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Oldest Buddhist Shrine Uncovered In Nepal May Push Back the Buddha's Birth Date

Located at Nepal's Lumbini pilgrimage center, the legendary site of the Buddha's birth, the discovery points to the renowned religious figure living more than a century earlier than dates accepted by many scholars. (See also: "Buddha Rising.")

 

"What we have got is the earliest Buddhist shrine in the world," says archaeologist Robin Coningham of the United Kingdom's Durham University, lead author of the discovery study, released on Monday by the journal Antiquity.

 

In the study, the international archaeology team reports digging beneath existing brick structures at the shrine, which is visited yearly by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.

The excavations showed that older wooden structures lay beneath the walls of the later brick Buddhist shrine. The layout of that more recent shrine duplicates the layout of the earlier wooden structures, pointing to a continuity of Buddhist worship at the site, Coningham says.

 

"The big debate has been about when the Buddha lived and now we have a shrine structure pointing to the sixth century B.C.," Coningham says. The team used two kinds of scientific dating to find the age of the early shrine.

 

Outside scholars applauded the discovery but cautioned against too hastily accepting the site as the oldest discovered Buddhist shrine without more analysis.

 

"Archaeologists love claiming that they have found the earliest or the oldest of something," says archaeologist Ruth Young of the United Kingdom's University of Leicester in an email message.

 




About the Spiritual Author

Gene McGiver

Gene gives advice on her website here.


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