Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 1087–1109 | Cite as

Metallurgical traditions and metal exchange networks in late prehistoric central Myanmar, c. 1000 BC to c. AD 500

  • Thomas Oliver Pryce
  • Kalayar Myat Myat Htwe
  • Myrto Georgakopoulou
  • Tiffany Martin
  • Enrique Vega
  • Thilo Rehren
  • Tin Tin Win
  • Thu Thu Win
  • Peter Petchey
  • Jitlada Innanchai
  • Baptiste Pradier
Original Paper


Myanmar has been notably underrepresented in recent studies of archaeometallurgy in Southeast Asia, despite its richness in both mineral and cultural resources and its potentially central role in long-distance exchange networks linking India, China and peninsular neighbours. Here, we present original analytical data on copper-base artefacts from several Bronze Age and Iron Age sites in Myanmar. Observed microstructures range from as-cast, worked, to fully annealed; compositions include leaded copper, low-tin to high-tin bronzes, and arsenical copper/bronze. Lead isotope analyses indicate that the metal originates from different geological sources, including several that match the lead isotope signatures of known prehistoric copper mines in Thailand and Laos. These archaeometallurgical data, including evidence for secondary copper-base production, more than double those currently available for Myanmar and document the presence of multiple local alloying and working traditions, perhaps chronologically differentiated, as well as identifying possible links to primary mineral sources across the region. Overall, this adds significant new information to the emerging picture of Southeast Asian prehistoric metallurgy at the crossroads of several major ancient cultures.


Southeast Asia Myanmar Lead isotope analysis Metal exchange networks 



The excavation and study of material by the Mission Archéologique Française au Myanmar was conducted with the kind authorisation and support of the Myanmar Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and was financed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development. Kalayar Myat Myat Htwe’s training programme was financed by the generosity of Qatar Foundation. We also wish to express our gratitude for the administrative support of the French cultural attaché of the Institut français de Yangon, M. Charles Bonhomme, and his team. Finally, we offer our thanks to the two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and pertinent critique, though any remaining errors are our responsibility.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Oliver Pryce
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kalayar Myat Myat Htwe
    • 3
  • Myrto Georgakopoulou
    • 4
  • Tiffany Martin
    • 4
  • Enrique Vega
    • 2
  • Thilo Rehren
    • 4
    • 5
  • Tin Tin Win
    • 6
  • Thu Thu Win
    • 6
  • Peter Petchey
    • 7
  • Jitlada Innanchai
    • 8
  • Baptiste Pradier
    • 1
  1. 1.C.N.R.S., UMR 7055 Préhistoire et TechnologieUniversité de Paris Ouest la DéfenseNanterreFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire Archéomatériaux et Prévision de l’Altération : LMC IRAMAT UMR5060 CNRS et NIMBE UMR3685 CEA/CNRSSaclayFrance
  3. 3.Department of ArchaeologyDagon UniversityYangonMyanmar
  4. 4.UCL QatarUniversity College LondonDohaQatar
  5. 5.College for Humanities and Social Sciences Hamad Bin Khalifa UniversityDohaQatar
  6. 6.Ministry of Religious Affairs and CultureMandalayMyanmar
  7. 7.Department of Anthropology and ArchaeologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  8. 8.Independent ScholarLampangThailand

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