Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Myanmar's most mysterious neighbours:  the peoples of the Andaman Islands

The Andaman Islands are closer to Yangon than Mandalay.  They are today part of India.  But their indigenous peoples are perhaps the most isolated anywhere in the world. There are today only several hundred native Andamanese people left.  They speak languages that are unrelated to any other.   Genetically, they are closer to Asians than anyone else.  Interestingly, the few whose DNA have been tested are of the Y Haplogroup D-M174, which is found also in Tibet, Yunnan and Japan....

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China's Warring States

Around the time that Alexander the Great was preparing to conquer the known world, in the 4th century BC, Hui Wen, the king of Qin, was also expanding his domains, laying the basis for an empire that would grow and expand to the present day. This was during China’s ‘Warring States’ period. The country had not yet been unified and Hui Wen’s kingdom was only one of several feudal states that were constantly fighting one another for supremacy. Qin was...

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The Story of Thadingyut

Thadingyut marks the descent of the Buddha from the Tushita heaven of the 33 gods where he had gone to to preach the Abhidharma for three months, including to Indra, Brahma, and his mother Maya who had been reborn there. This 3rd century Gandhara sculpture (today at the Ashmolean museum at Oxford) shows the Gautama Buddha flanked by the Brahma and Indra descending down the triple stairway from the Trayastrimsa heaven. The nun Utpalavarna kneels in waiting below. Gandhara was...

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The genetic history of the Burmese people

Over the past 4-5 years there has been a revolution in genetic science.  Scientists are now able to unlock new information about humanity's distant past in a way that was impossible until very recently.  Over the next 5-10 years we will know far more about the genetic history of this country than today.  This is a summary of what seems known so far: (When I say "Burmese" I mean the ethnic majority Burmese-speaking people of the Irrawaddy valley.)  Anatomically modern...

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Chronology of Lumbini

                                                                         623 BC: Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later becomes Buddha, is born in Lumbini. 249 BC: Emperor Asoka visits Lumbini and erects the Asoka Pillar with Pali language inscriptions in the Brahmi script to pay homage to Buddha’s birthplace. 350- 375 AD: Monk Seng-tsai from...

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Language Tree

Since the 1500s European visitors to India noticed the similarities between most European and many Indian languages. In 1786 the scholar and jurist Sir William Jones, in a lecture at the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta, first proposed that many of the oldest languages in both Europe and Asia, including Greek, Latin, Persian, and Sanskrit, were so similar that they must have stemmed from a common source. The word "Indo-European" was later developed to describe what was seen as...

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The genetic history of people in Myanmar

I've always been interested in the genetic history of people in Myanmar but there is very little information, as very few studies have been undertaken here compared to other countries. In 2013 I took a DNA test in the United States. The test reveals both (1) my paternal line (Y-chromosone) haplogroup and (2) my maternal line (mtDNA) haplogroup. 

"Burmese", "Myanmar", "Bamar" etc are recent identities. Both my parents and all four of my grandparents are "Burman" or "Bamar" but that...

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Full Moon of Waso

One of the very first depictions of the Buddha's First Sermon at the Deer Park in Sarnath - from the Indo-Greek kingdom of Gandhara c. 200 BC. (today at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC). The Myanmar word for "university" - tekkatho - is derived from "Taxila" (Pali takkasila), the Gandhara city and home of its great university.

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The Origin of Burmese Alphabet

The Pallava script on which many southeast Asian scripts (Burmese, Thai, Cambodian, Javanese, etc) are based.The Pallava dynasty ruled much of southern India from the 3rd to 9th centuries. Buddhism likely first traveled to what is today Myanmar from southern India in the early centuries AD. The Pallava script is in turn derived from the Brahmi script used by the Mauryan Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC (and ultimately from Aramaic and Phoenician). The Burmese language was first reduced...

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The lost civilisation of Sanxingdui

The mysterious civilization of Sanxingdui, first discovered in the 1980s, is still very little understood, as we have yet to find any written records. Sanxingdui and the surrounding region may have been a cradle for peoples speaking Tibeto-Burman languages (including languages ancestral to Burmese, Jingpo, Naga, Zomi,etc.) It was a 2nd Millenium B.C. Bronze-Age civilization that existed the same time as Shang dynasty China, New Kingdom Egypt and ancient Babylon. Sanxingdui is in what is today Sichuan (in western China)...

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Jambudipa

"A Burmese Map of the World" showing Jambudipa or the "Rose Apple Island" which is home to all human-kind. In Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain cosmology Jambudipa (or Jambudvipa in Sanskrit, Zambudipa in Burmese) is the southern of four continents. The others are not accessible to human beings. Mount Meru stands at the centre of all four. Our's has a giant rose apple tree as well as big mountains at the top and little islands offshore. It also has thousands of...

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