Pyiet Phyo Kyaw (University of Yangon)
Bernard Gratuze (CNRS/Univ. Orléans)
San Win (Ministry of Culture)
Paper Short Abstract:
Chemical analysis of glass bead manufacturing waste from Mu Pon, southern Myanmar, suggests bead production from the last century BCE to the first centuries CE, making Mu Pon by far the earliest glass bead production site in Myanmar, linked by sea to South India and the rest of Southeast Asia.
Paper long abstract:
A recent survey in Mu Pon village, south of Mawlamyaing in the Mon State, revealed extensive looting in several areas. One large pit had contained, in addition to a reported thousands of beads, a group of broken tubes and fragments that the villagers had not been able to sell. We examined over 600 specimens, most directly related to glass bead production, and selected a representative group of 131 samples for chemical analysis by LA-ICPMS in an attempt to get some idea of the date and possible importance of the site. Just over half of the samples were potash glass, indicating a probable Southeast Asian origin, with most of the remainder moderate-to-high alumina soda glass typical for South Indian production; exceptionally, there were also two fragments of Roman natron glass. The materials included just two bracelet fragments, identical typologically and chemically to those produced at Khao Sam Kaeo in peninsular Thailand. By comparison with glass from other sites in Myanmar and Thailand, we conclude that this Mu Pon glass represents the remains of bead production from the last century BCE to the first few centuries CE, making Mu Pon by far the earliest documented glass bead manufacturing site in Myanmar, active at the same time as such sites as Phu Khao Thong and Kapoe in Ranong Province, Thailand. These results provide strong evidence that Mu Pon was economically and technologically integrated into early long-distance exchange networks that included both South India and the rest of Southeast Asia.
Myanmar: its past and its regional and inter-regional interactions