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June 06, 2018

Myanmar, Nature’s choicest gift

Maha Saddhamma Jotika daja
Sithu Dr. Khin Maung Nyunt

Report of lizards caught stuck in ambers of Myanmar on front page of the esteemed Daily The global New Light of Myanmar 7-3-2016 with clean photographs printed on the page, prompted the writer to write this article.
The researchers at the museum of Natural History in Florida recently announced the discovery of lizards fossils in ambers of Myanmar. The discovery was the oldest specimen of its kind and a missing link for reptile research. Edward Stanley, one of the researchers, says “It was incredibly exciting to see these animals for the first time” locked up in ambers. “It is startling, actually, how well they were preserved. They were entrapped in a gush of sticky resin, while darting through a tropical forest in what is now Myanmar in South East Asia. The other reptiles trapped in the amber were gecko, and artic lizard. That discovery will help researchers learn more about the lost ecosystem, the lost world.
Being a historian, the writer has to trace, survey and research the past, present and future of history. He finds no beginning of the past and no ending of the Future. In his endless academic journey, he has to contact many related art and science disciples such as Paleontology, geology, anthropology, geography, archeology and proto history, religions and visual and performing arts.
From paleontology he had learnt about Pondaung Primate fossils, chance find in Pondaung area in Myanmar proving that evolution of man had reached Anthropithicus Erectus, walking on two legs upright an two front legs as hands. It was the consensus of the scientists of the world that in their scientific dating of Pondaung fossils that Pondaung man was 40 million years senior to the hitherto earliest man of the Nile valley in Egypt.
In his college years he learnt about “Anyathian culture” termed by Dr. Movius and Dr. de Terra, two geologists who during their search for oil and gas around Yenangyaung and Minbu in Upper Myanmar chance discovered some stone implements washed ashore by the Ayeyawady River. They sent them to the laboratories of famous Universities for identifying and dating. The results revealed that they were stone tools used by Palaleolithic Age men. Because these stones were found in Upper Myanmar which Myanmar people call Anya detha, these stones were regarded as evidence of Anyathian Culture.
Later, human settlements of Mesolithic Age and Neolithic Age were discovered across the country. Padalin caves in the Southern Shan State are the settlements of cave-dwellers of Neolithic Age. Later, excavations by Myanmar geologists and archaeologists unearthed many artifacts of different categories. Especially mural paintings in the Padalin caves highlight not only a high standard of civilization of Myanmar Neolithic Age cave dwellers but also their painting technique, style and the use of natural pigments. They used high walls and ceilings that were safer places from destruction. Their technique was linear art — line arts Pigments were extracted from vegetables, animals and minerals that are long-lasting. Some vague concepts of religion or occult science could be gleaned from sketches of human hands and palms and scenes of Sun rise and Sun set viewed from the caves. Many artifacts were dug up at the excavations of the entrance and surroundings of the caves including paint brushes and natural pigments. The caves deserve a place in the UNESCO world Cultural Heritage List.
Later, evidences of Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, either chance find or excavations found in Nyaungyan near Monywa, Waddy and three Pyu city kingdoms of Peithano (Vishnu) Sre Kestra (Pyay) and Hanlin. They were already enlisted in the UNESCO world cultural Heritage Sites. Almost every week printed media to-day carry news of paleontological archaeological findings.
The writer himself is teaching Under-water Archaeology in Ph.D. Prelim class and cultural history, Myanmar in History (Diploma) class. He keeps himself abreast with time. Myanmar produces a variety of metals, precious and semi-precious stones of world renown. Rubies, Sapphires, Jade, garnet star stones, peridots, Lapi Lazuli, Turquise, Crystal-quartz, ameythst, and very lately popular tree Jade (Polarified stone or Ingyin Kyauk) and industrial diamond etc, etc Myanmar kings were addressed or referred to as “Lord possessor of gold, silver mines, Ruby, Sapphires, Amber and Lapi Lasuli etc (a&TwGif; aiGwGif;y,if;  ‘kwåm ydkifpdk;aomt&Sif rif;BuD;).
Amber, like pearl coral and shell, is not stone. Just as pearl, coral and shell are the products of sea, so also amber is the product of forests. Amber is the solidified fossilized form of resin from some trees. To-day in Nahtogyi township there emerges a booming tree — Jade extraction. Ingin Kyauk or fossilized Ingyin tree has become a semi-precious stone on high demand across the world especially in China, Kara and Japan.
Regarding Amber H.L. Chhibber in his book Mineral Resouces of Burma 1934 gave the following account:
“Burmese amber, or “burmite,” as it is called, has been known to the Chinese from a very early date most probably from the beginning of the Christian era. The amber mines, whence almost the whole of the Hukawng Valley amber is derived occure near Maingwan in the unadministered territory and about three miles south-west of the village of Shingban…….”
“Burmite is distinguished from many other amber like resins by its superior hardness and greater toughess, which render it suitable for curving and turning. It varies in colour from pale-yellow to dull-brown. Fourteen varieties of amber are recognized locally, depending mostly on colour and shade of the mineral. For instance, amber of the colour of flame, honey, sessamum, horse-hoof, light-red, like Sicilian variety, simetite, possesses a strong fluorescence, particularly in ultra-violet light; but even in day light a strong bluish tinge appears when viewed at under a certain angle. … Its hardness varies from 2-5-3 and specific gravity from 1.034 to 1.095. By friction it becomes electrified and retains its electricity for some time.”
The author goes on to describe amber cutting and amber trade. He mentioned that “amber buyers are Shans, Kachins, Shan-Chinese, Nagas, Lushais and certain tribes from Assam. Of these the Nagas purchase most the amber mines: Maing Wan, Kamaing, Mogaung, Mandalay and the Naga country in Assam are the important centres of amber trade. A little amber naturally finds its way into European and American markets”. [PP. 85-93]
The author next gave other localities of amber such as Shwebo district. Pakokku district and Thayetmyo District But these ambero are of inferior quality.”
The writer himself had inherited from his grand mother an amber rosary in which he noticed tiny insect trapped inside. In Russia and China ambers with such insects – ant, grass hopper or butterfly, bee or warsps are highly valued. They are made into jewelleries. The writer remembers a huge amber Buddha Statue with some insects trapped inside at a great house of his friend of upper wealthy class in Yangon, some years ago.
Dr. Saw Lwin, an authority on Orchids, especially Myanmar orchids used to make his field trips to the Hu-Kaung Valley in quest of new species or new varieties. He told the writer that he came across lumps and lumps of raw amber of different hues in the forests. Some have insects entrapped inside. He invited the writer to join his trip and collect raw ambers. But the writer in his lake octogenarian age, with chronic back pain, could not take the opportunity he offered.
The report referred to at the opening paragraph of this article that they are Myanmar ambers. [quite possibly from the Hu Kaung Valley] in which a big creature like lizard appeared entrapped and preserved. Laboratory tests gave the age of entrapped lizard “some 75 million years older than the previous record holder.
National pride rises in the heart of the writer so much so that he did not feel hungry for Lunch though his better half — wife Daw Hla Hla Khin was yelling at him to take late lunch. He was dreaming of a Natural History museum of Myanmar.
This Nature’s choicest gift – Myanmar Shwe Myanmar [Suvanna Bhumi] where all natural resources on ground, under ground, on water and under water are boundless to exploit wisely for the prosperity and welfare of its inhabitbants. What is lacking is unity, wisdom and technology know-how. So let’s work together.


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