A statue of Buddha in Samut Prakan, Thailand. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Heinrich Damm
The structure dates back to around the sixth century BC and is thought to be the oldest Buddhist shrine ever discovered. The find is made even more significant by the fact that the shrine is located at the site at which Gautama Buddha himself was believed to have been born.
"Very little is known about the life of the Buddha, except through textual sources and oral tradition," said archaeologist Robin Coningham. "Now, for the first time, we have an archaeological sequence at Lumbini that shows a building there as early as the sixth century BC."
A team of researchers has been investigating the site for the last three years. The discovery was made after they dug beneath existing brick structures at the temple and used radiocarbon and luminescence dating techniques on a number of collected samples.
"This finding further strengthens the chronology of Buddha's life and was is major news for the millions of Buddhists around the world," said Kosh Prasad Acharya who worked on the excavation.