Abstract: Silk Route and Diamond Path: The Archaeology of Tibetan Buddhism


For most westerners, Buddhism is timeless, and Tibet remote and romantic. For the archaeologist, though, the two are intimately connected. There is a substantial material expression of Tibetan Buddhism that is tied to pre-Buddhist political institutions, imperial expansion and collapse, and subsequent transformation into the monastic and temple tradition found on the plateau today. In this paper, I will discuss what is known of Tibetan Buddhist archaeology within this outline, and will describe the historical and cultural influences on the expression of Buddhism on the plateau, and the transformations it is undergoing in the modern political climate. My perspective is unique: at present, I am the only western archaeologist conducting research in the Tibet Autonomous Region.


Suggested bibliography:

 Stein, R. 1972 Tibetan Civilization. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.

 Aldenderfer, M. 2001 Roots of Tibetan Buddhism. Archaeology 54(3): 610-12. (Also published in Year of Discovery 2002, Hatherleigh Press, NY)

 Aldenderfer, M. 2005 Caves as sacred places on the Tibetan plateau. Expedition.47(3): 8-13. (Also published in Portuguese in the Journal of the Brazilian Speleological Society, 2006)

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