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Rare surviving objects from early India and farther west discovered in Southeast Asia served as prestige goods for local rulers, evincing their power to attract from afar. More significantly, as a bronze oil lamp from Byzantium found on a trade route connecting early Pyu Myanmar with Mon Thailand bears witness, they also served as models for local artists employed in the service of Hinduism and Buddhism. The bronze pedestal jar and the stem dish exhibited nearby—found in Malaysia and Vietnam, respectively—represent otherwise lost categories of objects preserved only in chance finds. Large quantities of Roman coins dating from the first to fifth century have been recovered in southern India and Sri Lanka. Some circulated to trade centers in Southeast Asia such as Oc Eo in the Mekong Delta and early urban settlements such as U Thong in central Thailand. Of lasting impact were images of the Buddha and bodhisattvas, mostly in bronze but occasionally in stone, imported to Southeast Asia, that served as models for local artists. As no trace of imported Brahmanical imagery survives, the knowledge of making holy images was likely brought by itinerant Brahman priests, who would have overseen their production.

Selected Artworks

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