Understanding Myanmar Archaeology From a Historical Perspective: Past, Present, and Future

Zaw Phyo1 & Nandar Yukyi2

1Independent Scholar, Myanmar

2Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, U.S.A.

Archaeological research has been undertaken in Myanmar since the 19th Century. Throughout its history there were many turning points, changes in perspectives, and areas of interest in research topics. Although a significant number of international scholars have conducted archaeological research in Myanmar there are only a few local scholars who have participated in independent projects. Therefore, one of the purposes of this paper is to address the history of archaeology in Myanmar from a local archaeologist’s perspective. Early archaeology in Myanmar was dominated by foreign scholars under British rule, often with the objective of exploring Myanmar’s history, its peoples, and cultures. After Myanmar gained independence in 1948, archaeological research was mainly carried out by local archaeologists. Only a few international practitioners could do research within the boundaries of a politically isolationist Myanmar. At that time, the top priority in research for many local archaeologists was the protohistoric period of Myanmar, especially Pyu culture, with the aim of filling an existing gap in knowledge between the prehistoric and historic periods. Interest in prehistoric archaeology was promoted with the discovery of the Nyaunggan burial site in 1998. Since then, many local and international archaeologists have collaborated on research projects. However, Myanmar archaeology still trails behind many other countries in Southeast Asia due to a lack of established guidelines to collaborate with international archaeologists, in addition to the lack of local financial resources and experience. Therefore, this study aims to review the development of Myanmar archaeology from a historical perspective while incorporating diverse perspectives from both the international academy and local archaeologists.