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Historical Geography and Urbanization in Ancient Arakan
Kyaw Minn Htin — School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, History of Art and Archaeology, Graduate Student.
Arakan, situated in the western part of Myanmar, is a region whose geographical situation tends to isolate it from the cradle of Burmese civilization. But archaeological evidence shows that it played a role in the ancient relations between India and Southeast Asia due to its situation at the boundary of these two major regions (Fig. 1). Early on, Arakan was integrated into the Indianized world while its population developed under the influence of Indian civilization. Since the first millennium AD, Arakan was a frontier region between Southeast Asia and India that could be reached by land and sea. The archaeological data are limited in what they indicate, but art and architectural remains suggest that, as in the rest of mainland Southeast Asia, the adaptation of Indian influences was a key element of ancient Arakanese culture. As trade with the neighbouring areas increased in the early centuries of the first millennium AD, urban centres developed and more complex social structures evolved in the Kaladan valley, the foremost region of urban development in Arakan (Fig. 2).