Khin Maung Myint
After reading the news of the discovery of the evidence of human settlements in the early bronze age in the Butalin township in the Sagaing Region, a thought came to my mind. Could they be our ancestors? During my school days I wasn’t interested in history. So, I chose the science combination. However, as I grow older I become more and more interested in history and more curious as to who our ancestors were and where our aboriginal peoples were now.
Since our younger days we learned from the elders, very vaguely, that we Bamars are the descendants of the Pyus. As for the Mons, there is no issue or any doubt about their ancestry or their identity as they are still the same Mon race. However, for us Bamars, who are we really?
If we really are the descendants of the Pyus, we are not indigenous to this land and for that matter, neither the Mons too are. My reasoning is, the Pyus and the Mons were originally from the north, which is China today, who migrated to our land over two thousand and four hundred years ago or around 400 BC. This date was much later than the bronze age, thus it can be assumed that our real ancestors were already living on our land millenniums earlier than the Pyus and the Mons. This assumption is based on the fact that the bronze age was estimated to span a period roughly from 3000 to 500 BC in this region, which is the South East Asia today.
Before the discovery, mentioned at the beginning of the article, according to the records of the archeological finds at Nyaunggan, the bronze age in Myanmar is thought to have existed between 3500-500 BC. Although this dating was quite broad, if the discovery of the evidence of human settlements in Butalin could be ascertained that it was from that same period, we can safely presume that our ancestors were already settled on our land three millenniums before the Pyus came. If that can be proved beyond doubt, we can boast that our civilization was contemporary to those of our neighbours, if not earlier.
However, our historical records before the Bagan period were very sketchy, also the history of the Pyu period wasn’t properly recorded. Whatever informations we know about the Pyus are from the conjectures based on the archaeological finds. As I’m not a scholar but just a history buff, I hope that our scholars and archaeologists would be able to shed more light on our distant past and our distant ancestors.
Our archaeologists should endeavour to dig deeper into our past to reveal our ancestry and our true identity, instead of accepting the fact that we descended from the Pyus. Ours’ is not the same as the case of the Mons. Though their ancestors might have migrated from China, like the Pyus did, their identity is still intact, as they remain as Mons throughout the history until today. However, for us, our identity as Bamars emerged only round about the Bagan period. Thus the Bamars could be of mixed bloods, between the Pyus and the Mongolians who invaded our land during 800 AD, putting an end to the Pyu City States, as some foreign historians suggested. I don’t want to accept that their suggestions are totally correct. I believe that some of the Bamars are descendants of the aboriginal people who dwelt on our land in the early bronze age, or even during the stone age that preceded it.
I wonder whether the bronze age people who once settled in Nyaunggan and Butalin were our real ancestors. I must admit that I’m neither a scholar of history nor an anthropologist, but I sometimes fantasized that some of us are descendants of an aboriginal race who first settled on our land long before the arrival of the Pyus. This belief is based on the fact that there are some aboriginal people still in existence in our neighbouring countries, but where had our aboriginal people or our real ancestors or their descendants disappeared?
They must have been pushed south by the marauding Pyus and later by the Mongolians are were dispersed to the numerous West Pacific islands. I have a reasonably strong point in speculating thus. I had met many natives of such places and the similarity of their facial features, physical structures and complexions to some natives of our country intrigued my curiosity. Thus I told them that they looked very
similar to some people who we used to call the Anyarthars (အညာသာ), natives of the upper region.
Most of them agreed that could be possible. I was surprised to learn that according to their history, their forefathers were initially from the Asian mainland. They were forced to flee from their homelands by the people migrating from the north, and moved on to the south and eventually out to the ocean islands, where they now live. Some of those who remained behind on our land could be the ancestors of the Anyarthars of the present day.
To prove my theory, I would like to explain very briefly about the Anyarthians. I first came to learn about that term in the mid-nineteen fifties, during my university days. Dr. Htin Aung, the then Chancellor of the Rangoon University mentioned it in his speech at the prize distribution ceremony after the annual Inter-University and College Sports Meet in Rangoon. The Mandalay University College team won the championship trophy. He praised the Mandalay student athletes by comparing them to the Anyarthians , a name given to the ancient people who once dwelled in the Sagaing region. According to him, some extraordinarilly large human skeletons were found during an archaeological excavations. The size of the skeletons and the bones indicated that they were much taller and larger than the average present day peoples of Myanmar.
As such large skeletons were never found anywhere before, a new name had to be chosen for them. Thus, “The Burma Theosophy Club” of the old days coined a new English word, the Anyarthians, referring to the Anyarthars who lived in the Anyar Daetha (upper regions). Thus it can be assumed that some of he Anyarthars of today are our aboriginal people, but as they had been integrated into the later day societies since time immemorial, their identity had long dissipated. Whereas in other places like the Andaman Island, Australia, Borneo, Indonesia, the Philippines, and many other West Pacific islands, their aboriginal people who have similar features to our Anyarthars still exist today.
I may be wrong, but I think I have the right to conjecture like most historians did in their scholastic works. Though it may not be a scholastic work, I’m floating this idea for our learned historians, archaeologists and anthropologist to look into its possibility. If I may give my opinion, it could be a possibility because about two decades ago I had read an interesting article about a
tribe living on one of the remote islands of Indonesia, who had the same features and similar lifestyles to one of our Karen ethnic races. The author, as far as I can remember, was an anthropologist, who was adamant in his belief that the ancestors of those people migrated from a region on the Asia mainland, what is Myanmar today, via the Malay peninsular. Thus it could be deduced that the ancient Anyarthians, the real ancestors of some of us, had been driven to the West Pacific islands in the same way along the same route.
I would like to conclude thus: as the theory that the human race originated in Africa and dispersed all over the globe and continued to evolve into different races is becoming more and more evident and accepted, I’m confident that my ideas are plausible. According to one authoritative TV documentary, the migration of the prehistoric humans from Africa to Australia was via the overland route, that was thought to have passed through the Middle East, South and South East Asia. Thus our ancestors must be stragglers who stayed behind as the others continued to push on. However, they too have to move further millenniums later, due to the new migrants from the north. Naturally, they too would have used the same route and ended up on some islands in the West Pacific.