Towards a new generation of archaeologists

Archaeologists study remains of objects used by ancient people.  Photo: Supplied by Ministry of Culture
Archaeologists study remains of objects used by ancient people.
Photo: Supplied by Ministry of Culture

Maung Tha (Archaeology)

We were in Pyay, Bago Region, on 26 November to attend the 10th anniversary of the Archaeological Technology Training School there.
Our team comprised member of the Myanmar Historical Commission Dr Toe Hla, former director generals at the National Archives Department U Kyaw Win (Anthropologist Kyaw Win) and U San Win, and deputy director general U Sein Win.
Just five miles away from Pyay, the school is located in the north of Srikhetra, one of three ancient cities of Pyu Period inscribed on World Heritage List.
Archaeologist U MyintAung defined the term ‘archaeology’ as “the study of traditions, cultures and urbanisation of the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages by observing the remains of objects of personal use and religious edifices as well as old cemeteries.”
Scholars divided the study of a country’s history into prehistoric and post-historic times. It is easy to study the post-historic times as information can be interpreted through ancient forms of writing recorded on various writing materials such as stone slabs, pots and bells. However, the prehistoric time is a different story. It is through archaeological excavations that the prehistoric times can be understood. It is, therefore, important to produce new generations of archaeologists simply because they play a vital role in exploring and preserving the cultural heritage. In addition, it is necessary to train them how to apply the new technology to their research of cultural heritage.
To fulfill that requirement, the University of Yangon established the Department of Archaeological Research in 1994-95 academic year, conducting post-graduate courses to breed a new generation of archaeologists. The course continues up to this date in the country’s oldest university. Now, Dagon University and Yadanabon University run their own archaeological courses.
To assist the Ministry of Education with its efforts to produce archaeologists, the Archaeological Research and National Museum Department under the Ministry of Culture is now engaged in the excavation and conservation activities. In addition, the department constructed its Archaeological Technology Training School in Pyay on 1 July 2004 and opened it on 7 November 2005. The training school, in partnership with the National University of Culture and Fine Arts (Yangon), now conducts post-graduate courses on archaeological research.
In the past 10 years, the training school has turned out 246 archaeologists and provided six batches of in-house training to 87 departmental officials.
The training school in Pyay has its one-year post-graduate course in applied archaeological research open to any graduate. A Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Archaeology will be conferred on trainees who have successfully completed the course. Yangon University now offers master’s degrees and doctorates.
The modules covers field excavations, archaeological science, the archaeology of prehistoric and post-historic times, early research, ancient arts, the study of stone inscriptions and ancient coins, maintenance of edifices and the protection and preservation of national cultural objects.
The 10th anniversary of the Archaeological Technology Training School was accompanied by a paper-reading session, followed by rounds of discussions regarding further development of archaeological research.
The paper-reading session and the dinner drew Deputy Culture Minister DawSandarKhin and departmental officials. We all had a memorable experience amid showers.

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