Buddha may have achieved enlightenment two centuries earlier than experts believe—if an ancient timber shrine can be taken at face value, AFP reports. A team of archaeologists, digging under the temple considered to be Buddha's birthplace, discovered a wooden shrine that dates to the 6th century BC. Problem is, scholars usually date Buddha to the 4th century BC. "This sheds light on a very very long debate" over Buddha's birth date and the beginnings of Buddhism, says archaeologist Robin Coningham.
The archaeologists found the shrine under a brick temple that's housed inside the Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, now a major tourist attraction in Nepal. Experts consider the brick temple to be Buddha's birthplace in part because it includes an open area where a tree once grew—and Buddha was born under a tree. As for the wooden shrine, it could be part of an older temple underneath, but its design matches the structures built on top of it. So let the debates begin. "This is one of those rare occasions when belief, tradition, archeology and science actually come together," says Coningham.