Cremated human remains found inside a ceramic box in Jingchuan County, China, might be those of the Buddha, though archeologists have not confirmed that.
An inscription says the remains were buried June 22, 1013, and belong to the Buddha, who is said to have lived from 563 B.C. to 483 B.C.
More than 260 Buddhist statues were found buried near the remains, but researchers are not certain they were buried at the same time since the inscription does not mention them.
Researchers noted this isn’t the first time remains of the Buddha — also known as Gautama Buddha or Siddhārtha Gautama — have purportedly been found.
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Last year, archeologists reported the discovery of a skull bone thought to be from the Buddha inside a stone chest in a crypt beneath a Buddhist temple in Nanjing, China.
A team of archeologists led by Hong Wu, a research fellow at the Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, wrote about these new findings in two articles recently translated into English and published in the Chinese Cultural Relics journal, Live Science reports.
Villagers discovered the statues and Buddha remains in December 2012 while they were repairing roads in the area. Archeologists excavated the remains, which they first detailed in a Chinese-language journal last year.
This newfound inscription references Yunjiang and Zhiming, two monks who spent more than 20 years gathering Buddhist relics to promote and practice Buddhism.
It reads: “The monks Yunjiang and Zhiming of the Lotus School, who belonged to the Mañjuśrī Temple of the Longxing Monastery in Jingzhou Prefecture, gathered more than 2,000 pieces of śarīra (cremated Buddha remains), as well as the Buddha’s teeth and bones, and buried them in the Mañjuśrī Hall of this temple” on June 22, 1013.
“To reach this goal, both of them practiced the instruction of Buddhism during every moment of their lives for more than 20 years. Sometimes they received the śarīra from others’ donations; sometimes they found them by chance; sometimes they bought them from other places; and sometimes others gave them the śarīra to demonstrate their wholeheartedness.”
Archeologists also found the remains of a structure that could be part of the Mañjuśrī Hall in the area where they found the statues and box containing the remains, according to Live Science.
Researchers wrote that the statues, few of which had any writing on them and some more than 6 feet tall, were created between the time of the northern Wei dynasty (A.D. 386 to 534) and the Song dynasty (A.D. 960 to 1279) when, they noted, the county was a major trading hub on the Silk Road.
“Whether the materials truly belong to the famous ancient philosopher is a mystery, and will probably stay that way,” notes the science news website, ScienceAlert.
“But in addition to the ossuary, archaeologists also found 260 statues – a discovery that’s of cultural and historical significance regardless of the origins of the bones themselves.
“Historically the inscriptions and assortment of statues provide insights into the history of the culture surrounding the religion. For many Buddhists, whatever the true nature of the bones, the discovery of this incredible collection from a millennium ago could have immense spiritual significance.”