Bagan, Myanmar


Valley of 10,000 Temples

Expedition Overview
CyArk conducted two field expeditions to Bagan in 2016 in conjunction with Carleton University and a third independent mission in 2017. These expeditions assisted UNESCO and the Myanmar Department of Archaeology (DoA) towards conservation efforts at the massive archaeological site. After our first mission, an earthquake struck the region damaging hundreds of temples. In subsequent missions CyArk was able to provide detailed documentation on the extent of damage that occurred to previously surveyed monuments. CyArk and partners utilized LiDAR and both aerial and terrestrial photogrammetry to document the monuments. These expeditions were funded through crowd sourcing, the National Geographic Society, the Google Cultural Institute, as well as support by John Ristevski.
Introducing Bagan
The ancient city of Bagan, was the political, economic, and cultural center of the Bagan Kingdom from approximately 1044 to 1287 CE. The rulers of Bagan oversaw the construction of over 5,000 religious monuments over an area covering about 65 square kilometers on the Bagan plains. More than 2,000 of the original  structures have survived in varying states of repair until the present and can be found in the Bagan Archaeological Zone. The Bagan Kingdom declined due to a number of political and economic factors from the late 1200s and was superceded by several other city-states in the Myanmar central region. It continued as a religious site and experienced a revival of building activity in the 1700s. While Bagan is often described as an archaeological landscape, it is an active heritage site with functioning temples central to the local, national and international Buddhist communities.

Lokahteikpan temple, 12th century

View from Eim Ya Kyaung temple, 1242 CE

Buddhism and art
In the mid 11th century King Anawratha became king of Bagan and during his reign Buddhism became dominant. Buddhists believe in rebirth, and building temples, making offerings, and meditating generate merit for the practitioners. As a result, they will experience good rebirths in the future and eventually attain nirvana, where the cycles of rebirth end and all suffering stops. The monuments at Bagan are decorated with images depicting the lives of the Buddha and the previous Buddhas. The site continues to be an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists today. 

Summary of Data Captured

This project resulted in the following data which is now freely available for non-commercial use.

Areas with LiDAR documentation are indicated in grey. Areas with photogrammetry are indicated in yellow.

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Credits: Story

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This project was made possible through the following partners:

Myanmar Department of Archaeology

UNESCO Bangkok Office

Carleton University

Google Cultural Institute

National Geographic Society

Credits: All media
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