Marc Aurel Stein

From Academic Kids

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Sir Aurel Stein

Sir Marc Aurel Stein (26 November, 186226 October, 1943), born in Budapest, was a Hungarian Jewish archaeologist who became a British citizen. He was also a professor at various Indian universities. Stein was inspired by Sven Hedin's work, Through Asia.

Stein took part in three successful expeditions and one failed expedition in Central Asia.

The British Library's Stein collection of Chinese, Tibetan and Tangut manuscripts, Prakrit wooden tablets, and documents in Khotanese, Uighur, 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 and recorded numerous archaeological sites especially in Iran and Baluchistan.

Stein's greatest discovery was made at the "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas," near Dunhuang (Tun Huang). It was there that he discovered the Diamond Sutra, the world's oldest dated printed text, along with 40,000 other scrolls (all removed, with shameless cynicism, by gradually winning the confidence of the humble Buddhist caretaker). In 1901 Stein was responsible for exposing forgeries of Islam Akhun. During his expedition of 1906-1908 while surveying in the Kunlun mountain range in western China, Stein suffered frostbite and lost several toes on his right foot.

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

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 Gulmarg (or 'Meadow of Roses'). Except for his latest dog (which was always called "Dash"), he lived alone here. He died and is buried in Kabul.

The art objects he collected are divided between the British Museum, the British Library, the Srinigar Museum, and the National Museum, New Delhi. His collection is important in the study of the history of Central Asia and the art and literature of Buddhism.

Among his many publications are:

  • Stein, Aurel M. (1900). Kalhaṇa's Rājataraṅgiṇī A Chronicle of the Kings of Kaśmīr, 2 vols. London, A. Constable & Co. Ltd. Reprint, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1907. Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations in Chinese Turkestan, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford. [1] (
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1912. Ruins of Desert Cathay: Personal narrative of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 2 vols. Reprint: Delhi. Low Price Publications. 1990.
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1921a. Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 5 vols. London & Oxford. Clarendon Press. Reprint: Delhi. Motilal Banarsidass. 1980. [2] (
  • Stein Aurel M. 1921b A Chinese expedition across the Pamirs and Hindukush, A.D. 747. Indian Antiquary 1923. From: . Last modified 24 June, 1997. Accessed 13 January, 1999.
  • Stein Aurel M. 1928. Innermost Asia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia, Kan-su and Eastern Iran, 5 vols. Clarendon Press. Reprint: New Delhi. Cosmo Publications. 1981.
  • Stein Aurel M. 1929. On Alexander's Track to the Indus: Personal Narrative of Explorations on the North-west Frontier of India. London. Reprint: New York, Benjamin Blom, 1972.
  • Stein Aurel M. 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.
  • Stein Aurel M. 1944. "Archaeological Notes from the Hindukush Region". J.R.A.S., pp. 1-24 + fold-out.

Further Reading

  • Baumer, Christoph. 2000. Southern Silk Road: In the Footsteps of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin. White Orchid Books. Bangkok.
  • Mirsky, Jeannette. 1977. Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological Explorer. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Paperback edition, 1998.
  • Walker, Annabel. 1999. Aurel Stein: Pioneer of the Silk Road. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295977302.
  • Whitfield, Susan. 2004. Aurel Stein On The Silk Road. Serindia Publications. ISBN 1932476113.

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