Fresh excavations begin at Tilaurakot

A team of archaeologists and experts have started excavation work at Tilaurakot, an ancient Shakya capital city, where Siddhartha spent 29 years of his princely life before he became Gautam Buddha.

New excavations begin at Tilaurakot [Credit: Ekantipur]
Around two months ago, the team had discovered proofs of Budhha’s birth in sixth century BC, two centuries earlier than previously thought.

The excavation team comprises 18 consultants, experts and archaeologists from UNESCO, Department of Archaeology, Lumbini Development Trust, Durham and Sterling Universities and 13 students doing masters in culture at the Tribhuvan University.

The excavation project, which is expected to last for two months, is initiated by UNESCO and funded by the Japan government in partnership with the Nepal government, along with Durham and Stirling Universities and Global Exploration Fund under the National Geographic Society.

The archaeologists said the excavation aims at giving Tilaurakot a facelift, precisely to provide a view of an ancient city.

The city of Tailaurakot had caught the eyes of the archaeologists after a recent geological survey conducted in the area substantiated that there might be remains of an ancient city underneath, prompting the archaeologists to start the excavation.

The excavation has been divided into three sites. The team has started excavation 10 metres to the fore of the remains of the western gate of the palace of king Shudhodan, the father of Lord Buddha.

The fact that there were underground tunnels beneath the western gate suggested that there might be buildings on either side, said the experts.

Likewise, the second site is a trail located 30 metres from the palace. As they had found two huge brick remains above the ground in the area spanning 10-15 metres, the excavation would be conducted by digging a trench.

The team has also started fresh excavations in the north-western wall of the palace fort. Dewala Mitra, an Indian archaeologist, had conducted excavation in the area in 1962, and a team of Nepali archaeologists had found a post hole (a cut feature used to hold a surface timber or stone) three and a half feet under the ground last year.

A member of the excavation team, senior archaeologist and Unesco consultant, Kosh Prasad Acharya, said the discovery of the post hole at such depth proves the ancient significance of Tilaurakot. Acharya said that they would re-examine the area by digging one foot deeper spanning five to six metres on the eastern side.

The team has brought in Prof Dr Ian Simpson, specialist of Stirling University, to examine the sand of the area where the post hole was found. Prof Dr Robin Coningham, chief archaeologist of the Durham University, said that the excavation would furnish invaluable insight into the aeon of Tilaurakot and bring into view the architecture of the ancient city.

Coningham added that along with the excavation, the team will be mapping the adjoining areas of Kanthak, Dhamanihawa (the site believed to be the tombs of Mayadevi and Shudhodan, and Lohsariya Stupa for their preservation.

Source: Ekantipur [January 14, 2014]

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