here is what Buddhist scholars J. Silk and A. Bayer have so far said about the topic:
"Subject: Re: ARTICLE> The Date of the Buddha,
Regarding the recent report from Lumbini, mentioned by Matthew
Kapstein, as one might expect, the facts do not bear out the hype.
I read the article in question yesterday (before the embargo was
lifted) because a journalist contacted me about it (you can read about
it in the Volkskrant if you read Dutch...), but when Matthew and
others read the article, what will be evident is that what has been
found is wood beneath the Asokan layer. There is *no*
the wood is connected with the Buddha in any way shape or form. It is
logical to think that a tree shrine on the spot considered to be the
birthplace of the Buddha could easily have predated anything about
Buddhism--of course, the tree selected as "the tree" under which the
Buddha was born should be a sacred tree, hence it had a shrine
associated with it.
And in fact, except for a single--I would say incautious--sentence,
the article basically says this. I'm sure it will be spun for all it's
worth, but there's nothing there, except perhaps (and even this is not
100% clear) some evidence that, despite an earlier botched excavation
by a Japanese team (which, the authors imply, threw away valuable
evidence), the traditional spot rebuilt by Asoka had earlier a wooden
structure upon it. What that structure may have been, and whether it
could conceivably have had any connection with the Buddha--no
evidence at all!
Thanks to Matthew Kapstein for the NYT article and his critical
remarks.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/scien ... .html?_r=0
The NYT article and several others follow a pattern that I have
observed with media, especially online media, when dealing with new
sensational discoveries: Almost none of the online journalists have
(/take the) time to ask for a second expert opinion when they get the
news agency reports. If at all, they contact the discoverer, simply
because it is the name they have at hand.
Another of the issues involved is that archeology, dealing with
material things, seems to be considered "science", while the study of
history as a whole is just "humanities" (at least in the anglophone
world) and thus less reliable.
These were my experiences when dealing with the "Lama Wearing
Trousers" last year.http://www.spiegel.de/international/zei ... 62919.html
I have now organized a panel by the title "Authenticity, Uncertainty,
and Deceit in Buddhist Art and Archaeology" at the IABS 2014 in Vienna
- to which everyone interested in such methodological questions is
Dr. Achim Bayer "