This article traces the evolutionary record of urbanism at two sites in Myanmar: their transition from late prehistory in c. second to first century BCE to proto-urban and fully urban development at Sri Ksetra and Beikthano by the mid-first millennium CE. The Pyu cities are remarkable because of their spatial continuity, for their early achievements in water control, iron production, ritual and domestic ceramics, brick monumental architecture, rich funerary culture, literacy and adoption of Buddhism on both elite and popular levels. Though the radiocarbon dates for Pyu urbanism are at present earlier, they share many features with other urbanising societies in mainland Southeast Asia, where new chronologies are emerging for social and economic complexity at Dvaravati, Pre-Angkorian and Co Loa sites. The article provides new and specific evidence on the dates and types of contacts between the Pyu, India, and other areas of Southeast Asia to interrogate the meaning of Indianisation in Southeast Asia.
Who were the Pyu? 342 Water control and early urbanism at Beikthano and Sri Ksetra 344 Pyu funerary culture at Beikthano and Sri Ksetra: From prehistory to early urbanism 348 The first brick buildings 348 The stone burial urns of Sri Ksetra: The Vikramas 358 Early urban features at Sri Ksetra — iron, walls and water 359 Iron 359 Walls and water at Sri Ksetra 360 Conclusion 364 Transitions from Late Iron Age to early urbanism 364