Myanmar regime authorities last week bulldozed the internationally recognized Neolithic archaeological site of Taungthaman in Mandalay and used the rubble to build a road.
Still standing after the bulldozers’ work is a plaque reading “This is the site where Stone Age artifacts were excavated on Feb. 17, 1971”, though parts of it have been broken off.
The junta’s decision to construct a road in an area crucial for the understanding of Myanmar’s history has sparked dismay and strong criticism in archaeological circles.
A retired officer from the Department of Archaeology and National Museum said: “Taungthaman is an archaeological site that reveals a historical age. The area could not have been bulldozed without high-level permission. It seems that the Archaeology Department has to keep silent in the face of such government projects. Similar things are happening all around the country today. It’s upsetting to see.”
The law requires companies to consult with archaeologists on projects to be implemented in archaeological zones, but developers are ignoring this and doing as they please, he complained.
Described by the Archaeology Department as home to the “Taungthaman civilization, which used Stone Age weapons”, the site was discovered by the late abbot of Taung Lay Lone Monastery, known by his pen name Ko Pinnyar (Amarapura), around 1967.
Ko Pinnyar is known for his studies on the culture and history of Myanmar.
The Archaeological Department subsequently excavated the area, which led to the discovery of assorted weapons and tools made of stone and bones.
Iron weapons were also discovered at the site, which has been compared with Beikthano, one of the three UNESCO-recognized ancient Pyu cities where weapons from Myanmar’s early Iron Age were found. Taungthaman was occupied from the late Neolithic through the early iron age, around the middle of the first millennium BC.
The road construction on an important archaeological site is in keeping with previous acts of cultural destruction perpetrated by the regime.
Junta forces have also torched houses in the UNESCO heritage site of Hanlin in Shwebo, Sagaing Region. And they did not hesitate to shell Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U, the former royal capital of the Arakanese Kingdom, which is bidding to become a UNESCO world heritage site.
Myanmar’s previous military regimes were no different in this regard, building a reservoir in Sagaing Region’s Chaung-U Township where fossils of a Stone Age human were found, and badly botching renovations of ancient temples in the UNESCO heritage site of Bagan, a global tourism destination.