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18 July 2013
Remains of pre-Ashokan shrines in Nepal

New excavations within the Maya Devi Temple of Buddha's birthplace in Lumbini, Nepal, have revealed evidence of a series of shrines extending the history of the site to a much earlier date than previously known.
     Professor Robin Coningham of Durham University, UK, who co-directed a team of Nepali and international experts, said: "For the first time in South Asia, excavations have revealed a pre-Ashokan temple of brick, which itself was built over an earlier one of timber".
     Until now, the earliest Buddhist temples had been attributed to Indian Emperor Ashoka, who in the 3rd century BCE spread Buddhism across the region. Coningham also said that even older remains of a village dating back to as early as 1300 BCE were found a few hundred metres south of Lord Buddha's birthplace, pushing the date of the settlement of the region back by a thousand years.
     Acharya Karma Sango Sherpa, vice-chair of the trust that looks after the site, said: "These two discoveries are great steps which help us to better understand the origins of Lord Buddha's life and the spiritual importance of Lumbini". A second phase of the project is expected to begin shortly.

Edited from The Himalaya Times (7 July 2013)

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