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Humans lived in the region that is now Burma as early as 11,000 years ago, but archeological evidence dates the first settlements at about 2500 BCE with cattle rearing and the production of bronze. By about 1500 BCE, ironworks were in existence in the Irrawaddy Valley but cities, and the emergence of city states, probably did not occur till the early years of the Common era when advances in irrigation systems and the building of canals allowed for year long agriculture and the consolidation of settlements.[1]

Little is known about life in early Burma but there is evidence that land and sea traders from China and India passed by and left their mark on the region and the local people traded ivory, precious stones, gold and silver, rhinoceros horns, and horses with these traders. Roman envoys from Alexandria also passed through the Irrawaddy valley in 79 CE en-route to China. Second century Burmese sea-farers, trading with Southern India across the Bay of Bengal, are thought to have brought Buddhism to Burma in the 2nd century CE. and by the 4th century, much of the Irrawaddy Valley was Buddhist including the then dominant city-state, Prome (modern Pyay).[1]

Oral traditions

While little is known about the early people of Burma, the Mon were the first of the modern ethnic groups to migrate into the region, starting around 1500 BCE. Oral tradition suggests that they had contact with Buddhism via seafaring as early as the 3rd century BCE, though definitely by the 2nd century BCE when they received an envoy of monks from Ashoka. Much of the Mon's written records have been destroyed through wars. The Mons blended Indian and Mon cultures together in a hybrid of the two civilisations. By the mid-9th century, they had come to dominate all of southern Burma. From that time, Northern Burma was a group of city-states in a loose coalition. The 'King' of each city-state would change allegiance as he saw fit, so throughout history, much of the Shan-Tai north has been part of the Tai countries of Nan Zhao (now Yunnan and GuangXi, China), SipSong Panna, Lanna (Chiangmai in Thailand - Siam), Ayuttaya (old capital of Siam) and even affiliated with Laos.

References

  1. ^ a b <Myint-U, Thant (2006), The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma, New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, p. 45, ISBN 0-374-16342-1  >
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Certain evidence has been found which suggest that humans lived in the region that is now Myanmar as early as 11,000 years ago, but current published archeological evidence accepted by most scholars dates the first settlements at about 2500 BC with cattle rearing and the production of bronze. Evidence of earlier humans is reported to have been dug in two separate places, in the area around Tagaung, the place where the Burmese claim was the seat of the first Burmese political entity, and in the Padalin Caves, in Western Shan State.

The Burmese government, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the National Museum in Yangon reported several findings which might support the theory that human beings settled earlier than mentioned by many published articles, but is not widely accepted, due to the political sensitivity of the country.

The widely accepted, though also hardly proved theory is that by about 1500 BC, ironworks were in existence in the Irrawaddy Valley but cities, and the emergence of city states, probably did not occur till the early years of the Christian era when advances in irrigation systems and the building of canals allowed for year long agriculture and the consolidation of settlements.[1]

Little is known about life in early Burma but there is evidence that land and sea traders from China and India passed by and left their mark on the region and the local people traded ivory, precious stones, gold and silver, rhinoceros horns, and horses with these traders. Roman envoys from Alexandria also passed through the Irrawaddy valley in A.D. 79 en-route to China. Second century Burmese sea-farers, trading with Southern India across the Bay of Bengal, are thought to have brought Buddhism to Burma in the 2nd Century C.E. and by the 4th Century, much of the Irrawaddy Valley was Buddhist including the then dominant city-state, Prome (modern Pyay).[1]

The first identifiable civilisation which inhabited modern-day Myanmar is that of the Mon. They settled in the Ayeyarwady River delta area and along the Taninthayi coast. The proto-Burmans, the Pyu, settled in and around Pyay, and in the northwestern Ayeyarwaddy valley. Trace of their presence can be found in Sri Ksetra near Pyay, and in Beikthanoe in central Myanmar. The Mon are believed to have begun migrating into the area in about 3000 BC, and their first kingdom Suwarnabhumi (pronounced Suvanna Bhoum) was centred on the port city of Thaton, which itself was established around 300 BC.Their influence extended from Cape Negaris, in the Ayeyarwaddy delta, up to the Chao Praya delta, in modern day Thailand. This is evident from the relics dug up in both Myanmar and Thailand, which share both a common design, production method and origin (in terms of material).

Burmese chronicles state that these early city states had contact with Buddhism via seafaring as early as the 3rd century BC, though proof has now been found that by the 2nd century BC when they received an envoy of monks from Ashoka, Buddhism was already introduced to the populace. The popular form of Buddhism then was, from excavated material, a mixture of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, which would be the status quo up till 1057AD.

From their relics, it can be safely deduced that the Mons blended Indian and local cultures together in a hybrid of the two civilisations, with a strong inclination towards Southern Indian culture, language and architecture. While southern Myanmar became more organized under the Mon, northern Myanmar was still unorganzied, with various small city states and potentates, all vying yet unable to unify the surrounding area. By 300AD, the Burmese are believed to have arrived from the Tibetan plateau, most likely due to conflict between the Tibetans and the Chineses. By 800AD, the Burmese had replaced the Pyus as the dominant race in the Ayeyarwaddy delta and nearby areas, while the Tai people moved into what is now the Shan States, Laos and Thailand around 1200AD.

Another aspect of early prehistoric Myanmar comes from another country in South East Asia. In Malay chronicles, it is stated that the Malays arrived to the modern Malay world from a south-eastern migration. This might be due to the growing pressure from the new migrants - the Mons, the Pyus and the Burmeses. Presence of the Salone people (Orang Laut in Malay) in the souther islands of Myanmar, may be said as partial evidence that such a movement of people towards the south eastern part of the Malay peninsula can be linked with the possible migration route of the proto-Mons and proto-Burmans.

Oral traditions

While little is known about the early people of Burma, the Mon were the first of the modern ethnic groups to migrate into the region, starting around 1500 BC. Oral tradition suggests that they had contact with Buddhism via seafaring as early as the 3rd century BC, though definitely by the 2nd century BC when they received an envoy of monks from Ashoka. Much of the Mon's written records have been destroyed through wars. The Mons blended Indian and Mon cultures together in a hybrid of the two civilisations. By the mid-9th century, they had come to dominate all of southern Myanmar. From that time, Northern Burma was a group of city-states in a loose coalition. The 'King' of each city-state would change allegiance as he saw fit, so throughout history, much of the Shan-Tai north has been part of the Tai countries of Nan Zhao (now Yunnan and GuangXi, China), SipSong Panna, Lanna (Chiangmai in Thailand - Siam), Ayuttaya (old capital of Siam) and even affiliated with Laos.

Further reading

References

  1. ^ a b <Myint-U, Thant (2006), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma], New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, p. 45, ISBN 0-374-16342-1 >

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