Aurel Stein

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Sir Aurel Stein
Aurel Stein 1909.jpg
Aurel Stein in 1909
Born Stein Márk Aurél
26 November 1862 (1862-11-26)
Budapest
Died 26 October 1943(1943-10-26) (aged 80)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Citizenship British
Nationality Hungarian (birth)/British (naturalised)
Fields Archaeology
Influences Xuanzang; Sven Hedin

Sir Marc Aurel Stein, KCIE, FBA [1] (Hungarian: Stein Márk Aurél) (26 November 1862 – 26 October 1943) was a Hungarian-British archaeologist, primarily known for his explorations and archaeological discoveries in Central Asia. He was also a professor at Indian universities.

Stein was also an ethnographer, geographer, linguist and surveyor. His collection of books and manuscripts taken from Dunhuang caves is important for the study of the history of Central Asia and the art and literature of Buddhism. He wrote several volumes on his expeditions and discoveries which include Ancient Khotan, Serindia and Innermost Asia.

Early life[edit]

Stein was born in Budapest into a Jewish family. His parents and his sister retained their Jewish faith but Stein and his brother, Ernst Eduard, were baptised as Lutherans, apparently to free them from the anti-semitism which would have denied them access to education and advancement.[2] At home the family spoke German and Magyar, the language of Hungarian nationalism, and Stein was proud of this heritage for the rest of his life. He then mastered Greek, Latin, French, and English before going on for advanced study at Universities of Vienna, Leipzig and Tübingen. He graduated in Sanskrit and Persian Language and received his Ph.D. from Tübingen in 1883.[3]

In 1884 he went to England to study oriental languages and archaeology. He became a British citizen and made his famous expeditions with British sponsorship. In 1887, Stein went to India. He joined the Punjab University as Registrar. Later, between 1888 and 1899, he was the Principal of Oriental College, Lahore.[4] Stein was influenced by Sven Hedin's 1898 work Through Asia. Realizing the importance of Central Asian history and archaeology he sent a proposal to the government to explore, map and study the people of Central Asia. In May 1900 he received the approval to lead an expedition to Chinese Turkestan which was strategically located in High Asia where the Russians and Germans were already taking interest.

Expeditions[edit]

Photograph of Aurel Stein, with his dog and research team, in the Tarim Basin

Stein made four major expeditions to Central Asia—in 1900–1901, 1906–1908, 1913–1916 and 1930.[5] He brought to light the hidden treasure of a great civilization which by then was practically lost to the world. 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 in 1913–1916, he excavated at Khara-Khoto.[6]

Map of Taklamakan from Stein's Serindia 1921, vol. V.
Letter from Aurel Stein to Rudolf Hoernle from Kashgar. Dated 25 May 1901.

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 Miran 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 a printed copy of the Diamond Sutra, the world's oldest printed text, dating to AD 868, along with 40,000 other scrolls (all removed by gradually winning the confidence and bribing the Taoist caretaker).[7] He acquired 24 cases of manuscripts and 4 cases of paintings and relics. He was knighted for his efforts, but Chinese nationalists dubbed him a burglar and staged protests against him.[8] His discovery inspired other French, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese treasure hunters and explorers who also took their toll on the collection.[9]

During his expedition of 1906–1908 while surveying in the Kunlun Mountains of western China, Stein suffered frostbite and lost several toes on his right foot.

When he was resting from his extended journeys into Central Asia, he spent most of his time living in a tent in the spectacularly beautiful alpine meadow called Mohanmarg which lies at the mouth atop the Sind Valley where from he translated Rajatarangini from sanskrit to English.[10][11] Stein was a lifelong bachelor, but was always accompanied by a dog named "Dash" (of which there were seven).[12][13]

Photograph of Aurel Stein's grave marker in Kabul

The fourth expedition to Central Asia, however, ended in failure. Stein did not publish any account, but others have written of the frustrations and rivalries between British and American interests in China, between Harvard's Fogg Museum and the British Museum, and finally, between Paul J. Sachs and Langdon Warner, the two Harvard sponsors of the expedition.[14]

Stein died in Kabul on October 26, 1943 and is buried in Kabul's British Cemetery.[15]

Great Game[edit]

Stein, as well as his rivals Sven Hedin, Sir Francis Younghusband and Nikolai Przhevalsky, were active players in the British-Russian struggle for influence in Central Asia, the so-called Great Game. Their explorations were supported by the British and Russian Empires as they filled in the remaining "blank spots" on the maps, providing valuable information and creating "spheres of influence" for archaeological exploration as they did for political influence.[16]

Fragment of carpet discovered by Aurel Stein in a refuse pit at Loulan, Xinjiang, and attributed to 3rd–4th century. Courtesy of The British Museum.

The art objects he collected are divided between the British Museum, the British Library, the Srinagar Museum, and the National Museum, New Delhi.

Honours[edit]

Stein received a number of honours during his career. In 1909, he was awarded the Founder's Medal by the Royal Geographical Society 'for his extensive explorations in Central Asia, and in particular his archaeological work'.[17] In 1909, he was awarded the first Campbell Memorial Gold Medal by the Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay. He was awarded a number of other Gold Medals: the Gold Medal of the Société de Géographie in 1923; the Grande Médaille d’or of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1932; and the Gold Medal of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1935. In 1934, he was awarded the Huxley Memorial Medal of Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.[18]

In the 1910 King's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) for his service as Inspector-General Of Education and Archaeological Surveyor in the North-West Frontier Province.[19] Two years later, in the 1912 King's Birthday Honours, he was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) for his service as Superintendent of the Archaeological Department, North-West Frontier Circle.[20]

He was made an honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by the University of Oxford in 1909. He was made an honorary Doctor of Science (DSc) by the University of Cambridge in 1910.[18] He made an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) by the University of St Andrews in 1939.[18][21]

In 1921, he was elected Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).[4]

Publications[edit]

  • 1898. Detailed Report on an Archaeological Tour with the Buner Field Force, Lahore, Punjab Government Press.
  • 1900. Kalhaṇa's Rājataraṅgiṇī – A Chronicle of the Kings of Kaśmīr, 2 vols. London, A. Constable & Co. Ltd. Reprint, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.
  • 1904 Sand-Buried Ruins of Khotan, London, Hurst and Blackett, Ltd. Reprint Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, Madras, 2000
  • 1905. Report of Archaeological Survey Work in the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan, Peshawar, Government Press, N.W. Frontier Province.
  • 1907. Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations in Chinese Turkestan, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford.[22]
  • 1912. Ruins of Desert Cathay: Personal Narrative of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, 2 vols. London, Macmillan & Co. Reprint: Delhi. Low Price Publications. 1990.
  • 1921a. Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 5 vols. London & Oxford, Clarendon Press. Reprint: Delhi. Motilal Banarsidass. 1980.[22]
  • The Thousand Buddhas : ancient Buddhist paintings from the cave-temples of Tung-huang on the western frontier of China.[22]
  • 1921b “A Chinese expedition across the Pamirs and Hindukush, A.D. 747.” Indian Antiquary 1923.[23]
  • 1928. Innermost Asia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia, Kan-su and Eastern Iran, 5 vols. Oxford, Clarendon Press. Reprint: New Delhi. Cosmo Publications. 1981.[22]
  • 1929. On Alexander's Track to the Indus: Personal Narrative of Explorations on the North-West Frontier of India. London, Macmillan & Co. Reprint: New York, Benjamin Blom, 1972.
  • 1932 On Ancient Central Asian Tracks: Brief Narrative of Three Expeditions in Innermost Asia and Northwestern China. Reprinted with Introduction by Jeannette Mirsky. Book Faith India, Delhi. 1999.
  • 1940 Old Routes of Western Iran: Narrative of an Archaeological Journey Carried out and Recorded, MacMillan and co., limited. St. Martin's Street, London.
  • 1944. "Archaeological Notes from the Hindukush Region". J.R.A.S., pp. 1–24 + fold-out.

A more detailed list of Stein's publications is available in Handbook to the Stein Collections in the UK,[6] pp. 49–61.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gray, Basil (19 February 1944). "Obituary, Sir Aurel Stein, K.C.I.E., F.B.A". Nature 153 (3877): 216–217. doi:10.1038/153216a0. 
  2. ^ Mirsky (1977), p. 3-4.
  3. ^ Mirsky (1977), p. 5-6.
  4. ^ a b "STEIN, Sir Aurel (26/11/1862-26/10/1943)". British Academy Fellows. British Academy. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  5. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica. 15th Edition. (1977). Vol. IX, p. 547.
  6. ^ a b Wang, Helen (ed.); Perkins, John (ed.) (2008). Handbook to the Collections of Sir Aurel Stein in the UK. British Museum. pp. 42–44. ISBN 978 086159 9776. ISSN 1747-3640. Retrieved 4 July 2009. 
  7. ^ Deuel, Leo. 1970. Testaments of Time, p. 459. Baltimore, Pelican Books. Orig. publ. Knopf, NY, 1965; "Collecting Aurel Stein", The Caxtonian Vol. XIX, No. 2, November 2011.
  8. ^ Jacobs, Justin (2010) "Confronting Indiana Jones: Chinese Nationalism, Historical Imperialism, and the Criminalization of Aurel Stein and the Raiders of Dunhuang, 1899–1944", pp. 65–90 in China on the Margins. Sherman Cochran and Paul G. Pickowicz (eds.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  9. ^ Larmer, Brook (June 2010) "Caves of Faith", pp. 136–138, National Geographic Magazine.
  10. ^ "JKMHC trekkers trek Mohanmarg". dailykashmirimages.com. Retrieved 2014-05-25. 
  11. ^ "The illustrated Rajatarangini". siraurelstein.org. Retrieved 2014-05-25. 
  12. ^ IDP Newsletter Issue No. 18. Idp.bl.uk. Retrieved on 2014-06-06.
  13. ^ Dash The Dog. Idp.bl.uk. Retrieved on 2014-06-06.
  14. ^ Brysac, Shareen Blair (November–December 1997). "Last of the "Foreign Devils"". Archaeology 50 (6). 
  15. ^ North, Andrew. (2012-06-09) Afghanistan's 'graveyard of foreigners'. Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved on 2014-06-06.
  16. ^ MeyerBrysac1999 (), p. 367-368.
  17. ^ "Gold Medal Recipients" (pdf). Medals and Awards. Royal Geographical Society. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c Strong, Sarah; Wang, Helen. "Sir Aurel Stein’s Medals at the Royal Geographical Society" (pdf). British Museum. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  19. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28388. p. 4478. 23 June 1910. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28617. p. 4300. 23 June 1910. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  21. ^ "STEIN, Sir Aurel". Who Was Who. A & C Black. April 2014. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c d M. A. Stein – Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books at dsr.nii.ac.jp
  23. ^ http://www.pears2.lib.ohio-state.edu/FULLTEXT/TR-ENG/aurel.htm

References and further reading[edit]

  • Baumer, Christoph. 2000. Southern Silk Road: In the Footsteps of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin. White Orchid Books. Bangkok.
  • Brysac, Shareen. "Sir Aurel Stein’s Fourth ‘American’ Expedition." Archeology Archive Viewed December 21, 2014.
  • Deuel, Leo. 1965. Testaments of Time; the Search for Lost Manuscripts and Records. Knopf, New York, 1965. paperback reprint: Pelican, Baltimore, 1970.
  • Falconer, John et al. 2002. Catalogue of the Collections of Sir Aurel Stein in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Budapest, LHAS and British Museum. ISBN 963-7451-11-0.
  • Falconer, John et al. 2007. "Supplement to the Catalogue of the Collections of Sir Aurel Stein in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Budapest, LHAS. ISBN 963-508-545-3.
  • Hansen, Valerie. 2012. The Silk Road: A New History, Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-515931.
  • Hopkirk, Peter. 1980. Foreign Devils On The Silk Road. John Murray (Publishers). Paperback edition, University of Massachusetts Press 1984. ISBN 0-87023-435-8.
  • Meyer, Karl E.; Brysac, Shareen Blair (1999). Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. Basic Books. ISBN 978-1582431062. 
  • Mirsky, Jeannette (1977), Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological Explorer, Paperback edition, 1998, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 
  • Morgan, Joyce; Walters, Conrad, Journeys on the Silk Road: a desert explorer, Buddha’s secret library, and the unearthing of the world’s oldest printed book, Picador Australia, 2011, ISBN 9781405040419.
  • Pandita, S.N., Aurel Stein in Kashmir: Sanskrit of Mohand Marg. Om Publications, 2004. ISBN 978-8186867839.
  • Walker, Annabel. 1999. Aurel Stein: Pioneer of the Silk Road. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97730-2.
  • Wang, Helen (ed.). 1999. Handbook to the Stein Collections in the UK. British Museum Occasional Paper 129. ISBN 0-86159-129-1.
  • Wang, Helen (ed.). 2002. Sir Aurel Stein in The Times. London, Saffron Books. ISBN 1-872843-29-8.
  • Wang, Helen (ed.). 2004. Sir Aurel Stein. Proceedings of the British Museum Study Day, 2002. British Museum Occasional Paper 142. ISBN 0-86159-142-9.[1]
  • Wang, Helen (ed.). 2012. Sir Aurel Stein, Colleagues and Collections, British Museum Research Publication 184, ISBN 978-086159-1848. (This an online publication only) [2]
  • Wang, Helen and Perkins, John (eds). 2008. Handbook to the Collections of Sir Aurel Stein in the UK. British Museum Research Publication 129 (updated and expanded edition of Handbook to the Stein Collections in the UK, 1999). ISBN 978-086159-9776.
  • Whitfield, Susan. 2004. Aurel Stein On The Silk Road. Serindia Publications. ISBN 1-932476-11-3; also: The British Museum Press, London. ISBN 0-7141-2416-8.

External links[edit]