Aurel Stein

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Sir Marc Aurel Stein (usually known as Aurel Stein) KCIE, FBA [1] (Hungarian: Stein Márk Aurél) (26 November 1862 – 26 October 1943) was a Hungarian archaeologist, mainly concerned with exploring ancient Central Asia. He was also a professor at various Indian universities.


Early life

Stein was born in Budapest into a Jewish family. His parents had him and his brother, Ernst Eduard, baptised as Lutherans, while his parents and sisters remained Jews (a common way at the time to increase the chance of one's sons being successful).[2] He later became a British citizen and made his famous expeditions with British sponsorship.


Stein was influenced by Sven Hedin's 1898 work, Through Asia. He made four major expeditions to Central Asia—in 1900, 1906-8, 1913–16 and 1930.[3] One of his significant finds during his first journey during 1900-1901 was the Taklamakan Desert oasis of Dandan Oilik where he was able to uncover a number of relics. During his third expedition 1913-16, he excavated at Khara-Khoto.[4]

The British Library's Stein collection of Chinese, Tibetan and Tangut manuscripts, Prakrit wooden tablets, and documents in Khotanese, Uyghur, Sogdian and Eastern Turkic is the result of his travels through central Asia during the 1920s and 1930s. Stein discovered manuscripts in the previously lost Tocharian languages of the Tarim Basin at Marin and other oasis towns, and recorded numerous archaeological sites especially in Iran and Balochistan.

During 1901 Stein was responsible for exposing forgeries of Islam Akhun.

Stein's greatest discovery was made at the Mogao Caves also known as "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas", near Dunhuang in 1907. It was there that he discovered the Diamond Sutra, the world's oldest printed text which has a date (corresponding to AD 868), along with 40,000 other scrolls (all removed by gradually winning the confidence of the Taoist[5] caretaker). He acquired 24 cases of manuscripts and 4 cases of paintings and relics. He was knighted for his efforts, but he continues to be vilified to this day in China for the removal of countless priceless artifacts from the caves. His discovery inspired other French, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese treasure hunters and explorers who also took their toll on the collection.[6]

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