An ancient temple dating back to the first centuries of Buddhism has been unearthed. It was built after the death of Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. The temple is located in the northern pakistan. Specifically, it is in the Swat Valley. Formerly, this region was part of ancient Gandhara. Then she was conquered by Alexander the Great. Thus, the region gave rise to a mixture of Buddhist beliefs and Greek art.
The excavations were led by Luca Maria Olivieri. The latter is an archaeologist at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. He is also a member of the International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (ISMEO). Olivieri led the excavations with Pakistani and Italian colleagues. According to them, Barikot Temple is one of the oldest Buddhist monuments. However, only radiocarbon dating will establish the precise dates of the structures.
The founder of Buddhism, Siddhārtha Gautama, lived in northern India and Nepal. It was between 563 and 483 BC.
The characteristics of the temple
The remains of the temple were discovered near the town of Barikot. They are over 3m tall. There is a ceremonial platform surmounted by a cylindrical structure. The site also houses a Buddhist monument. It has a conical shape. It would be a stupa.
The temple complex appears to have undergone several modifications. Looks like it was built and rebuilt several times. Apart from the big structures, the temple has a smaller stupa. There is also a room for the monks as well as road access.
Archaeologists estimate that the temple dates from the second century BC. At that time, the territory of Gandhara was ruled by the Indo-Greek kingdom. The latter was in northern India. According to scientists, the temple would be built above a Buddhist shrine older. The latter would have been built in the third century BC.
Archeology is not easy
The interest of archaeologists for this site is not new. Indeed, Italian archaeologists had already started excavations in 1984. They wanted to preserve the archaeological importance of the city. To do this, they rented vacant lots and searched them as much as possible. Their mission was to protect the site against urban expansion. In addition, they fought against clandestine archaeological excavations. Indeed, greedy people sought to salvage the artifacts and then sell them in antique markets.
Until recently, excavations at Barikot encompassed only the southwestern quarters of the city. It was difficult to tackle downtown. For good reason, the costs of renting land are very high there. In fact, most Barikot sites are privately owned. It is therefore easier to rent them than to buy them.