You are on page 1of 20

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro

Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Pamela Gutman1 , Bob Hudson2 , Kyaw Minn Htin3
& Kyaw Tun Aung4

This is a story that will appeal to all scholars involved with the interpretation of rock art. Figures
depicted on rock surfaces in jungle terrain patrolled by soldier ants were thought in the nineteenth
century to record an otherwise unknown early episode of invasion and resistance – and were
widely published as such. A recent survey by a Myanmar-Australian team has made more correct
records of the earlier forms and now offers fresh interpretations: the carvings are due to fifteenth-
nineteenth century artisans working at quarries producing objects for the town of Mrauk-U,
and they evoke local creatures and architectural echoes of the town and temples on which they
Keywords: Myanmar, Burma, Arakan, political images, post-medieval, rock art

Arakan (Figure 1) is the English name for the state of Rakhine, on the Bay of Bengal coast
of the Union of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Arakanese is a dialect of Burmese, and uses
Burmese script. The early polities were located in the valleys and floodplains of the Kaladan
and Lemro Rivers, an area that today is under rice agriculture (Hudson 2005).
King Anacandra’s inscription of c . AD 729 describes how the founding king of the First
Candra Dynasty, Dvancandra (c . AD 370-425), built ‘a city adorned by surrounding walls and
a moat’ (Johnston 1944). This has become identified as Dhanyawadi, a 5.6km2 brick-walled
site which is the home of the fifth-century Mahamuni shrine. Dhanyawadi was a pilgrimage
centre in the fifteenth-eighteenth century Mrauk-U period. Arakanese Buddhists believe
that an image of Gautama Buddha previously housed in this building was cast during his
lifetime when he had visited Arakan, made certain prophecies and indicated hundreds of
sites where relics of his various lives would be found. This renowned and powerful image
was removed to Mandalay following the Burmese conquest of Arakan in the late eighteenth
century (Forchhammer 1892; Tun Shwe Khine 1994; Gutman 2001: 33; Leider 2005).
Art history and numismatic studies place another walled city of 6.2km2 , Vesali, between
about the sixth and tenth centuries AD (Gutman 1976; Nyunt Han 1984; Gutman

Department of Art History and Theory, University of Sydney, Australia
Archaeology Department, University of Sydney, Australia & Field School of Archaeology, Pyay, Myanmar
Yangon University, Myanmar
Archaeology Department, Mrauk-U, Myanmar (retired)
Received: 19 September 2006; Revised: 2 January 2007; Accepted: 8 March 2007
antiquity 81 (2007): 655–674
Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Figure 1. Rakhine (Arakan) State, Myanmar, in regional context.

2001: 41), although a fourteenth-century radiocarbon date from a city gatepost suggests
intermittent reoccupation (Hudson 2005).
The walled cities were not the only focus of cultural activity. Selagiri hill, a few kilometres
west of Dhanyawadi on the Kaladan river, has yielded stone sculptures and inscriptions dating

Pamela Gutman et al.

from the sixth to sixteenth centuries (Forchhammer 1892: 14; Gutman 1998). A Sanskrit
inscription of the ye dharmma, the ‘Buddhist creed’, which we identify palaeographically as
belonging to the sixth-seventh century AD, was found in 2001 on the top of Padaw hill and
is now in the custody of a local monastery. This find suggests that the region from Selagiri

to Padaw (Figure 2) was occupied from the first millennium AD by people producing Indic
Between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, smaller walled settlements were built along
the Lemro River at Sambawak/Pyinsa, Parein, Hkrit, Toungoo Neyinzara and Launggret
(Figure 2), though erosion has since destroyed much of the evidence. These were polities
with political and cultural links to Bagan, the dominant power up until the fourteenth
century in Burma, and religious links to the Theravada Buddhists of Sri Lanka (Harvey
1925: 137-49, 370-71; Thin Kyi 1970; Gutman 2001: 14; the Lemro sites were recently
re-surveyed by Berliet 2004: 234-39).
Mrauk-U (Figure 2), which appears on early maps as Myohaung, literally ‘old city’, was
home to dynasties that ruled from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Described by a
seventeenth-century visitor as ‘a second Venice’, the Arakanese capital sat amid streams,
canals, reservoirs, earthworks, stone walls and low hills. Historians broadly ascribe three
phases to the Mrauk-U era.
The ‘early period’ begins with the foundation of Mrauk-U around 1430. The city was
recorded as having been tributary to the sultanate of Bengal until the 1530s when the
expansionist King Man Pa conquered Chittagong.
The ‘middle period’ runs from Man Pa to a dynastic break in 1638. The rulers aligned
themselves with the Portuguese, who provided armaments and assisted in the design
of fortifications. This was the peak period for construction of defences and religious
monuments, the latter sometimes decorated with stone relief sculpture. A mercenary army
and a slaving and trading fleet brought political and economic power. Arakan took East
Bengal, resisted a Burmese invasion, and conquered the Burmese capital at Pegu. The
kingdom struggled against Portuguese freebooters in the early seventeenth century, but
enjoyed an economic boom supplying slaves and rice to the Dutch from the 1630s until the
1660s, when the Dutch saw it as more advantageous to align themselves with the Mughals.
In the ‘late period’ Arakan lost a key economic resource, the coastal port of Chittagong,
as the Mughals re-established dominance over Bengal. The Arakanese resorted to piracy to
make up the economic shortfall. Local rebellions brought instability. Mrauk-U was shaken
by an earthquake which caused a tsunami in the Bay of Bengal in 1762. In 1784 the Burmese
invaded and removed the Mahamuni image. In 1825 the British took Arakan and moved
the capital to Akyab (Sittwe) at the mouth of the Kaladan River (Oldham 1883; Charney
1998; Gutman 2001; Leider 2002; van Galen 2002).

Rock art
Prehistoric rock art is known in Burma at only one site, Padah-lin, which features wall
paintings in a context that goes back 13 000 years (Aung Thaw 1971). Recently, several
hundred pecked and abraded cupules were discovered in one of the caves at Padah-lin,
the first such ancient stoneworking to be documented in mainland Southeast Asia (Taçon

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Figure 2. Sites mentioned in the text, shown over a LandSat image.

Pamela Gutman et al.

Figure 3. Pyaingdet-taung. Bird and part of human face, original petroglyph.

et al. 2004). Experience in neighbouring countries such as Thailand, which has dozens of
ancient painted or engraved rockshelters and caves (Srisuchat 1990), suggests that further
investigation might reveal more such sites in Burma.
However, the Arakanese sites under discussion here are not prehistoric, but relate, as we
will demonstrate, to a relatively recent urban period. Pyaingdet-taung (pendulous cheek-
flesh relic hill) and Padaw (noble cheek relic) are open sites, with pictures incised on boulders
or rock faces. They are among the above-mentioned sites in Arakan with which relics of the
Buddha are associated. The Pyaingdet-taung petroglyphs (E 93.271147˚ N 20.586134˚)
are 40m below the peak of a 190m high hill. The Padaw site (E 93.226023˚ N 20.447613˚)
is at the foot of a hill of similar elevation.

Survey methods
The location of the two petroglyph sites was recorded with GPS, and the sites and each
image or group of images photographed digitally (Figure 3). The rocks were sprayed with
water for a second series of photographs. Rubbings were made by pressing damp handmade
‘Shan’ paper on to the incised rocks and rolling printers’ ink over the surface. This is the
standard technique used by the Myanmar Archaeology Department in recording incised
stone inscriptions. The rubbings were photographed with a 10cm scale in place both on the
rocks and afterwards, when the paper had been removed and dried. The digital photographs

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

were inverted to change the white outlines
of the rubbing grooves to black lines, and
the extraneous shading was edited out. The
result is scale-accurate line-art. The rubbings
and digital photographs of each scene, plus
direct inspection of the originals in the field,
were used to confirm the accuracy of the line

The Pyaingdet-taung petroglyphs are on a
steep hillside. Some of the images are several
metres above the present ground level and
can only be reached by climbing up trees and
vines. The pictures may have been deliberately
Figure 4. Pyaingdet-taung. Elephants, fish, bird (total
height of group: 72cm). inscribed in this relatively inaccessible position,
or else erosion, exacerbated by the cutting
of a path below the rocks for access to the
hilltop, may have lowered the ground level.
Two elephants and what may be at least one
more faded or incomplete elephant share a
rock surface with a fish and a bird, the latter
at right angles to the larger figures (Figure 4).
Another elephant may have some overdrawing
(Figure 5). On another rockface there is a bird
with a long curved beak, an elephant, a human
Figure 5. Pyaingdet-taung. Elephant (height: 18cm).
figure apparently holding a sword and buckler,
and a second human figure behind an elephant.
If the humans, elephant and bird are meant to
be viewed as a group, their sizes are out of proportion (Figure 6). Tucked away on the side
of this rock, at right angles to the main rockface, is a running horse (Figure 7).

Pyaingdet-taung pagoda and inscriptions
On the crest of the hill is a hemispheric stupa (Figure 8). In a modern shelter beside the stupa
there are two seated Buddha images, much restored, in the Lemro style (Gutman 2001:
62-72). There is no way to tell whether these are in their original position, which would
place the site in the eleventh-fifteenth-century period, or whether they have been transported
there more recently. We identify a stone relief of two human figures, perhaps representing
donors to the pagoda (Figure 9), as nineteenth-century on the basis of their costume. A stone
footprint of the Buddha in the shelter bears an inscription dated after the Burmese invasion:

Pamela Gutman et al.

Myanmar Era 1248 (AD 1880), on the
full moon day of the month of Tabaung
(the 12th month of the Myanmar
calendar) has seen the sculpting of the

sacred footprint completed. The donor
Pho Khaing and his wife. This merit
[should lead to] Nibbana. The celestial
and human beings should rejoice and
say ‘well done’.

Along the ridge on which the shrine sits
there is an unfinished 1.8m diameter circular
stone pedestal with chipped sides. There
are also several rocks with lines of holes
forming semicircles along the face of the rock,
indicating that they had been split. Lines of
Figure 6. Pyaingdet-taung. Elephant, human figures holes drilled in other rocks indicate preparation
and bird (total height of group: 45cm). for splitting. This is characteristic evidence of
quarrying. Another inscription, carved in situ
on a rock 40m from the pagoda, and somewhat
weathered, belongs palaeographically to the
eighteenth century or later, when Burmese
letters acquired a generally rounded form that
remains in use today. Only fragments of the
inscription can be read:

Saya ‘teacher’ May Say (or May Nga Sa)
. . . kan bhâ nhaik ‘at a lake’ [possibly
a village name] . . . yu nga bhabh (a
Figure 7. Pyaingdet-taung. Horse (height: 12cm). verb indicating the action of doing
something). . . Ma (female honorific)
Khatta ‘land-lily flower’ Ngay ‘young’.

At a corner of this inscription is a head surmounted with an ornate headdress (Figure 10),
which is at 90◦ to the script rather than aligned with it. Similar headgear is associated with
Burmese officials of the seventeenth-nineteenth centuries (Green 2002: 74-75).

Padaw: from scholarly impression to nationalist expression
The rock incisions at Padaw became known following a survey of Arakan by Emanuel
Forchhammer, who was Government Archaeologist between 1882 and 1890. He identified
‘numerous tanks, embankments, traces of buildings and other vestiges’ near Padaw as the
site of an early sixteenth-century settlement, Sigunmyo. A badly worn rock-cut inscription
appeared to have a date of Sakkaraj (the Burmese era) 886, or AD 1524. The ‘Forchhammer’
pictures were 3km from the 1524 inscription, occupying about 30m of hillside. He

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Figure 8. Pyaingdet-taung pagoda.

mentioned the difficulty of sketching them in the jungle which was home to a ‘fearful
pest’, the soldier ant, and noted the lack of any local legends about the images. He suggested
that the pictures told the story of an invader who arrived by boat, conquered and oppressed
the natives, but was eventually overthrown and ran away (Forchhammer 1892: 53-4, Plates
39 & 40). This interpretation became accepted as fact, and was reprinted word for word in
official publications (Smart 1917: 75-8).
Photocopies of Forchhammer’s 1892 report were distributed to Burmese scholars in the
1970s, as a result of the enthusiasm of the then Director-General of Higher Education,
U San Tha Aung, who was himself Arakanese. The archaeologist Myint Aung took up
Forchhammer’s theme of resistance to an invader, placing it in a nationalist political context.
He suggested that Forchhammer may have underplayed the story for fear of offending the
government of the time, which was dealing with anti-colonialist insurgents (Myint Aung
1979). Forchhammer’s narrative, with its potential for grounding nationalism in history, has
been enthusiastically revisited by several other academic and popular authors (Min Thein
Zan 1997; Than Tun 1999; Ni Min Shin 2001).

Padaw: comparison and analysis
Using Forchhammer’s numbering for the pictures, his narrative-based analysis, directly
quoted from his report (Forchhammer 1892), can be compared with the digital images

Pamela Gutman et al.


Figure 9. Pyaingdet-taung pagoda. Buddha images and human figures.

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

from the new survey to provide a revised
description and a more individual analysis of
each picture.
Forchhammer 1 (Figure 11): ‘A ship sailing due
west toward the mountain’.
Revision: This style of boat can be seen plying
the local waterways today, under oars, sail or
engine. The pavilion is standard equipment on
most boats larger than a canoe. The tillerman
sits under it. Similar boat shapes appear in the
AD 1536 Shittaung temple at Mrauk-U, where
six tiers of more than 1000 pieces of stone
relief sculpture depict scenes from Buddha’s
previous lives, including his existences as birds
or animals, as well as mythical, historical and
cultural scenes (Shwe Zan 1995: 37-9; Gutman
2001: 94-105).
Forchhammer 2 (Figure 13): ‘Strangers step
on shore. The natives oppose them. They come,
however, to an agreement, which is expressed by
pressing thumb against thumb, the little finger
Figure 10. Pyaingdet-taung. Head with crown and against the little finger, the knuckles of the three
ear ornament, associated with inscription (height:
other fingers meeting each other’.
Revision: The complex gesture of agreement
or amity suggested by Forchhammer is not the custom in Arakan. This picture seems
to represent a physical contest. The rubbing shows the figures standing toe to toe,
apparently pulling on something. Pairs of figures in the Shittaung are shown in this
pose, at times tugging on a ring, with their garments gathered up in front and tied
behind the waist (Figure 12). Arakanese scholars identify these figures in the Shittaung

Figure 11. Padaw. Forchhammer 1 (left) and 2005 digital image (right). Height: 37cm.

Pamela Gutman et al.


Figure 12. Shittaung temple, Mrauk-U. Pairs of individuals in contests of strength.

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Figure 13. Padaw. Forchhammer 2 (left) and 2005 digital image (right). Height: 33cm.

Figure 14. Padaw. Forchhammer 3 (left) and 2005 digital image (right). Height: 45cm.

as traditional kyun wrestlers, who are still seen at fairs and festivals in Arakan (Shwe Zan
1995: 38).
Forchhammer 3 (Figure 14): ‘The stranger becomes violent and oppressive. With his knee on
the breast of the prostrate native he has taken hold of the latter’s head with one hand and swings
a sword or dah in the other’.
Revision: The figure is holding a small circular shield in one hand and probably a sword in
the other. Similar figures are seen in the Mrauk-U period, including on the walls of the
Shittaung (Figure 15). The headdress or hairstyle seems ornate, but it is too badly damaged
to be identified further.

Pamela Gutman et al.


Figure 15. Shittaung temple, Mrauk-u. Man with sword and shield.

Forchhammer 4 (Figure 16): ‘The stranger has cut off the head of his victim and is dancing
with exultation’.
Revision: Again, there is no head or body. The individual holds an unornamented, round
shield-like object in one hand and probably a slightly curved sword in the other. Both these

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Figure 16. Padaw. Forchhammer 4 (left) and 2005 digital image (right). Height: 40cm.

Figure 17. Padaw. Forchhammer 5 (left) and 2005 digital image (right). Height: 100cm.

swordsmen (Figures 14 and 16) hold the shield in the right hand and the sword in the left, as
does the swordsman at Pyaingdet-taung (Figure 5). Similar figures in reliefs at the Shittaung
and other pagodas invariably hold the sword in the right hand. The left-handed swordsmen
at both petroglyph sites are a curious coincidence.
Forchhammer 5 (Figure 17): The slope of the stone ‘is intended to represent a hill range’.
‘The stranger is in exclusive possession of the eastern side’. ‘The native was driven across the hill
and alights on tigers and elephants, with whom he has to share his new home; he is represented
as having fallen full length upon the back of what appears to be an elephant’.
Revision: The western face of the rock picture contains several images that are partly drawn
over each other. There is what may be a bird, a human face with elongated ears and a

Pamela Gutman et al.

topknot or headdress, and the front part of an elephant. The elephant faces left as an
observer looks at the face of the stone. This convention is shared with the elephant pictures
at Pyaingdet-taung. The ‘eastern’ side of the stone features an armless body, with minimal
facial features drawn. The figure does not wear a loincloth as Forchhammer sketched it.

The original portrayal of the lower trunk could perhaps be interpreted as female genitalia,
with Forchhammer’s version more a reflection of nineteenth-century sensibilities than poor

Forchhammer 6 (Figure 18: this picture could not be located during the recent survey):
‘ The ship of the intruder. Above it are two waving
lines, which probably should intimate that the
vessel of the enemy has been sunk to the bottom of
the river or sea; the natives recover courage’.

Forchhammer 7 (Figure 19): ‘The naked,
emaciated figure of the ejected aborigin stands
by a tree in the attitude of making an oath (most
of the uncivilized tribes in Burma swear to this
day by a particular tree); the trunk has two eyes
Figure 18. Padaw. Forchhammer 6. and the three additional lines above the tree may
indicate the number of kindred tribes who entered
into a solemn contract to attack and eject the intruder, whose main strength lay in his ship, of
which, however, he was now deprived’.

Revision: The figure with one hand on his chest and the other raised could be taking an oath
if he were a westerner. But while mindful of the proviso that absence of evidence is not much

Figure 19. Padaw. Forchhammer 7 (left) and 2005 digital image (right). Height: 75cm.

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

evidence at all, we can find no ethnographic support for the notion of tribal people in this
region swearing oaths with this gesture, or by a tree. The rectangular figure on the right has
eyes, five fingers and toes, and possibly a penis. It may be a spirit figure. In Arakan, spirits
known as nats are believed to inhabit trees or other natural sites. There are widespread cults
devoted to placating them.
Forchhammer 8 (Figure 20): ‘The eighth rock depicts the stranger in the act of departing in
undignified hurry. His right hand holds a stout walking stick, the left hand a tiny bundle of
‘free luggage’, which will not impede his swift journey to the south; he is scantily dressed, a strip
of cloth round the loins being his only vestment; the hair hangs down over the back of the head
and the shoulder in a single plait, tied at the end with a string; flying arrows and stones bless his
Revision: No projectiles were apparent when this picture was examined in the field. The
figure seems to be wearing a turban. He has a decorative pendant in his elongated ear. He
is standing, perhaps lounging on a staff, not walking or running as in the Forchhammer
sketch. The bag of loot/luggage looks more like a piece of rope or cloth. The garment
appears to reach from waist to knee, and is not as scanty as Forchhammer imagined. The
groin may have been vandalised, or the stone may have spalled. One feature Forchhammer
noticed and sketched was the left eye shown as an s-shaped line, a very creative way for the
stone carver to deal with showing the figure in three-quarter face.

Padaw: the narrative is rejected
Forchammer’s interpretation of the rock
pictures can be rejected on the basis both of
their position and their content. His claim
that ‘the position of the rocks has evidently
been selected with the aim to give the proper
sequence to the story which the figures cut upon
them record in a language which cannot be
misinterpreted’ (Forchhammer 1892: 53) does
not stand up, at least given the present location
Figure 20. Padaw. Forchhammer 8 (left) and 2005 of the stones. They are spread along the foot of
digital image (right). Height: 87cm. the hill over a space of 30m, in the order, from
south to north, 8, 7, 1, 4, 2, 3, 5 (Figure 21).
There is always the possibility that some may have been moved since Forchhammer’s
time, but most of them are quite large. Some of the contextual elements of his narrative,
in the light of the more accurate drawings, are no longer tenable. Nobody shook hands
(Figure 12) and nobody was decapitated (Figures 14 and 16). The combative figures and
the swordsmen are stock characters in the art of Mrauk-U, seen on elaborately carved
Buddha thrones (Shwe Zan 1995: 119) as well as in the Shittaung reliefs discussed
above. Forchhammer’s fleeing figure of the stranger (Figure 20) is shown by the revised
imagery to be lounging on his staff, not running. It might also be suggested that in a
narrative involving the same main character, the figure of the hero should be consistent

Pamela Gutman et al.

from the beginning to the end. Forchhammer’s ‘hero’ changes hats, clothes and even
art styles. These are individual images, linked spatially but not thematically. There
is irony in the ongoing acceptance of Forchhammer’s narrative in a nation that since
independence in 1948 has vigorously rebutted ‘colonialist’ history, preferring instead a

history which is politically relevant and of use to the nation-building effort (Tun Aung Chain
2004: 19).

Padaw: the physical context
The Forchhammer pictures are not the only
pieces of worked stone within the 30m of
hillside on which they sit, let alone in the
wider area. A recumbent slab 2.5 by 1.5m,
partially shaped by chisels, has a large crack
through it and through the chisel work. There
is a stone Buddha-throne similar to examples
at pagodas in Mrauk-U (Shwe Zan 1995:
119; Gutman 2001: Plates 83-86). Nearby, on
the edge of the rice fields, is a 4.5 by 2.5m
worked slab known locally as the ‘crocodile’, its
surface covered with chisel marks (Figures 21
and 22).
At a spot 100m north along the lower part
of the hill there is a stone with a longitudinal
groove, in which are several holes. This suggests
an attempt to split it. Another stone has a
line of semicircular indentations, suggesting
that a piece has been successfully split off. A
further 450m north there is a carved relief of
a Buddha footprint, decorated with auspicious
symbols, similar to one seen in the AD 1629
Sakyamanaung pagoda at Mrauk-U (Shwe Zan
1995: 81) and sharing elements with Buddha
footprints of seventeenth-century Ayuthaya
Figure 21. Padaw. Sketch map, relative locations of (Di Crocco 2004: Plates 80, 82, 83). There
rock pictures, using Forchhammer’s numbering. is also an incised footprint, more naturalistic
in shape than the stylised Buddha footprint,
and a statue of an ogre with a cross-shaped
geometrical incision on its base, of the kind used to inscribe horoscopes. These damaged,
incomplete or otherwise abandoned pieces appear to be the debris of quarrying and
production at a site servicing the construction of religious monuments at Mrauk-U. The
capital was directly accessible by a network of waterways, the Padaw River and the Naragauk,
Baukshama and Thinbauk chaungs (streams).

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Figure 22. Padaw: chiselled stone, known locally as ‘the crocodile’.

Padaw: periodisation
When Myint Aung visited Padaw in 1981, he concluded that while the engravings ‘prove
to be far below the high standard of Mrauk-U art’ their value ‘lies in their depiction of the
local folk characteristics and aspirations’. He stressed their context, amid the remnants of AD
1524 Sigunmyo, and attributed them to a period ‘no earlier’ than the sixteenth century
(Myint Aung 1981). This is borne out by the current review of the pictures, notably the
similarities between the depictions of the swordsmen and putative wrestlers at Padaw and
similar representations in sixteenth-century relief sculpture at Mrauk-U. Human figures in
Forchhammer’s pictures (Figures 14, 16, 17 and 19) along with the humans portrayed at
Pyaingdet-taung (Figure 6) share the characteristic of big, protruding ears with artworks of
the later Mrauk-U period (Gutman 2001: 137-40). There are substantial variations in the
draftsmanship of the Padaw incisions, the leaning man (Figure 20) being perhaps the most
skilfully rendered and the ‘man with tree spirit’ (Figure 19) relatively naı̈ve. This might
suggest that they were the work of different people.

On the available evidence, an origin in or after the Mrauk-U period can be suggested for
the Pyaingdet-taung images. Swordsmen with big ears, conical hats and bucklers, along
with birds, fish and parades of horses and elephants are part of the decorative repertoire in
pagodas such as the Shittaung (Shwe Zan 1995: 40-1; Gutman 2001: 94-105). Similarly,
the ‘Forchhammer’ petroglyphs at Padaw can be attributed to more than one person, some

Pamela Gutman et al.

time between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Since some of the pictures, the ones
with protruding ears, reflect the later Mrauk-U style, then the late seventeenth or eighteenth
century may be more likely. But the Padaw pictures can no longer be seen as the action of
folk artists telling, in stone, an otherwise undocumented story of invasion, oppression and

Both sites appear to have been created by people familiar with the art of the Mrauk-U
period. Both sites were in use as quarries for the preparation of architectural and sculptural
materials for religious edifices. But different sets of skills appear to be in use. The petroglyphs
seem to have been made by people with skills in stone cutting, rather than in relief sculpture.
The lack of proportion and at times less sophisticated style of the petroglyphs suggests that
these are not models for the temple sculptures, but naı̈ve impressions of those sculptures.
Images such as the ‘tree spirit’ (Figure 19) may reflect a popular tradition not usually found in
the religious edifices. It is difficult not to conclude that the petroglyphs of Pyaingdet-taung
and Padaw are the work of the artisans, rather than the artists, of Mrauk-U.

Fieldwork was supported by the Australian Research Council. Our thanks go to the Myanmar Archaeology
Department; to the Departmental staff at the Mrauk-U office, notably Aung Tun Hla and Nyein Lwin for
rubbings; to the Reverend Zayanda Bodhi; to Myint Aung and to an anonymous reviewer. Maps, photographs
and digitisation by Bob Hudson, except for Figure 20, by Kyaw Tun Aung.

References –1998. A series of Buddhist reliefs from Selagiri. Etudes
birmanes: 103-11. EFEO.
Aung Thaw. 1971. The ‘Neolithic’ Culture of the
Padah-lin Caves. Asian Perspectives 14: 123-33. –2001. Burma’s Lost Kingdoms: Splendours of Arakan.
Hong Kong: Orchid Press.
Berliet, E. 2004. Géographie historique et
urbanisation en Birmanie et ses pays voisins, des Harvey, G.E. 1925. History of Burma. London: Frank
origines (IIè s. av. J.C.) à la fin du XIIIè siècle. Cass & Co.
Unpublished PhD thesis, Université Lumière, Hudson, B. 2005. Ancient geography and recent
Lyon II. archaeology: Dhanyawadi, Vesali and Mrauk-u (The
Charney, M.W. 1998. Crisis and Reformation in a Forgotten History of Arakan conference). Bangkok:
Maritime Kingdom of Southeast Asia: Forces of Chulalongkorn University.
Instability and Political Disintegration in Western Johnston, E.H. 1944. Some Sanskrit inscriptions of
Burma (Arakan), 1603-1701. Journal of the Arakan. BSOAS 21: 357-85.
Economic and Social History of the Orient 41(2): Leider, J. 2002. On Arakanese Territorial Expansion:
185-219. Origins, Context, Means and Practice, in J.
Di Crocco, V. 2004. Footprints of the Buddhas of this Gommans & J. Leider (ed.) The Maritime Frontiers
era in Thailand. Bangkok: The Siam Society. of Burma: 127-49. Amsterdam: Koninklijke
Forchhammer, E. 1892. Report on the antiquities of Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen &
Arakan. Burma: The Archaeology Department. Leiden: KITLV Press.
Green, A. 2002. Narrative modes in late seventeenth- –2005. Lord Buddha comes to Arakan: Relics, Statues
to early nineteenth-century Burmese wall paintings, and Predictions (Unpublished Manuscript).
in A. Green & T.R. Blurton (ed.) Burma: Art and Min Thein Zan. 1997. The History of the Padaw
Archaeology: 67-76. London: British Museum Press. Pagoda (in Burmese). PEAL: Publisher of Eminent
Gutman, P. 1976. Ancient Arakan, with special reference Arakanese Literature.
to its cultural history between the 5th and 11th Myint Aung. 1979. Rock-cut story of an ancient
centuries (PhD thesis). Canberra: Australian resistance. The Working Peoples’ Daily 13 April.
National University, –1981. Determining the age of the Pataw engravings.
public/adt-ANU20050901.112732/ The Working Peoples’ Daily 22 May: 5.

Rock art and artisans in the Lemro Valley, Arakan, Myanmar

Ni Min Shin. 2001. The Rakhine Historical Episode as Than Tun. 1999. From Mrauk-U to Sittwe, the
revealed by the Padaw Stone Pictures (in Burmese). Development of Trade Cities in Western Myanmar
Kassapa Magazine. (in Burmese). Myanma Dana 107: 62-72 & 108:
Nyunt Han. 1984. The Study of Ancient City Vesali 66-74.
(Departmental Report, in Burmese). Yangon: Thin Kyi, D. 1970. Arakanese capitals: a preliminary
Department of Archaeology. survey of their geographical siting. Journal of the
Oldham, T. 1883. Catalogue of Indian earthquakes. Burma Research Society 53(2): 1-13.
Memoirs of the Geological Survey of India 19: Tun Aung Chain. 2004. Broken Glass: Pieces of
163–215. Myanmar History. Yangon: SEAMEO Regional
Shwe Zan. 1995. The Golden Mrauk-U, an ancient Centre for History and Tradition.
capital of Rakhine. Yangon: U Shwe Zan. Tun Shwe Khine. 1994. A guide to Mahamuni: the
Smart, R.B. 1917. Burma Gazetteer, Akyab District, highly venerated golden image of Buddha with
Volume A. Rangoon: Superintendent, Government authentic long history. Rakhine Book Series.
Printing and Stationery, Union of Burma. van Galen, S. 2002. Arakan at the turn of the first
Srisuchat, A. 1990. Rock Art at Khao Plara, Uthai Millennium of the Arakanese era, in J. Gommans
Thani. Thailand: Fine Arts Department. & J. Leider (ed.) The Maritime Frontiers of Burma:
151-62. Amsterdan: Koninklijke Nederlandse
Taçon, P.S.C., D.Y.Y. Aung & A. Thorne. 2004.
Akademie van Wetenschappen & Leiden: KITLV
Myanmar prehistory: rare rock-markings revealed.
Archaeology in Oceania 39: 138-39.


Related Interests