Scientists uncover rare Buddhist manuscripts

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Australian scientists have uncovered what they believe are the earliest examples of Buddhist literature.

Carbon dating of rare manuscripts from a private collection dubbed the "Dead Sea scrolls of Buddhism" may reveal the religion's ancient origins.

Fragments of the manuscripts were delicately washed, then carbon dated at Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

Scientists found the texts originated from the first and fifth centuries AD.

Dr Mark Allon from the University of Sydney says they are believed to be the earliest examples of Buddhist literature in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"These manuscripts will throw light on the transmission of Buddhism into China," he said.

"What type of Buddhism was being transmitted, how it was being transmitted, where the literature came from and how it was developing."

Buddhism was originally an oral tradition.

This discovery also gives historians an insight into how Buddhist literature began.

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