Buddhist Archaeology in Myanmar: International and Local Landscapes

Singapore
NALANDA-SRIWIJAYA CENTRE, INSTITUTE OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES
Speaker: Prof Elizabeth Moore

Date: Monday, 13 April 2015
Time: 3 – 4.30 pm
Venue: ISEAS Seminar Room 2

About the Speaker

Prof Elizabeth Moore is Visiting Senior Fellow at NSC and Professor of Southeast Asian Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She specialises in the connections between the past and present in the archaeology, cultural heritage and landscape of Mainland Southeast Asia during the first and early second millennia CE. She is the author of The Pyu Landscape: Collected Articles (Nay Pyi Taw: Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, 2012) and Early Landscapes of Myanmar (Bangkok: River Books, 2007). She has authored a number of journal articles and book chapters on Myanmar archaeology, as well being a member of the drafting team for the UNESCO World Heritage List 2014 inscription of the early first millennium CE Pyu Ancient Cities and the in progress nomination of 9–13th century CE Bagan. She is currently working on publications on the living heritage of ancient Bagan and Kyaukse as well as a co-authored comparison of water management at Bagan and Dawei, Lower Myanmar.

At NSC, she has been working on the role of archaeology in ASEAN in defining sustainable cultural values. The Pyu Ancient Cities 2014 inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List gave the nation its first UNESCO site. Singapore’s first nomination to the World Heritage List, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, will be decided in June 2015, coinciding with SG50, the year-long celebration of the nation’s heritage. The project begins by comparing the relationship between international, national and local archaeology; and tangible and intangible cultural heritage in Myanmar and Singapore and drawing upon case studies in Cambodia and Thailand.

About the Talk

With the 2014 UNESCO World Heritage inscription of the early Buddhist ‘Pyu Ancient Cities’, discussions are underway at the ‘Bagan Archaeological Area and Monuments’ included on the country’s Tentative List revised in 2014. Bagan’s arid environment, with less than 600 mm of rainfall per annum, has helped to preserve mural paintings in several hundreds of the thousands of brick structures of the ancient city. The temples and stupas are laid out across a broad floodplain between ranges on the opposite bank of the river and to the southeast. The traditional rural setting of the temples scattered between village fields has been sustained with cultivation of sugar palms, onions and beans relying on a delicate system of water management. There is the life of the Ayeyarwaddy River as well, with sand-cultivation and boats plying up and down at small jetties. Greening projects plus the infrastructure and water needs of expanding tourism have put increasing pressure on this extraordinary ecology and way of life. The living culture of Bagan includes at least 400 active monasteries. Bagan has a deep and long-lived significance as a pilgrimage destination, where the charitable donation underlying customary repair of pagodas often runs counter to international preservation norms. There is, in addition, the relationship of villages and monasteries to temple festivals and the most popular pilgrimage circuits. Both the rich archaeology and this living heritage of Bagan are part of current research as well heritage activities at international and local levels of Myanmar’s ancient landscapes.

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