By: Terence Tan
When I looked closer, I found boreholes in each of the center of a lotus blossom on opposite sides, formed with repousee and chasing work. On the remaining four sides are the symbols of Srivasta (The Holy House), Bhaddha- pith a (The Throne), Sankha (The conch shell), and the twin-fish. The symbols are set within decorative designs, so they stood out from other representations of the symbols. From what I could find out the origin of the bead was Halin, an ancient Pyu city in Upper Myanmar.
I was fascinated with this bead, and from then on, I started looking out for more of the same style. I gathered that a few others have been unearthed but there are not many around. I also tried to find references to the dice-shaped beads in archaeology journals and papers, particularly those with symbols. No such references have been found. I made a vow to myself, there and then, that someday I would write about these fascinating beads.
Therefore, I started look- ing for more dice beads on my .survey trips. It was not until months later that I came across another one, from Myinmu. It is similar to the first one in shape and use of symbols but slightly bigger. The setting of the symbols is also different but both can definitely be identified as Pyu origin. The third bead found from Halin is similar to the first two in style but a bit smaller. Here, the wheel replaced the twin-fish symbol. It is also a little heavier since more gold was used, It could be termed as semi-solid.
I began to wonder whether there would be any other variations in style since the three were quite similar. To my delight, a collector friend happened to find a gilded dice bead from Hmaw Zar, ! measuring 7.86 x 7.56 x 10.26 mm and weighing 3.4 gm. Hmaw Zar used to be part of srikestra, the famous ancient Pyu kingdom. This bead is gilded bronze. Engraved in single lines on the four faces are the symbols, srivasta, Bhaddhapitha, the twin-fish, and the swastika. Some flat gold beads were also un- earthed from the area. Most of them are rectangular with the usual Pyu symbols fabri- cated with gold wire and granulation.
Apart from the gold dice beads with symbols, some with images of animals such as elephants, lions, bulls, horse, and the garuda bird, have been found from Halin, Ayardaw near Halin, and Hmawzar in Sriksetra.
The designs were most probably punched into the clay. It dawned upon me that these prehistoric people must be the innovators of the dice beads that fascinate me no end and that the Pyu people were the modifiers. This find of a terracotta dice bead left me in awe and wonder at the unique expressions of aesthetic notions, creativity, and resourcefulness of our ancestors.