Ancient Buddhist Temple at least 2100 Years Old Discovered In Pakistan

Italian archeologists excavating in Barikot, Pakistan recently discovered an ancient Buddhist temple between the slopes of the Hindu Kush mountains. Between October and December 2021, they excavated, documented, and inventoried 2109 artifacts from the site. These objects are now in the possession of the new Swat Museum.

The temple is over 3 meters (about 10 feet) tall and has been dated to around the 2nd-3rd centuries BCE, some 2100-2200 years ago. Carbon dating has not yet been applied to anything from this site but the experts predict the future results will be very accurate and will confirm the chronology of the site.

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The site is complex and has features from many different centuries. Among the finds were:

  • Pottery materials and terracotta figurines dating to the 4th-3rd centuries BCE
  • The remains of an older structure dating to the 2nd century BCE
  • A dedicatory Kharosthi inscription that has been paleographically dated to the 1st century CE
  • A staircase most recently reconstructed in the 2nd-3rd centuries CE
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“The discovery of a great religious monument created at the time of the Indo-Greek Kingdom testifies that this was an important and ancient centre for cult and pilgrimage. At that time, Swat already was a sacred land for Buddhism.”
Professor Luca Maria Olivieri,
lead of the excavation

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The city of Barikot was consistently inhabited for around 3300 years from c.1700 BCE to the 1500’s CE.

Greek and Roman historical documents report that it was sieged by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE.

This new find will shed light on the history of Buddhism in the region.

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Excavations resumed this month (February 2022). With what they’ve found so far, they think that this temple may have been positioned on a “street of the temples”.

Due to this, the aim of future excavations is to find the remains of the road and locate more religious structures on it.

Some of the temples yet to be discovered may hold even more significance to us than the ones already found.

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Others discoveries in the area include:

  • a Shahi temple dedicated to Vishnu built c.700 BCE and destroyed after 1000 CE
  • a small necropolis
  • a road that ran between the center of the city and the city’s gates
  • two other Buddhist sanctuaries

What do you want to know most about this site? Let me know in the comments.

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References:

[1] – Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. “Italian mission discovers ancient Buddhist temples in Gandhara, Pakistan” (27 Jan. 2022). https://www.unive.it/pag/16584/?tx_news_pi1%5Bnews%5D=11918&cHash=31c473f8656ee303543b3c50eb484b7e. Accessed 4 Feb. 2022.

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