Myinkaba: Villages and Ecological Niches in the Historical Archaeology of Bagan

Theint Theint Aung1, Hninn Wut Yee Latt1, Elizabeth Moore2

1SOAS University of London (Alphawood), United Kingdom

2SOAS University of London, United Kingdom

Myanmar’s temple city of Bagan was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2019. Bagan consists of nineteen founding villages. Of these, Myinkaba is the only one with a distinct Mon flavour stemming from ancient production links and religious heritage. It spreads east from the Ayeyarwaddy River and its large in-gyi or the port trades bamboo, while the sand and clay around the in-gyi are used for lacquer and ancient glass production. Finger-marked bricks and beads of the first millennium CE are found along the river at Paunggu. Myinkaba lacquer is renowned, utilising two of the three bamboo species. The trade underpins religious patronage, as the village is also home to numerous surviving eleventh century temples, their Theravada and Mahayana styles blending local elements with influences from South Asia and Nepal. These include the Manuha temple built by the eleventh century Mon King Manuha, the Myinkaba Gu-byauk-gyi with its murals captioned in Mon, the Nan-phaya, and the Abeyanda known for its Mahayana paintings. These are complemented by nat shrines whose locations near streams suggest ancient rather than recent origins. This paper draws out the individual character of Myinkaba, part of the ongoing research project on the villages and ecological niches of ancient and present Bagan. The aim is to call for greater attention to these micro-regions in the future management of the UNESCO World Heritage site.