Mushroom Hunters Discover an Ancient Sculpture of a Woman in a Thai Forest

Experts believe the carving may depict Maya Devi, the mother of the Buddha, and could date back as far as the 6th century C.E.

On May 10, 2024, a group of villagers foraging for mushrooms near Thailand’s Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary discovered what appeared to be an ancient sculpture in the jungle.

The stone carving depicted a woman — most likely the mother of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama — holding a branch above her head. The discovery sparked controversy online over the carving’s origins and launched an investigation by Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation.

Now, the public waits as art experts analyze the sculpture to discover its true history.

Mushroom Foragers Discover a Sculpture in the Thai Forest

On Friday, May 10, Pramul Kongkratok, a villager living near Khao Krachiao mountain in central Thailand, posted a photo of a curious stone sculpture he discovered near the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary on social media.

The photo showed a rock carving of a woman holding a tree branch above her head. Kongkratok captioned the photo: “Went mushroom hunting and found this. I’ve lived here for so long, but just learned we have this around here. It’s a blessing,” according to The Nation.

Kongkratok also reported the find to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation, and officials soon made the trek to the sculpture to see it for themselves.

There, they took photos and measurements of the carving. According to the department’s Facebook post, experts determined that it was likely ancient but were unable to conclusively date it.

Researchers are now exploring the surrounding area to find more clues about the carving’s origin.

The Puzzling Origins of the Stone Carving

The Thai province of Buri Ram, where the sculpture was found, is famous for its archaeological sites and links to the Khmer Kingdom that date back as early as the 6th century C.E.

Because of this connection to history, officials from the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary have called upon the country’s Fine Arts Department to visit the site and properly analyze the style of the carving to narrow down the time frame of its creation.

So far, the leading theory is that the sculpture depicts Maya Devi, the mother of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. It may date back to the Dvaravati period between the 6th and 11th centuries C.E.

However, some experts disagree. According to Silpakorn University art history professor Chedha Tingsanchali, the sculpture at Buri Ram is not as old as people are estimating.

“The sculptor was someone who saw ancient Indian art and imitated it. The features are not a match for the [Dvaravati] time such as eyebrows, lips, and other features. And lastly, Maya Devi holding a branch of a pipal tree was never known to people living in Esaan during Dvaravati before the 16th century,” Tingsanchali told The Nation.

With controversy over the carving’s origins swirling, officials and the rest of the world are waiting eagerly to learn the conclusions of the Fine Arts Department in the coming weeks.

After reading about the ancient Thai sculpture discovered by mushroom hunters, dive into the story of the durian, the famous fruit of southeast Asia that smells like gym socks. Then, view 44 photos of Thailand’s breathtaking Loy Krathong, a festival of lights.

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