Burmese Ethnology Burmese Origins – Ancient Burmese history before the advent of the Buddhism is quite vague, many historians have theorized and written about its ancient history, but much of it written on assumption. Records from very early Burmese history are rare, due to its turbulent history of invaders, excessive vandalism by its victors, internal conflicts and earthquakes.

It is thought that Burma was originally occupied by a Negrito race, which extended its habitat from the Andamans to the Philippines. After which it was succeeded by another of a different stock, the Mon-Khmer, represented by the Talaings, and Cambodians, as well as a some scattered tribes of Khasias in Assam, Palaungs and Was in the Northern Shan States.

It is assumed that the Mon-Khmer entered Burma from North-Eastern India which was then succeeded by the Shans and Karens, who originally came from Yunnan and Kueichou provinces of China.

These people were succeeded by the Tibeto-Burman tribes of which the Chins are the earlier and the Marus, Zis and Lashis of the Kachin Hills are the later representatives.

The new comers immigrated into Burma from Eastern Tibet, where the allied tribes, the Lolos, Mantzu and Sigans are still to be found.


The Negrito
The Mon-Khmer
The Shan-Karen from China
The Tibetan

Burmese Ethnology Burmese Origins

Archaeological studies in Burma up until the 19th Century was sadly lacking. Even up until the present time compared with other countries it is still lagging behind. Since the 1960’s Burma was intermittently closed to the outside world.

Foreign sanctions placed on Burma since the late 1990’s has also impeded progress in this area. However, during the 20th century there have been a few scholars who have had the privilege of being invited specifically to aid in archaeological digs and studies.

The book “Old Burma – Early Pagan” written by the historian Gordon H Luce in 1969/1970 gives an extensive study on Burmese Buddhist art and architecture in Pagan (Bagan).

Volume 1 – Old Burma – Early Pagan

Volume 2 – Old Burma – Early Pagan

Old Burma- Early Pagan Vol 3 (Plates large file)

Other academics who have written interesting books and papers on their studies are Professor Elizabeth Moore who has written on her archaeological studies of the bronze and iron age in Burma and Early Landscapes of Myanmar.

Claudine Bautze-Picron (video) who has written a number of books on Buddhist Art from India to Burma and the late Pamela Gutman, an Australian academic who died in 2015, wrote the book “Burma’s Lost Kingdoms”.

Another Australian –  Dr. Bob Hudson an archaeologist has researched and written papers on Burmese archaeology for more than 15 years, he is also an adviser to UNESCO. Just some of those who have been fortunate enough to study first hand in this fascinating country.

There of course other academics and historians whom I haven’t mentioned here, but this in no way reflects on their quality of writing or knowledge on the study of Burmese Art or Architecture, it is just that the works of the authors mentioned here are those that I have read.

Articles and papers written by Bob Hudson