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Early history

Humans lived in the region that is now Burma as early as 11,000 years ago, but the first identifiable civilisation is that of the Pyu although both Burman and Mon tradition claim that the fabled Suvarnabhumi mentioned in ancient Pali and Sanskrit texts was a Mon kingdom centred on Thaton in present day Mon state.


Humans lived in the region that is now Burma as early as 11,000 years ago, but the first identifiable civilisation is that of the Pyu although both Burman and Mon tradition claim that the fabled Suvarnabhumi mentioned in ancient Pali and Sanskrit texts was a Mon kingdom centred on Thaton in present day Mon state.

Artifacts from the excavated site of Nyaunggan help to reconstruct Bronze Age life in Burma and the more recent archaeological evidence at Samon Valley south of Mandalay suggests rice growing settlements between about 500 BC and AD 200 which traded with Qin and Han dynasty China.

Pyu

The Pyu arrived in Burma in the 1st century BC and established city kingdoms at Binnaka, Mongamo, Sri Ksetra, Peikthanomyo, and Halingyi. During this period, Burma was part of an overland trade route from China to India. Chinese sources state that the Pyu controlled 18 kingdoms and describe them as a humane and peaceful people. War was virtually unknown amongst the Pyu, and disputes were often solved through duels by champions or building competitions. They even wore silk cotton instead of actual silk so they would not have to kill silk worms. Crime was punished by whippings and jails were unknown, though serious crimes could result in the death penalty. The Pyu practiced Theravada Buddhism, and all children were educated as novices in the temples from the age of seven until the age of 20.

The Pyu city-states never unified into a Pyu kingdom, but the more powerful cities often dominated and called for tribute from the lesser cities. The most powerful city by far was Sri Ksetra(SriKhestra), which archaeological evidence indicates was the largest Pyu city that has ever been built in Burma. The exact date of its founding is not known, though likely to be prior to a dynastic change in A.D. 94 that Pyu chronicles speak of. Sri Ksetra(SriKhestra) was apparently abandoned around A.D. 656 in favour of a more northerly capital, though the exact site is not known. Some historians believe it was Halingyi. Wherever the new capital was located, it was sacked by the kingdom of Nanzhao in the mid-9th century, ending the Pyu's period of dominance.

Mon

The 6th century Mon kingdom of Dvaravati in the lower Chao Phraya valley in present day Thailand extended its frontiers to the Tenasserim Yoma (mountains). With subjugation by the Khmer Empire from Angkor in the 11th century the Mon shifted further west deeper into present day Burma. Oral tradition suggests that they had contact with Buddhism via seafaring as early as the 3rd century BC and had received an envoy of monks from Ashoka in the 2nd century BC.

The Mons adopted Indian culture together with Theravada Buddhism and are thought to have founded kingdoms in Lower Burma including the Thaton Kingdom circa 9th century AD and Bago (Pegu) in 825. The Kingdom of Rama??adesa (or Ramanya) referenced by Arab geographers in 844?8. is believed to be Thaton. The lack of archaeological evidence for this may in part be due to the focus of excavation work predominantly being in Upper Burma.

 

 
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