Archaeology to shed brighter light on history of Buddha’s birthplace
New findings on the origins and development of Lumbini are expected to emerge from the second season of archaeological investigation in Buddha’s birthplace, which was completed last week. The team of international archaeologists from Durham University, UK, working together with experts from the Department of Archaeology and the Lumbini Development Trust were led by Robin Coningham, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Archaeology at Durham University and Kosh Prasad Archarya, one of Nepal’s top archaeologists.
The work of the archaeologists focused this season on the evaluation and interpretation of three main areas of the World Heritage Site of Lumbini: the Maya Devi Temple, the Sacred Garden and the Village Mound. In 2011, the team began investigating the early nature of the Maya Devi Temple. In January 2012, the archaeologists continued by temporarily removing the modern protective fill of the earliest brick-built temple. They also cleaned the original surfaces in order to take scientific samples for dating the monument and investigating its character and sequence of development. This knowledge will allow the earliest levels in the temple to be recorded and assessed to preserve them for the future.
In addition to investigating inside the Maya Devi Temple, the team opened an evaluation trench in one of the monastic remains inside the Sacred Garden in order to understand the character and developmental sequence of these structures and their relation to the other monuments.
“There is a pressing need to identify the presence or absence of archaeological deposits, invisible below the surface, so that appropriate placing of pilgrim facilities may be made without damaging valuable archaeological resources,” says Robin Coningham.
The team mapped the monasteries, stupas, other monuments and features surrounding the Temple and conduct non-intrusive geophysical survey to record existing structures and investigate the presence of additional monuments not visible on the surface.
In 2011 excavations at the Village Mound, southwest of the Maya Devi Temple, identified early occupation at the site. In this season, the team continued to excavate and survey the site, investigating the character and sequence of South Asia’s earliest named village, Lumbini game as named on the Asoka Pillar.
In addition to above activities, the use of balloon kite aerial photography taken in this season provided accurate photographic records of the Sacred Garden and Village Mound aiding in the mapping, preservation and management of Lumbini.
Besides evaluating and mapping the components of outstanding universal value, it is anticipated that the activities will shed light on the date of Lord Buddha’s birth, as well as the origins and development of this major world pilgrimage site.
The archaeological endeavour is part of a larger project entitled “Strengthening the Conservation and Management of Lumbini, the Birthplace of Lord Buddha”, launched in 2010. The project is funded by the Government of Japan through the Japanese-Funds-in-Trust for the Preservation of the World’s Cultural Heritage, and co-ordinated by the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu.