A team of archaeologists in Burma have launched a campaign to search for the lost city of Suwarnabhumi, an ancient Buddhist kingdom, which is believed to be located somewhere in South or Southeast Asia.
Although the city’s exact location is shrouded in mystery, excavation work is set to begin this year in eastern Burma’s Mon state, where Burmese historians believe the city to be found.
Mon state is one of several suggested locations for the lost city, which has become the centre of both scholarly and nationalist debate. Other Asian countries, including Thailand, India and Bangladesh, have also staked claims to the kingdom, based on references in various ancient scriptures.
But Mon state’s chief minister, Dr Min Nwe Soe, told DVB that an agreement was reached at a meeting with archaeologists and historians on Wednesday to carry out excavation work near the ancient Thaton town and at the foot of Kaylatha hill in Bilin township in Mon state in a bid to unearth the city.
“There is an argument surrounding [the location] of Suwarnabhumi – whether it’s over here or over there – and we wanted to prove that it is here,” said Min Nwe Soe.
He said they will approach the central government for approval of the programme, which will be led by the Ministry of Culture and aims to recover ancient artefacts as well as promote tourism in the region.
“We aim to uncover our ancient architecture and to attract foreign tourists,” said Min Nwe Soe.
A workshop was held from Tuesday to Thursday in Mon state’s capital Moulmein this week to etch out excavation plans in search of the lost city. The minister added that they will develop a plan to inform locals and the general public about the project.
“We also need to study whether the dig sites are in residential areas – we just can’t tell people to relocate for the programme so we have to find a win-win solution,” said the minister.
“Also we have limitations with our budget so we might not have enough skilled professionals, and we don’t know whether the excavation will turn out as we expect.”
The lost city is mentioned in a number of ancient scriptures, including the Sri Lankan Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa texts, which tell tales of Buddhist missionaries being sent to the kingdom, located in what is now modern day Mon state, around 300 BC.
Mon tradition maintains that the lost city of Suwarnabhumi was part of the Thaton Kingdom, which was overrun by the Burmans in 1057 AD.