Zarni Mann
[gallery type="slideshow" ids="83582,83583,83584,83585,83586"] MANDALAY — A rock formation etched with prehistoric drawings and what is believed to have been an animist worship altar has been identified deep in the forests of Pae Dwe mountain, located between Ywa Ngan Township in Shan State and Wun Dwin Township of neighboring Mandalay Division. The prehistoric art is the first finding of its kind in more than a half century, with the last known discovery inside central Burma’s Padah-Lin caves. Amateur adventurer Win Bo stumbled upon the images on Saturday at an area known locally as Mya Kha Nauk, about eight miles southwest of the famous Padah-Lin caves A group led by veteran historian Win Maung (Tampawaddy), amateur archaeologists, historians from Mandalay, researchers and Aung Aung Kyaw, the deputy director of the Ministry of Culture’s research department, reached the rock shelter on Wednesday and carried out preliminary research at the site. Handprints in a fading reddish brown color and animal figures resembling tortoises and deer were found on the ceiling of the massive mushroom-like rock, which appears to have been used in more recent times as a shelter and is partially stained by smoke from campfires. The base of the rock shelter is covered with numerous names, believed to have been etched into the stone using charcoal by more contemporary inhabitants. One façade of the rock shelter stands about 22 feet high and 20 feet wide and features an ocher elephant figure engraved on its surface. In front of the stone curtain, a rock slab is believed to have been used as a plinth for worship. “People of prehistoric times used to worship huge animals like elephants as their god. Here, we found the plinth in front of the rock curtain, and it can be said that the area served as the altar where they came and worshipped for safe journeys during hunting and traveling,” said Win Maung, the historian. The elephant figure is about 9 feet height and 14 feet wide. Broken pieces of arrowheads were also discovered at the site. “The weapons are from the Paleolithic era, and we can assume that the people who lived in Padah-Lin cave reached this area, hunted in this area, took shelter here and created an altar to worship,” said Win Maung, possibly making the artifacts 10,000 years older or older. Piles of stones and rocks leading away from the shelter form what is believed to have been a pathway marking the route to the site. “In prehistoric times, people used to mark the route by piling up stones. … From all of these findings, we can say that the paintings are from the same period as the paintings from Padah-Lin cave,” Win Maung said. The Padah-Lin caves’ walls are also covered in prehistoric paintings and were discovered in 1960. Research and excavation of the Padah-Lin caves was carried out the following year and archeologists discovered tools dating to the Paleolithic and Neolithic eras. Aung Aung Kyaw of the Ministry of Culture said the ministry is planning to conserve the site of the new discovery and carry out research and excavation work. “The elephant figure from the rock curtain alone is distinctly visible because its outlines are engraved. Most of the figures from the rock shelter are fading away due to weather and the smoke, requiring urgent care,” said Aung Aung Kyaw. “We are planning to do excavation and research on the paintings very soon, and also need to educate the locals about protecting the heritage,” he added.

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