The Pyu city-states—five major walled cities and several smaller towns have been excavated—were all located in the three main irrigated regions of Upper Burma: the Mu valley, the Kyaukse plains and Minbu region, around the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers. Part of an overland trade route between China and India, the Pyu realm gradually expanded south. Halin, founded in the 1st century A.D. at the northern edge of Upper Burma, was the largest and most important city until around the 7th or 8th century when it was superseded by Sri Ksetra (near modern Pyay) at the southern edge. Twice as large as Halin, Sri Ksetra was the largest and most influential Pyu center. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Pyu city plans, consisted of square/rectangles and circles, were a mix of indigenous and Indian designs. It is believed that circular patterns inside the cities were Pyu while the rectangle or square shape of the outer walls and the use of 12 gates were Indian in origin. According to Cooler, "the adoption of Indian concepts of city planning incorporated a belief in the efficacy of the world axis that connects the centermost point in a properly constructed Mandala city with the city of the Gods above (Tavatimsa heaven) in order to assure prosperity throughout the kingdom below". Pyu-era city practices were the forefathers of the latter-day Burmese city and palace designs down to the 19th century Mandalay. +

Sri Ksetra is the largest Pyu site discovered thus far. (Only Beikthano and Sri Ksetra have been extensively excavated). Other important Pyu cities as Maingmaw and Binnaka could yield more artifacts with more extensive excavations. Many Pyu settlements have been found across Upper Burma. They include Wati (an urban area west of Maingmaw), Ayadawkye Ywa in the Mu valley, west of Halin and south of a recently discovered bronze age site called Nyaunggan, and several others in Myinmu township, which controls the mouth of the Mu river. A small but politically significant Pyu site is Tagaung in northern Burma (about 200-km north of Mandalay) where Pyu artifacts including funerary urns have been excavated. The significance is due to the fact that the Burmese chronicles identify Tagaung as the home of the first Burmese kingdom. Aside from Beikthano and Sri Ksetra, most Pyu sites have not seen extensive or any excavation. +

Pyu Ancient Cities: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Pyu Ancient Cities was designated a a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to UNESCO: Pyu Ancient Cities includes the remains of three brick, walled and moated cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra located in vast irrigated landscapes in the dry zone of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River basin. They reflect the Pyu Kingdoms that flourished for over 1,000 years between 200 BC and AD 900. The three cities are partly excavated archaeological sites. Remains include excavated palace citadels, burial grounds and manufacture sites, as well as monumental brick Buddhist stupas, partly standing walls and water management features – some still in use – that underpinned the organized intensive agriculture.[Source: UNESCO]

The Pyu Ancient Cities provide the earliest testimony of the introduction of Buddhism into Southeast Asia almost two thousand years ago and the attendant economic, socio-political and cultural transformations which resulted in the rise of the first, largest, and longest-lived urbanized settlements of the region up until the 9th century. The Pyu showed a striking capacity to assimilate Indic influences and swiftly move into a significant degree of re-invention. They created a special form of urbanization, the city of extended urban format, which subsequently influenced urbanization in most of mainland Southeast Asia. These earliest Buddhist city-states played a seminal role in the process of transmitting the literary, architectural and ritual traditions of Pali-based Buddhism to other societies in the sub-region where they continue to be practiced up to the present.

Remains at Pyu Ancient Cities

According to ICOMOS: Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra together as a Serial Property jointly testify to the several aspects of the development of this new model of urban settlement for the Southeast Asian region. Together the three cities provide evidence for the entire sequence and range of Pyu urban transformation from ca. 2nd century BCE to the 9th century CE, Buddhist monastic communities, distinctive mortuary practice, skilful water management, and long distant trade. At all three Pyu Ancient City sites, the irrigated landscape of the Pyu era is still impacting on the rural livelihoods of the modern population, while the religious monuments continue to be venerated by Buddhist pilgrims from throughout the region. [Source: Search International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)]

Pyu Ancient Cities is located in the Irrawaddy River Basin in Myanmar. This group of cities is comprised of archaeological evidence including brick city walls, moats, and clay embankments from three cities: Halin, Beikthano, and Sri Ksetra. These cities were significant in the Pyu State during the 4th – 9th centuries. Archaeological analysis found evidence of a fortresses, cremation rituals, brick Buddhist stupas, and a moat with clay embankment structures built for use in water management. Some moats and clay embankments are still usable nowadays. Halin, Beikthano, and Sri Ksetra are considered the pioneers of cultural world heritage in the Serial Property category in Southeast Asia, dating between the 4th and 9th centuries. The group of Pyu ancient cities in Myanmar was declared a World Heritage Site in 2014 based on the Outstanding Universal Values, Criteria 2, 3, and 4.

Pyu ancient cities are a cultural resource that shows the Indian cultural transfer that occurred during the 6th century. Pyu Ancient Cities are considered the first cities in Southeast Asia where Buddhism was established. There are several Buddhism-related buildings and brick pagodas. The architecture styles were adapted from external culture into the unique Pyu architectural styles. The Buddhist culture in Pyu Cities was also transferred to and led to changes in other parts of Southeast Asia since the early common ear through Buddhism doctrines and practices. The Pyu ancient complex is considered to be the first area in history where Buddhism was originally established in Southeast Asia. The construction of Buddhist venues for ceremony organization led to seasonal agricultural area management and water management for utilization and consumption, and the production of potteries, steel, gold and silver items for trading purposes, and the construction of brick Buddhist venues under royal sponsorship. Additionally, new mortuary practices were initiated, crematoria were constructed, and people began to keep cremated human remains in urns. During this time, commercial network between Pyu ancient cities and other locations in Southeast Asia, China, and India, were established, contributing to the use of Pali in Southeast Asia in the Buddhist scriptures.

Cultural waves from outsides forced Pyu to develop management strategies in several areas, such as agriculture, brick production, and metal production, for utilization within cities. This resulted in the advancement in terms of city planning and building constructions, such as the construction of temples with surrounding walls, moats and canals around Buddhist venues, tall pagodas, and the location of the palace in the area close to or right at the center of the city. These all were derived from the beliefs on centralized governance and the Cosmic Mandala.

Beikthano: the Earliest of Main Pyu City States

Beikthano is the oldest urban site so far discovered in Myanmar and the oldest of the three ancient centers of Pyu civilization (the other two being Srikestra and Halin). Its name means the “City of Vishnu”, the second of the great gods in the Hindu Triad. Located 12 miles west of present-day Taungdwingyi in the irrigated Minbu region, and regarded as the first capital of a culturally and perhaps politically uniform state in Myanmar, Beikthano flourished during the A.D. 1st to 5th centuries A.D. and covered an area of 3.3 square miles 450 feet above sea level. The eastern city wall was 10,000 feet in length. The northern wall was 9,000 feet. the southern wall was 8,000 feet. The presnt-day western wall has collapsed owing to soil erosion caused by the action of the Yanpè Creek. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information ~]

Beikthano was a large fortified settlement, measuring approximately 300 hectares inside the rectangular (3 kilometers by 1 km) walls. The walls and fortifications along it measured six meters thick, and are radiocarbon dated to a period between 180 B.C. and 610 A.D. Like most subsequent cities, the main entrance of the walls led to the palace, which faced east. Stupas and monastic buildings have also been excavated within the city walls. [Source: Wikipedia]

Beikthano was defended by two walls: a city wall and an inner palace wall. Both of these walls were more circular (or rather rhomboid) than square in shape. Huge. specially shaped bricks had to be baked to be fitted as proper corner stones for these walls. Neither the city walls nor the palace walls were defended by moats. The majority of the Pyu citizenry lived outside the city walls or in the surrounding countryside. They were content to live in houses made of wood and bamboo but insisted on their monasteries being built of wood and brick and their city and palace also achieving corresponding grandeur. ~

Beikthano is situated near the east bank of the Irrawaddy River between Srikshetra and Pagan. Dr. Richard M. Cooler wrote in “The Art and Culture of Burma”: “The city plan of Beikthano resembles a bulging rhombus, each side of the city wall measuring about two miles, although little remains today due to natural decay and human depredation. Excavation revealed twelve gateways where the walls curved inward to create entrance passages, each terminating in massive gates. In each of these passages the burnt remains of a wooden gate and rusted iron sockets were found. A rectangular brick enclosure, referred to as the Palace site, lies approximately at the center of the walled city. In the center of the eastern wall of this palace enclosure there is an inner gateway that unlike the curved entrances along the city walls has a square entrance. On either side of all the excavated gates was found an indented space for guards or sentries. Near the entrance to the palace site, two huge pairs of feet carved in sandstone were found. Although the upper portions are missing, these were no doubt once massive figures of door guardians. [Source: “The Art and Culture of Burma,” Dr. Richard M. Cooler, Professor Emeritus Art History of Southeast Asia, Former Director, Center for Burma Studies]

An account of Beikthano was recorded in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) by Chinese chronicle Man Shu in the chapter “The Southern Barbarians.” He wrote: “The circular wall of his (the Pyu King’s) city is built of greenish glazed titles (brick) and is 160 li. It has 12 gates and three pagodas at each four corners. . . Their house tiles are of lead and zinc. . . They have a hundred monasteries with bricks of vitreous ware. embellished with gold and silver. vermillion. gray colors and red kino.” [Taw Sein Kho (1895). The Pottery and Glasware of Burma 1894-95”.Superintendent of Govt.Printing. Rangoon.]

Beikthano was destroyed in the A.D. 4th or 5th Century. Buildings and city gates were consumed by fire. indicating that it was the result of enemy attack. After a short period as a ruined city, it was rebuilt again as a succeeding kingdom, only to be sacked again and burnt to the ground. However the Pyu people continued to occupy the surrounding countryside without having city-walls to protect them. The next Pyu kingdom was established down-river at Thayekhittara (Srikshestra), 5 miles west of Pyay that grew to prominence during the A.D. 4th and 5th centuries. ~

Artifacts and Findings from Beikthano

The structures, pottery, artifacts, and human skeletons—date from 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. Cooler wrote: “Little of the ancient city exists today because its once tall brick walls were quarried to construct roads and railway tracks. Therefore, most of what is known of Beikthano is the result of archaeological excavations carried out in the twentieth century. Among the excavated structures were found the ruins of Buddhist monasteries, although no Buddhist statuary was found; two pillared halls; four stupa–like buildings; and a city wall made of fired brick enclosing an area of over 2.8 kilometers. The excavations produced artifacts that can be categorized as having essentially Pyu characteristics: silver coins bearing symbols of prosperity and good-luck, burial urns of both plain and elaborate designs, beads of clay and semi-precious stones, decorated domestic pottery, iron nails, and metal bosses. This assemblage of artifacts is shared with the later Pyu cities of Halin and Srikshetra. Through the analysis of the structures, pottery types, particular marks on potsherds, the inscriptions on a clay seal and on burial urns, the period in which Beikthano existed can be established as the 1st –5th centuries AD. [Source: “The Art and Culture of Burma,” Dr. Richard M. Cooler, Professor Emeritus Art History of Southeast Asia, Former Director, Center for Burma Studies =]

When one of the religious edifices (Dig. No. 14) was excavated a stretched out skeleton near the south wall was uncovered. Along the north wall were lined up two piles of human bones. The outstretched skeleton remains were carefully marked. labeled and shipped to Prof. Dr. H. Zaw Htun of the Faculty of Anatomy. Institute of Medicine. Yangon for scientific examination. Dr. Zaw Htun’s findings indicated that the remains were of a healthy Mongolian male. 25 years old and 5’ 5” tall. The cause of death was due to a heavy blow delivered to the right temple. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information ~]

A total of 780 beads. comprising large numbers of earthenware beads and (29) stone beads were recovered from the excavations. At building No. (17) alone 500 beads were found and possibly indicates that the building was some sort of bead factory. Some of the stone beads were colored either red or yellow or black. The art of coloring stone beads seems to have reached an unprecedented high during the Pyu period. ~

The usual dates ascribed to the Beikthano kingdom are from the A.D. 1st century to the 5th century. Charcoal from the excavated sites have been radio carbon-dated to the 1st century C.E. Conflicting scientific evidence however emerged at the 5th Radio Dating Conference (1962) of the International Dating Conference, Cambridge University. U.K.. where the decay of Radio carbon (14) from samples from Beikthano indicate that they should be more properly dated to 1950 B.C.. i.e. to nearly 2000 years earlier than the First Century C.E. The charcoal samples for these analyses were taken from the two lowest strata of a religious edifice unearthed at site No.(9) as well as charcoal from the two bottom strata at site No.(10). ~

Pyu City State of Halin

Halin (Halingyi) is located in the Mu valley, one of the largest irrigated regions of precolonial Burma, in northern Burma, north of Mandalay about 12 miles southeast of Shwebo. The northernmost Pyu city so far discovered, the city was rectangular but with curved corners, and brick-walled. Excavated walls are approximately 3.2 kilometers long on the north-south axis and 1.6 kilometers on the east-west. At 664 hectares, the city was nearly twice the size of Beikthano. It has four main gates at the cardinal points, and a total of 12 gates, based on the zodiac. A river or canal ran through the city. Traces of a moat exist on all sides except the south, where it was probably not needed, as land was dammed there to create reservoirs. The earliest artifacts of Halin—city's wooden gates—are radiocarbon dated to 70 A.D. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Dr. Richard M. Cooler wrote in “The Art and Culture of Burma”: Halin “seems to have flourished from the 2nd to the 6th century AD. Preliminary excavations were carried out in 1904-5, in 1929-30 and again from 1963 to 1967. Although these excavations yielded many small finds including burial urns, beads, shards, coins, engraved gems, and metal implements as well as a few inscribed lines written in Pyu, little architectural evidence other than the bases of square or rectangular brick buildings were found. Even so, it is evident that the remains at Halin are characteristically Pyu. That is with the exception that no round stupas, large stone or metal images, nor clay votive tablets were found, such as appear in some abundance at Srikshetra. A practice prevalent at Halin that differs from Beikthano was the burial of non-cremated human remains along with the funerary urns. The attack on Halin in 832 A.D. by the Nan-chao of Yunnan, China, appears to have been a devastating blow since according to the Chinese records the entire population was carried off into slavery and after this date mention of the Pyu is very rare. [Source: “The Art and Culture of Burma,” Dr. Richard M. Cooler, Professor Emeritus Art History of Southeast Asia, Former Director, Center for Burma Studies =]

“Of rounded rectangular shape, the brick-walled and moated city is roughly two miles long and one mile wide. At present, the walls of the city have crumbed almost to ground level. Most of the structures themselves were below ground level and had to be completely uncovered through excavation. Traces of the moat are seen on all sides except the south. Three of the original twelve gateways were uncovered. The brick city walls curve inwards at the onset of each entrance gateway and thus create a protected passageway into the interior of the city. A rectangular shaped outer wall with rounded corners was also delineated that is similar to the city plan of Beikthano.

This design of Halin influenced the city planning of later Burmese cities and the Siamese city of Sukhothai. For example, the number of gates and configuration was also found in subsequent major Burmese capitals such as the 11th century Pagan and 19th century Mandalay. The city's configuration was also found at other contemporary cities such as Maingmaw and Beikthano in the Pyu realm and Danyawaddy and Wethali in Arakan as well as later cities such as Sukhothai, which emerged over a millennium later. Structural remains of temples at Halin show that the design of city's temples influenced the 11th to 13th century temples at Pagan. Excavated artifacts point to Halin's Pyu script to be the earliest writing in the Pyu realm (and in Burma). It was based on an earlier version of the Brahmi script (Mauryan and Guptan). Inscriptions at Sri Ksetra show a later version of the same script. +

Known for the production of salt, a highly prized commodity in the first millennium, Halin was superseded by Sri Ksetra as the premier Pyu city-state circa 7th century. By the Chinese accounts, Halin remained an important Pyu center until the 9th century when the Pyu realm came under repeated attacks from the Nanzhao Kingdom. The Chinese records state that the city was destroyed by the Nanzhao warriors in 832 A.D., with 3000 of its inhabitants taken away. However, radiocarbon dating reveals human activity to about 870 A.D., nearly four decades after the reported sack of the city. +

Pyu City State of Srikshetra (Thirikhittaya)

Sri Ksetra (Sriksetra or Thaye Khittaya, meaning "Field of Fortune" or "Field of Glory") was the largest and most important of all the Pyu capital cites, the last and southernmost one too. Located approximately five miles southeast of the modern city of Prome, 180 miles northwest of Rangoon, and a few miles inland from the left bank of the Irrawaddy,it was founded between the 5th and 7th centuries, and likely overtook Halin as the premier Pyu city by the 7th or 8th century, and retained that status until the arrival of the Burmans in the 9th century. The city was home to at least two dynasties, and maybe three. The first dynasty, called the Vikrama Dynasty, is believed to have launched the Pyu calendar, which later became the Burmese calendar, on 22 March 638. The second dynasty was founded by King Duttabaung on 25 March 739 (11th waxing of Tagu 101 ME).

The site of Srikshetra is known by several names: Thayekhittaya, Hmawza, and Pyi in Burmese and as Old Prome in many English publications. Thought to have reached its height from the 5th through early 9th centuries, it occupied a larger area than that of the 11th century Pagan or 19th century Mandalay. Circular in design, Sri Ksetra was more than 13 kilometers in circumference and three to four kilometers across, or about 1400 hectares of occupied area. The city's brick walls were 4.5 meters high, and had 12 gates with huge devas (deities) guarding the entrances and a pagoda at each of the four corners. It also has curving gateways, such as those found at Halin and Beikthano. In the center of the city was what most scholars think represented the rectangular palace site, 518 meters by 343 meters, symbolizing both a mandala and a zata (horoscope), like in Maingmaw. Only the southern half of the city was taken up by the palace, monasteries and houses; the entire northern half consisted of rice fields. Together with the moats and walls, this arrangement ensured that the city could withstand a long siege by enemies. [Source: Wikipedia]

Dr. Richard M. Cooler wrote in “The Art and Culture of Burma”: Srikshetra’s city plan, unlike that of Beikthano and Halin, is more circular or oval in shape. The city wall of well-fired bricks is surrounded by a moat. The circumference of the wall is eight and one half miles and in many sections, where the wall remains intact, rises as high as fifteen feet. At each of the entrances or gateways into the city, the wall curves inward, as at Beikthano and Halin, to form long corridors on either side of the entrance passages. Also, the palace site is located in the center of the city enclosure, as found elsewhere; is rectangular in shape and measures 1,700 feet to 1,125 feet. The northern half of the city is a low plain dominated by rice fields but rises gradually to the south. Chinese records state that commoners lived and farmed their fields within the great expanse within the city walls. This report also states that the prosperity of the city is evidenced by more than a hundred Buddhist monasteries, decorated with gold and silver, and painted many colors that are hung with embroidered cloth. [Source: “The Art and Culture of Burma,” Dr. Richard M. Cooler, Professor Emeritus Art History of Southeast Asia, Former Director, Center for Burma Studies =]

A 19th century Burmese Chronicle, “The Glass Palace Chronicle” was written at the order of the Burmese king and attempts to fit Srikshetra into the Hindu-Buddhist ideal of the perfect royal Capitol City. This model is based on Sudarsana, the heavenly city of Indra (shaka: Burmese) which is located on the peak of Mount Meru at the center of the universe. The palace of Indra is at the center of the city with the palaces of the lesser 32 gods arranged around it. In both Hindu and Buddhist thought, a city so arranged becomes a representation of the “Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods (Pali:Tavatimsa). The chronicle claims that Srikshetra had all the things needed for such a city: 32 main gates and 32 small gates, moats, ditches, four-cornered towers with graduated roofs over the gates, turrets along the walls and so forth. In later Burmese capitals, the gates of the city represented, and were often named after, the chief vassals or provincial governors of the realm, with the king at the center corresponding to the celestial god Indra. The adoption of these beliefs and their use in city planning are a good example of how attractive Hindu-Buddhist concepts were at providing Southeast Asians with a respected place in the cosmos and also a place in the international Asian world. =

It is unknown precisely when and how Srikshetra, a very prosperous city, declined. It is thought that as the Pyus were gradually absorbed by the Burmans as Pagan grew in importance so that by the late 11th century Pagan had become the undisputed capitol of a unified Burma including the formerly Pyu territories.

Srikshetra Culture and Inscriptions

Dr. Richard M. Cooler wrote in “The Art and Culture of Burma”: The culture of the people who once inhabited this great city can be ascertained through the study of architectural, sculptural, epigraphic, and artistic remains, which are relatively abundant when compared to other Pyu sites. Unfortunately, due to the merging of Pyu and Burmese culture, the Pyu language ceased to be used as early as the 13th century. Consequently, it has not been possible to decipher a great number of the inscriptions written in Pyu. The monuments, primarily religious, reveal a close affiliation and communication with India, but as we have seen in other Pyu sites, very few artifacts are identical copies of an Indian form or concept - slight to major changes set these artifacts apart from their Indian prototypes. [Source: “The Art and Culture of Burma,” Dr. Richard M. Cooler, Professor Emeritus Art History of Southeast Asia, Former Director, Center for Burma Studies =]

“The earliest known examples of writing in Burma were found at Srikshetra and employ an alphabet that is derived from those used in South India. Two inscribed gold plates and a manuscript inscribed on twenty gold leaves were found in the Bawbawgyi stupa that have been dated to the second half of the 5th century. A stone slab bearing a Pali inscription recites in verse excerpts from Buddhist texts (the Mangala Sutta, the Ratna Sutta, and the Mora Sutta) and can be dated epigraphically to the 6th or 7th century. Numerous inscribed votive tablets of clay depicting figures of the Budddha have been uncovered. Interestingly, almost all the inscribed materials relate to Theravada Buddhism, although there are images extant from other Buddhist sects as well as other religions. =

Sri Ksetra was an important entrepôt between China and India. It was located on the Irrawaddy, not far from the sea as the Irrawaddy delta had not yet been formed. Ships from the Indian ocean could come up to Prome to trade with the Pyu realm and China. Trade with India brought deep cultural contacts. Sri Ksetra has yielded the most extensive remains of Theravada Buddhism. Religious art suggests several distinct occupations with earlier influences stemming from Southeast India and later influences from Southwest India while 9th century influences include those from the Nanzhao Kingdom. Much of the Chinese account of the Pyu states was through Sri Ksetra. Chinese pilgrims Xuanzang in 648 and Yijing in 675 mentioned Sri Ksetra in their accounts of Buddhist kingdoms of Southeast Asia. The Tang histories mention the arrival at the court of an embassy from the Pyu capital in 801. [Source: Wikipedia]

Other Pyu City States

Maingmaw (also Mong Mao) is located the Kyause region, was circular in shape, and has tentatively been dated to the first millennium B.C.. At 2.5 kilometers in diameter and 222 hectares, Maingmaw is one of the largest ancient cities on the entire Kyaukse plains. It has two inner enclosure walls, the outer of which is square while the inner one is circular. The plan of a circle within a square suggest a zodiac sign which represents a view of the heavens from the perspective of the sun, the manner in which 19th century Mandalay was also conceptualized. At almost dead center, a 19th century temple called Nandawya Paya, which was probably built upon the ruins of an ancient one. The city is bisected by a canal, thought to be contemporary to the city, though no scientific dating has confirmed it. Excavations—the first of which was carried out in 1979—have unearthed many artifacts, including jewelry, silver coins, and funerary urns. Many of the artifacts such as the coins and funerary urns are virtually identical to those found. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Binnaka too was located in the Kyaukse region, and virtually identical to its neighbor Maingmaw in numerous ways. Its brick structures shared the same floor plan as those found at Beikthano and other Pyu sites. Excavations have recovered pre-Buddhist artifacts, gold necklaces, precious stone images of elephants, turtles and lions, distinctive Pyu pottery, terracotta tablets with writing that strongly resembled the Pyu script, and various kinds of acid-etched onyx beads along with others made of amber and jade. Also excavated are distinctive silver coins identical to those found at Beikthano and Binnaka, stone molds for casting silver and gold ornamental flowers, a gold armlet in association with a silver bowl that has Pyu writing on it, and funerary urns virtually identical to those found Beikthano and Binnaka. +

Both Maingmaw and Binnaka may have been contemporary of Beikthano. The chronicles, which do not mention Beikthano at all, do mention the two, though not specifically as Pyu cities. The chronicles state that the ruler of Binnaka was responsible for the fall of Tagaung, the city identified by the chronicles as the original home of Burmese speakers. Binnaka was inhabited until about the 19th century, according to a Konbaung era palm-leaf sittan (record) discovered there. +

Aside from Sri Ksetra and Beikthano, the rest of the Pyu sites have not been extensively excavated. The care of the sites falls under the purview of the Ministry of Culture's Department of Archaeology. In November 2011, the Department reportedly was planning a museum at Sri Ksetra, and working with the UNESCO to gain recognition for Sri Ksetra, Beikthano and Halin as World Heritage sites.

Archaeology at Pyu Ancient Cities

According to UNESCO: The Pyu Ancient Cities are archaeologically intact, as seen in the standing monuments, the in-situ structural remains, the undisturbed unexcavated remains and the still functioning agrarian terrain. The urban footprint of each city, demarcated by the well-preserved moated city walls, remains highly legible two millennia after their initial construction. The boundaries contain the key attributes of outstanding universal value, including a representative sample of the extensive irrigated landscape that supported the cities. The completeness and reliability of dated archaeological sequences from the site, with the radiocarbon dates derived from intact architectural features dating back to 190 BCE, provide scientific proof of the entire one-thousand year period of occupation of the cities, and reinforces palaeographic dates provided by inscriptions in Pyu script on artifacts excavated at the site. The landscape engineering of the three cities also remains largely intact with the manmade structures such as canals and water tanks remaining in continuing use for on-going agricultural processes. [Source: UNESCO]

The authenticity of the Pyu Ancient Cities is to be found in the architectural form and design of unaltered and still-standing monumental structures and urban precincts; a continuous tradition of the use and function of property’s sites of Buddhist veneration; enduring traditions and techniques of agricultural and production management systems, the origins of which are visible in the historic landscape and which continue to be practiced among the local community; the original location and setting of the cities as verified by archaeological research and which remains largely unchanged since the end of historic urbanized settlement 1,000 years ago; the materials and substance of the excavated artefacts from the sites, sourced locally and manufactured on-site, and the spirit and feeling of the three ancient cities which throughout the history of Myanmar and until the present day continues to inspire veneration and pilgrimage.

Conservation at Pyu Ancient Cities

According to UNESCO: Formal measures for the legal protection and administrative management of the Pyu Ancient Cities have been institutionalized at central government, regional, district, and township levels. The Department of Archaeology and National Museum (DANM) of the Ministry of Culture has the primary responsibility for all aspects of protection and management of the three Pyu Ancient Cities. The sites were first gazetted as protected areas under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act (1904) of British India. Their protected status has been continued and extended by Myanmar national legislation, including: the Antiquities Act 1957 (Amended 1962), the Law on the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions 1998 (Amended 2009) and the Rules and Regulations of the Cultural Heritage Region Law 2011.[Source: UNESCO]

To ensure coordinated implementation of the provisions of the applicable laws at national and local levels, a number of mechanisms have been established. At the national level, there is the Central Committee for Myanmar National Heritage and the Myanmar National Committee for World Heritage. At the site level, to ensure the coordinated protection and management of the three ancient city sites, as well as to integrate the property’s conservation into local development planning, a Pyu Ancient Cities Coordinating Committee (PYUCOM) has been established. The PYUCOM is central to the property management framework and is a key element of the Property Management Plan helping to ensure that local traditional systems are acknowledged and incorporated into the day-to-day management. At each of the sites, PYUCOM convenes local consultative groups that bring together the concerns of multiple stakeholders: regional authorities, local government, village representatives and the sangha (monk body).

A Property Management Plan, endorsed by the PYUCOM, was approved by the Ministry of Culture on 18 January 2013. Time-bound action plans provide the framework for the implementation of the provisions of the Property Management Plan. The Property Management Plan is strengthened in some specific areas by the on-going development of auxiliary plans such as those for risk preparedness, visitor management, capacity building for conservation, site interpretation, local community development and regulation of urban use and development. The excavated and exposed archaeological remains, in particular the burial sites and hydrological landscape features, require continued and, in some cases, enhanced conservation.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy,,, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.