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The excavations, led by Professor Robin Coningham from Durham University and Kosh Prasad Acharya of the Pashupati Area Development Trust, revealed a previously unknown sixth-century BC timber structure under a series of brick temples. The discovery was made within the sacred Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, Nepal, a UNESCO World Heritage site long identified as the birthplace of the Buddha. Professor Robin Coningham from Durham University’s Archaeology Department said: “I am delighted that the project has been featured as one of Archaeology Magazine’s top 10 world discoveries. This recognition, alongside other archaeological breakthroughs in 2014, is a testament to the global significance of the historical Buddha and his teachings. “The discovery confirms the value of the science-based methodological approach to the archaeology of early Buddhism by the international team of researchers.” One of the four key Buddhist pilgrimage sites, as acknowledged by the Buddha himself, it was traditionally thought that the earliest archaeological evidence of Buddhist structures at Lumbini dated no earlier than the third century BC, linked to the patronage of the Mauryan Emperor Asoka and associated with his pillar inscription that identified the site as the birthplace of the Buddha. Until now, evidence for the life of the Buddha had been reconstructed from early texts, including his birth at Lumbini under a tree.

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