The Earliest Buddhist Shrine in Asia: Excavating the Birthplace of the Buddha, Lumbini (Nepal)

Robin Alexander Evelyn Coningham, Kosh Prasad Acharya, Keir Magalie Strickland, Christopher Edward Davis, Mark James Manuel, Ian A. Simpson, Krista Gilliland, Jennifer Tremblay, T.C. Kinnaird, D.C.W. Sanderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent UNESCO-sponsored excavations at Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, have identified the presence of a sixth century BC timber structure underlying the brick-built temple attributed to the Mauryan Emperor Asoka. Previously, the third century BC Asokan Temple was believed to be the first formalised religious structure at the site and the new discovery sheds light on the architectural development of the site itself as well as having implications for dating the life of the Buddha. The presence of an early timber structure is not entirely surprising, and was hypothesised some seventy years ago by the British archaeologist Stuart Piggott, whilst on secondment to India during the war. He suggested that such a sequence replaced by brick built architecture was visible at Bairat, and should also be visible elsewhere in the region - providing suitable methodologies were put in place to identify it. This paper reviews the legacy of Piggott's hypothesis, examining why it has taken so long to confirm his statement, and details the new archaeological data from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lumbini. Furthermore, it situates the ongoing research at Lumbini within its archaeological and heritage framework - demonstrating the crucial interplay between conducting research at, and managing the development of, major religious and archaeological sites.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbern/a
Pages (from-to)n/a
Issue number338
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Archaeology of Buddhism
  • Nepal
  • Lumbini
  • Archaeology of religion


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