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The Mauryan Horizon:
An Archaeological Analysis of Early Buddhism and the Mauryan Empire at Lumbini, Nepal

TREMBLAY, JENNIFER,CARRIE (2014) The Mauryan Horizon:
An Archaeological Analysis of Early Buddhism and the Mauryan Empire at Lumbini, Nepal.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The archaeology of Buddhism in South Asia is reliant on the art historical study of monumental remains, the identification of which is tied to the textual historical sources that dominate Buddhist scholarship. The development and spread of early Buddhism from the third century BCE has been intrinsically linked with the Mauryan Emperor Asoka, and is consequently reliant on the identification of ‘Mauryan’ remains in the archaeological record.
The aim of this thesis is to test the scholarly and physical evidence for the ‘Mauryan horizon’ that has shaped archaeological methodology in South Asia, by demonstrating challenges in the interpretation of the relationship between the Mauryan Empire and the spread of early Buddhism. The typical ‘markers’ of early Buddhism and Mauryan occupation are defined based on a historical study of South Asian archaeology, and the presence of these markers is tested at Lumbini, Nepal, using the 2011-2013 Durham University/UNESCO excavation data, and compared to published case studies representing a sample of site types across South Asia.
The results indicate a pattern of cultural, religious, and structural continuity through the so-called ‘Mauryan Horizon’, and analysis of Mauryan and Buddhist ‘markers’ proves that the use of these materials as indicators of either date or site type is flawed and unreliable. The continuations of practice and culture across the Mauryan horizon demonstrate flaws in the accepted account of Buddhism’s state-sponsored propagation in South Asia by the Emperor Asoka in the third century BCE, and that archaeological investigations of early Buddhist sites below the ‘brick horizon’ are necessary. The collated evidence demonstrates the viability of Monica Smith’s network model of Mauryan imperial infrastructure, but shows that alternative agents of Buddhist propagation should be considered. The conclusions highlight the methodological problems of unquestioning reliance on textual sources in archaeological and historical research in South Asia.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Archaeology of Buddhism, Nepal, Lumbini, Archaeology of Religion
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Apr 2015 10:29

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