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The Archaeology of Buddhism


Admission requirements

No restrictions on admission.


Every year there is a Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies in Leiden, offering a series of extra-curricular lectures on a topic of Buddhist Studies. This year, a series of undergraduate-level lectures and online discussions will explore the archaeology of Buddhism in South Asia (broadly defined) during the later centuries BCE and early centuries CE (roughly 500 BCE to 1000 CE). In doing so, it will review the corpora of archaeological evidence for Buddhism that we have and explore the main themes that emerge from their study. Following a general introduction to scope of the topics that will be covered, we will begin by considering the emergence of Buddhism during the mid-first millennium BCE in what is now Nepal and North India. Attention will then shift to the spread of Buddhism throughout South Asia during the later centuries BCE and first centuries CE, with a detailed look at different case studies in four geographical areas: Central and Peninsular India, Sri Lanka and Gandhara. Throughout these lectures, we will be concerned equally with the evidence that we have for Buddhism, as well as the wider societal and cultural contexts in which it existed—manifest in the geography and environment, and the evidence from towns and cities and wider patterns of settlement. In doing so, we will not only chart the history of Buddhism as it is reflected in its monuments and sculptures, but also tease out various themes such as: the ‘localisation’ of Buddhism, patterns of patronage, ritual and practice, and the economic and political agency of Buddhism. All of these themes will then inform the final lectures in the series, which will explore Buddhism in relation to growth of Hindu sects during the mid-first millennium CE, the spread of Buddhism into new areas (such as Bangladesh) and the growth of large and richly endowed monasteries and universities. The contents of each lecture and seminar for this years course will be announced.

Course objectives

Students will gain an appreciation for and understanding of the archaeological evidence for developments in the doctrine, ritual and practice of Buddhism, and surrounding social traditions and institutions, while thinking about larger issues of religion in society.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture and seminar

Assessment method


  • Paper


In order to pass the course, students must obtain an an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.


Paper can be resubmitted in case of failing grade.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

To be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs


For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar. * For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof