IRAMAT, Université Paris-Saclay, France

11Rikkyo University, Japan

12Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

13Mahidol University, Thailand

In 2018, the “Tanintharyi and the maritime Silk Road” project initiated the first early port-settlements of the maritime Silk Road excavations in Myanmar. The focus was on two settlements, Aw Gyi and Maliwan that date to the late centuries BCE-early centuries CE. This research in Myanmar forms part of a broader project by the French Archaeological Mission in the Thai-Malay peninsula investigating cross-cultural exchanges between the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea from the late prehistoric period onwards. The investigations at the sites of Maliwan and Aw Gyi in Myanmar provided a useful comparison with industry and organization observed at sites in Thailand. This research provides further insights into early Bay of Bengal networks and their interplay with those in the South China Sea as well as the economic and political organization of these early trading polities. Maliwan is dotted with a series of monumental walls and distinct quartiers, perhaps corresponding to different social groups, as is the case in Khao Sam Kaeo. It yielded local, regional and South Asian material (Indian Fine Ware, copper-cast coins, figurines, seals) and some ornament industries that relate to the Indian world (glass and stone). Aw Gyi, more is a slightly more recent settlement than Maliwan, but it also provided large quantities of South Asian imports as well as Mediterranean-related materials from further west.