LECTURE> "Buddhist Manuscript Discoveries at Mes Aynak: A Tricky Philological In Situ-ation" Charles DiSimone, May 11 2021

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Dear Friends,

I am sorry to inform you that Ingo Strauch has had to cancel his upcoming talk: “Newly discovered Śāradā documents from a private collection in the UK”, on short notice which was to be the eighth and final lecture in the Ghent Center for Buddhist Studies Spring Lecture Series (Permanent Training in Buddhist Studies (PTBS)) generously sponsored by the Tianzhu Foundation. Due to this absence, I will fill in with a talk on a somewhat similar theme that may be of interest to those who had planned to attend the scheduled lecture. The lecture will be on May 11, 2021 at 19.00 Belgian time. All lectures in this series will be held remotely over Zoom. Interested parties are welcome to attend the series or individual talks. To register to this talk and get the Zoom link, or if you would like to be informed of future talks in our next lecture series (Spring 2022), please write to CBS@ugent.be. Please note, due to a recent cyber attack in Belgium, even if you registered for previous talks you should still register once again to attend.


Buddhist Manuscript Discoveries at Mes Aynak: A Tricky Philological In Situ-ation

Charles DiSimone

Ghent University


The ancient city of Mes Aynak, located about 40 km from Kabul in Afghanistan, sits atop the largest deposit of copper in the world. It has been an important location for copper mining and smelting from at least the late Bronze Age until perhaps around the 6th century CE and was continuously inhabited for several centuries thereafter. In addition to being a location of copper production, the area was the center of a strong Buddhist influence housing a monastic complex and multiple temples, but it also held multiple Zoroastrian shrines. New manuscript discoveries have been uncovered over the last few years in the course of the archeological excavation of the site. The manuscript material uncovered so far indicate the cosmopolitan nature of the area with Buddhist material in Sanskrit spanning both Mahāyāna and Śrāvakayāna (Mainstream) Buddhist thought as well as the presence of Bactrian documentation, a language that was not typically used in the transmission of Buddhist textuality. In this talk I will discuss this new manuscript evidence, which holds unique challenges to study, focusing on an analysis of seven groups manuscript fragments found at the site copied on birch bark folios in the Gilgit/Bamiyan Type I script dating from between the 6th–7th centuries of the Common Era.


Charles DiSimone is an FWO Postdoctoral Researcher at Ghent University. He received his doctorate from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and has held positions at the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, LMU Munich, and Mahidol University. His research primarily focuses upon the applications of philological, codicological, and critical analysis of Buddhist sūtra manuscripts and literature, both Mahāyāna and Mainstream. Recent publications include research on scribal practices in the Gilgit area and Greater Gandhāra and a forthcoming book on the (Mūla-)Sarvāstivāda Dīrghāgama manuscript (Wisdom 2021).