Myanmar Funerary Archaeology in a Regional Perspective

Baptiste Pradier1, Frédérique Valentin2, T.O. Pryce3, Daw Kay Thwe Oo4, U Saw Naing Oo4

1Université Paris Nanterre, France

2UMR 8068 TEMPS, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France

3UMR 7065 IRAMAT, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France

4Department of Archaeology and National Museum, Myanmar

In his first paper about Southeast Asian archaeology Charles Higham explained with great clarity one of the major underlying contributions of the international late prehistory archaeological community approach in this region, the interest in burial sites: « One of the particularly attractive features of excavating a prehistoric cemetery, apart from the obvious advantages of recovering palaeopathological data, is the common association of complete artefacts with human skeletal remains » (Higham, 1972 ; 463). This approach remains quite unchanged until now and makes the late prehistory of Southeast Asia an uncommon place, where most of the sites known for this period are cemeteries. Thus, the analysis of the evolution of funerary practices plays a major role in defining and highlighting the cultural developments of the region. Thanks to Higham's 50+ years of archaeological research in the region, a significant amount of new data was uncovered, which played a central role in reconstructing the late prehistory of the region and allowed him to build models for interpreting social developments. One critical contribution is missing in those models: the west side of the region. Thanks to the efforts of the French mission in Myanmar (MAFM), the late prehistory of Myanmar has been a research hotspot for nearly two decades and brings a significant amount of new data on funerary behaviour that can now be included in the models. In this paper we will present some new data about Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age funerary practices in Central Myanmar, and we will investigate how they align, or not, within our developing regional knowledge of burial practice.