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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

Urbanism in Myanmar Archaeology and Culture

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The course offers a specialised focus on the urban legacy of Myanmar that complements other specialised half-units. At the same time, in addressing the processes of urbanism, Myanmar art and archaeology is approached in a wider disciplinary context.

The course considers the processes of urbanism in Myanmar with examples ranging from the early Buddhist cities and their immediate antecedents of the late first millennium BE and the first millennium CE. We discuss the variation in early urban areas between the large walled cities of the dry zone of Upper Myanmar to walled sites in ‘Suvannabhumi’ or the ‘golden land’ in the present Mon State to those of the Southern coastal zone, present day Tanintharyi Division.   We consider urban structures such as walls, palaces, religious structures and related arts and artefacts by which ancient and monumental cities and their hinterlands are commonly known.

We also investigate how the local relates to the regional, the interaction of urban sites with the environment, the extent to which early urban sites were intentionally created and those by which some expanded into classic monumental states and others fade from the material culture. In this sense, urbanism addresses a social identification and a way of life ‘in relation to the city’ as more than a concept related to ‘the state’. Given the extent of many urban sites of Myanmar, excavation and survey are now commonly embedded within heritage management and geographical information systems and ethnographic and historical analogies to interpret social phenomena of which the built environment is both the outcome and shaper. We look at commonalities and differences within Myanmar, the spaces and subjects by which urbanism can be defined and the manner in which some cities expanded into states and others fade from the historical record.

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 the past and present context of urbanism in Myanmar and develop transferable independent study and research skills

Method of assessment

1 essay of 2,500 words= 35%, 1 essay of 2,500= 45%  words slide test =20%