A TEAM from the North East is driving forward an international project to investigate and safeguard the birthplace of Buddha.
The archaeologists from Durham University are working at the world heritage site in Lumbini in Nepal, where Buddha was born in 623BC.
Today an exhibition opens at Durham world heritage site which will highlight the project and also explore the birth and spread of Buddhism.
The display, at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, is forging a link between Durham world heritage site and its counterpart in Lumbini, more than 4,000 miles away.
Drawing on treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and Durham Oriental Museum, the exhibition will showcase for the first time the work of the Durham team and its international partners.
The Lumbini mission has been sponsored by UNESCO, the Japanese Government and Durham University.
Leading the Durham team on the three-year project is Robin Coningham, Professor of Archaeology at Durham University. The venture involves excavation at the site and its re-interpretation, feeding into long-term conservation and preservation work.
Dr Craig Barclay, curator of Durham University Museums, said: “It is a feather in the cap of Durham University to be involved in such a major international project at what is a fairly remote but historic pilgrimage site. The work will help ensure that the site is preserved for future generations.”
The aim is to address many of the challenges facing the world heritage site, including how best to conserve the standing remains, how to interpret the archaeology of the site, and how effectively to manage it in the face of ever-rising visitor numbers.
The Durham exhibition, which runs until April 7, explores the life of Gautama Buddha, the establishment of Buddhism and its early spread throughout South Asia.
The exhibition will also highlight how photography has captured the different faces of Buddhism, drawing both on the historic Marshall Collection of photographs held by the Oriental Museum and selected images from the recent work of National Geographic photographer, Ira Block.
Julie Biddlecombe-Brown, exhibitions officer at Palace Green Library, said: “We are enormously excited to have the opportunity to host this engaging and beautiful exhibition, which celebrates a religious tradition that is little understood in the west.
“The exhibition Birth of Buddhism is a true visual treat. The artefacts on loan are truly stunning, whilst Ira Block’s images are absolutely breathtaking.”
The exhibition is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 4.45pm. Admission costs £3 for adults, and £2 for children (over-5s) and concessions. For details call 0191 334 2932.