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A national treasure

Archaeologists in central Burma’s Pegu region have discovered what they believe to be the ruins of an ancient religious site.

Ten stupas and a square structure that is thought to be an ancient ordination hall were uncovered between Paegon and Ingyincin villages in Shwetaung Township on 8 May.

The religious ruins are presumed to be 1,000 years old, which would date the site back to the Pyu era of Burma, from 2nd century BC to mid 11th century AD.

During the Pyu era, Tibeto-Burman speaking Pyu, migrated south from present-day Yunnan, and built walled city-states throughout Upper Burma. Twelve such sites have been excavated to date. The Pyu are considered to be the earliest recorded inhabitants of Burma.

Thirty statues of arhats, a Buddhist term for someone who has attained nirvana, were found inside the ordination hall.

“We assume there were 20 arhats on the each side of the wall, making 80 in total on all sides,” said the farmer who uncovered the site, as he pointed out the ruins that made up gates and entrances.

There is speculation from local archaeologists that the site found in Shwetaung Township could be contextually liked to two other ancient ordination halls found in the region.

One was discovered near the neighbouring town of Prome and the other is believed to be located outside Myola town.

According to local legend, each site each represents the sunset and sunrise, with the current discovery alluding to the midday sun.

“Surprisingly, the 80 arhats from the site in Prome are almost identical to the ones recently found here, but that’s just my perspective,” said regional parliamentary representative, Tun Tun Oo.

But archaeologists in Prome say it is too early to draw conclusions about the age and identity of the structure.

Once the Department of Archaeology conducts full study of the site, they will be able to determine just how old the religious structures are.