Scientists excavating within the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal, have unearthed a timber structure that they date to the sixth century BCE. It is situated within and underlies a temple that is considered sacred to many as the birthplace of Siddhārtha Gautama, or Buddha. Until now, there has been no archaeological evidence supporting a date any earlier than the third century BCE for Buddha’s life. Some historians have suggested the death of Buddha took place sometime in the late 4th century or early 3rd century BCE, although there are a number of traditions with varying dates…

…charcoal and sand grain samples removed from the relevant layers of the early timber structure were tested using radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence techniques. Interestingly, geoarchaeological research also revealed evidence of ancient tree roots within the timber structure’s central space. This latter find is important because, according to Buddhist tradition, Queen Maya Devi, the mother of Buddha, gave birth to him while grasping a branch of a tree. Coningham and his colleagues suggest that the open central space from which the charcoal and sand samples were removed was large enough to accommodate the tree…

Long lost and hidden by jungle overgrowth, ancient Lumbini was rediscovered in 1896 and, because of an inscription on a sandstone pillar discovered at the site, was identified as the birthplace of the Buddha. The inscription bears record of a historic visit by 3rd century India’s Emperor Ashoka to the site of the Buddha’s birth. The inscription also included the site’s name as Lumbini. Under Ashoka’s patronage, Buddhism spread from present-day Afghanistan to Bangladesh.

(Excerpt) Read more at popular-archaeology.com

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