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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

The Art and Archaeology of Myanmar

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1

This half-unit course offers a specialised option within the other broader Southeast Asian art and archaeology half-units in the department. The course provides a chronological introduction to the art and archaeology of Myanmar, identifying the major elements of the country’s culture. It includes the legacy of ancient and historical royal capitals, their exploration and associated arts. The course focuses on the country’s Buddhist heritage while taking note of the diversity of cultures and the consequent issues related to our knowledge of their art and archaeology. In discussing the past, the changing culture and issues of the present particularly in relation to cultural heritage, form part of the course.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

  • To identify, illustrate and discuss critically approaches, issues, concepts, materials and themes in the course and to select suitable case studies to illustrate these themes.
  •  To select and use the range of skills required in understanding Myanmar art and archaeology and develop transferable independent study and research skills
  •  Be familiar with a range of archaeological and visual material including urban sites, brick and wooden royal and monastic structures and the art and culture of Buddhism in Myanmar

Scope and syllabus

The course provides an introduction to the art and archaeology of Myanmar.
Outline syllabus

  •  Overview of the Course
  •  The Shwedagon pagoda and British archaeology
  •  Mother-goddess figures: Bronze Age links to Yunnan
  •  Walled sites and Buddhism: 1st millennium CE Tibeto-Burman Pyu
  •  Suvannabhumi and ‘the land of gold’: chronicles and archaeology of the present Mon State
  •  Temples and stupas of 9th to 13th century Bagan
  •  The mural and craft traditions of Myanmar
  •  The image of the Buddha and mythical creatures
  •  From royal to colonial eras: Myanmar in the 19th to early 20th century CE
  •  Presentations and discussion

Method of assessment

  • Exam is worth 60% of Mark
  • First assignment of 1,000 words worth 15% of mark
  • Second assignment of 2,000 words worth 15% of mark
  • Seminar presentation worth 10% of mark

Suggested reading

  • Selected readings
    Aung Thwin M. 2001. Origins and Development of the Field of Prehistory in Burma.  pp.6-34 in Asian Perspectives, vol. 40, no. 1 (2001)
  • Aung-Thwin, Michael. 2005. The mists of Ramanna: the legend that was lower Burma. Honolulu, University of Hawai’i.
  • Bautze-Picron, Claudine. 2010. The bejewelled Buddha from India to Burma : new considerations. New Delhi : Sanctum Books in association with Centre for Archaeological Studies & Training, Eastern India.
  • Bailey, J. T. 1971. "Some Seventeenth-Century Images from Burma" pp. 219-227 in Artibus Asiae vol 33.
  • Branfoot, Crispin. 2014. Ch. 5 A Multitude of Detail: photography, architecture and the religions of British India, in Roger Taylor & Crispin Branfoot, Linnaeus Tripe: photographer in British India and Burma, 1854-1860 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC and Prestel Publishing, 2014)
  • Fraser-Lu, S. 1981. Buddha images from Burma: parts 1, 2, 3: Stone, Bronze, Lacquer
  • Fraser-Lu, S. 1984 Burmese Crafts; Past and Present. Oxford University Press. (Votive Tablets p.194-7, Wooden images of the Buddha p.94-6.
  • Fraser-Lu, S. 2001. Splendour in Wood: the Buddhist Monasteries of Burma. Trumbull, Ct.: Weatherhill. (Ch. 6 Monasteries of Upper Burma).
  • Green, A. 2002. Narrative modes in late seventeenth to earth nineteenth century Burmese wall paintings. Pp.67-76 In Burma: Art and Archaeology. Green & Blurton (Eds), British Museum Press
  • Guy, J. 1997. "A warrior-ruler stele from Sri Ksetra, Pyu, Burma" In Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 85 pts 1/2.
  • Hall, D.G.E. (1960). Burma (3rd ed.). Hutchinson University Library
  • Moore, E. 2013. ‘Pagoda Desecration and Myanmar Archaeology’, in M.J. Klokke and V. Degroot (eds), Materializing Southeast Asia’s Past: Selected Papers from the 12th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, Volume 2 and edited by Dominik Bonatz, Andreas Reinecke and Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz, Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2012. Pp.242-252