Archaeologists in Nepal say they have discovered traces of a wooden structure dating from the sixth century BC which they believe is the world’s oldest Buddhist shrine.
Kosh Prasad Acharya, who worked with archaeologists from Durham University, said on Tuesday that the structure had been unearthed inside the sacred Mayadevi temple in Lumbini.
The Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama, is generally thought to have been born in about the sixth century BC at the temple site.
The findings were published in the December issue of the journal Antiquity.
Acharya said the traces had been date tested using radiocarbon and luminescence techniques. The archaeological team dug underneath previously known brick structures in the temple, and experts from the University of Stirling examined and collected the samples, he said. The team has been working at the site for the past three years.
Previously, a pillar installed by the Indian emperor Ashok with inscriptions dating to the third century BC was considered to be the oldest Buddhist structure, Acharya said. “This finding further strengthens the chronology of Buddha’s life and was is major news for the millions of Buddhists around the world,” Acharya said.
“Very little is known about the life of the Buddha, except through textual sources and oral tradition,” a Durham University archaeologist, Robin Coningham, said. “Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the sixth century BC.”
Each year, tens of thousands of Buddhists visit Lumbini, 175 miles south-west of Kathmandu. Followers believe Siddhartha, a prince, left his family and kingdom and meditated in the jungles of Nepal and India before achieving enlightenment. …