Sir Marc Aurel Stein, KCIE, FRAS, FBA  (Hungarian: Stein Márk
Aurél; 26 November 1862 – 26 October 1943) was a Hungarian-born
British archaeologist, primarily known for his explorations and
archaeological discoveries in Central Asia. He was also a professor at
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
1 Early life
3 Great Game
6 See also
8 References and further reading
9 External links
Stein was born to Nathan Stein and Anna Hirschler, a Jewish couple
Budapest in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 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. At home the family spoke German and Hungarian, the
language of Hungarian nationalist revival in the 19th century, and
Stein was proud of this heritage for the rest of his life. He attended
Lutheran gymnasiums in Budapest, where he 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 and received his Ph.D. from Tübingen in 1883.
In 1884 he went to England to study oriental languages and
archaeology. He became a British citizen in 1904 and made his
famous expeditions with British sponsorship. In 1887, Stein went to
India, where he joined the Punjab University as Registrar. Later,
between 1888 and 1899, he was the Principal of Oriental College,
Lahore. 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
Photograph of Aurel Stein, with his dog and research team, in the
Stein made four major expeditions to Central Asia—in 1900–1901,
1906–1908, 1913–1916 and 1930. 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.
Taklamakan from Stein's Serindia 1921, vol. V.
Aurel Stein to Rudolf Hoernle from Kashgar. Dated 25 May
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.
When Stein visited Khotan he was able to render in Persian a portion
of the Shahnama after he came across a local reading the Shahnama in
During 1901 Stein was responsible for exposing forgeries of Islam
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). He stole 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.
His discovery inspired other French, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese
treasure hunters and explorers who also took their toll on the
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. Stein was a lifelong bachelor, but was always
accompanied by a dog named "Dash" (of which there were seven).
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
Paul J. Sachs
Paul J. Sachs and Langdon Warner, the two Harvard
sponsors of the expedition.
Stein died in
Kabul on 26 October 1943 and is buried in Kabul's
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.
Fragment of carpet discovered by
Aurel Stein in a refuse pit at
Loulan, Xinjiang, and attributed to 3rd–4th century. Courtesy of The
The art objects he collected are divided between the British Museum,
the British Library, the
Srinagar Museum, and the National Museum, New
Stein received a number of honours during his career. In 1909, he was
awarded the Founder's Medal by the
Royal Geographical Society
Royal Geographical Society 'for his
extensive explorations in Central Asia, and in particular his
archaeological work'. 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
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.
In the 1910 King's Birthday Honours, he was appointed Companion of the
Order of the Indian Empire
Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) for his service as Inspector-General
Of Education and Archaeological Surveyor in the North-West Frontier
Province. 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.
He was made an honorary
Doctor of Letters
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
University of Cambridge in 1910. He was made an honorary Doctor of
Laws (LLD) by the
University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews in 1939.
In 1919, Stein became a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands
Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1921, he was elected Fellow of
the British Academy (FBA).
1896. "Notes on the Ancient Topography of the Pīr Pantsāl Route."
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. LXIV, Part I, No. 4,
1895. Calcutta 1896.
1896. Notes on Ou-k'ong's account of Kaçmir. Wien : Gerold,
1896. Published in both English and German in Vienna.
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
Sand-Buried Ruins of Khotan : vol.1
1905. Report of Archaeological Survey Work in the North-West Frontier
Province and Baluchistan, Peshawar, Government Press, N.W. Frontier
1907. Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations
in Chinese Turkestan, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford. Ancient
Khotan : vol.1 Ancient Khotan : vol.2
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. Ruins of Desert
Cathay : vol.1 Ruins of Desert Cathay : vol.2
1918. "Routes from the Panjab to Turkestan and China Recorded by
William Finch (1611)." The Geographical Journal, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Mar.,
1918), pp. 172–175.
1921a. Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in
Central Asia and
westernmost China, 5 vols. London & Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Reprint: Delhi. Motilal Banarsidass. 1980. Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.2 Serindia : vol.3 Serindia : vol.4
Serindia : vol.5
The Thousand Buddhas : ancient Buddhist paintings from the
cave-temples of Tung-huang on the western frontier of China. The
Thousand Buddhas : vol.1
1921b “A Chinese expedition across the Pamirs and Hindukush, A.D.
747.” Indian Antiquary 1923.
1923 Memoir On Maps Of Chinese Turkistan
1923 Memoir on Maps of Chinese Turkistan and Kansu : vol.1
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. Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.2 Innermost Asia : vol.3 Innermost
Asia : vol.4
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.
1933 On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks : vol.1
1937 Archaeological Reconnaissances in North-Western
South-Eastern Īrān : vol.1
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, pp. 49–61.
Sándor Kőrösi Csoma
^ Gray, Basil (19 February 1944). "Obituary, Sir Aurel Stein,
K.C.I.E., F.B.A". Nature. 153 (3877): 216–217.
^ Mirsky (1977), p. 3-4.
^ Colquhoun, A. R., & Colquhoun, E. M. C. (1914). The whirlpool of
Hungary and the Habsburgs. New York: Dodd, Mead.
^ Mirsky (1977), p. 5-6.
^ Annabel Walker. Stein, Sir (Marc) Aurel (1862–1943), Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.
Retrieved 26 November 2015.
^ a b "STEIN, Sir Aurel (26/11/1862-26/10/1943)". British Academy
Fellows. British Academy. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015.
Retrieved 26 November 2014.
^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica. 15th Edition. (1977). Vol. IX, p.
^ a b Wang, Helen (ed.); Perkins, John (ed.) (2008). Handbook to the
Collections of Sir
Aurel Stein in the UK (PDF). British Museum.
pp. 42–44. ISBN 978 086159 9776. ISSN 1747-3640.
Retrieved 4 July 2009. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Jeannette Mirsky (1 October 1998). Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological
Explorer. University of Chicago Press. pp. 146–.
^ 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.
^ 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.
^ Larmer, Brook (June 2010) "Caves of Faith", pp. 136–138, National
^ "JKMHC trekkers trek Mohanmarg". dailykashmirimages.com. Archived
from the original on 25 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
^ "The illustrated Rajatarangini". siraurelstein.org. Retrieved
^ IDP Newsletter Issue No. 18. Idp.bl.uk. Retrieved on 2014-06-06.
^ Dash The Dog. Idp.bl.uk. Retrieved on 2014-06-06.
^ Brysac, Shareen Blair (November–December 1997). "Last of the
"Foreign Devils"". Archaeology. 50 (6).
^ North, Andrew. (2012-06-09) Afghanistan's 'graveyard of foreigners'.
Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved on 2014-06-06.
^ Meyer & Brysac (1999), pp. 367-368.
^ "Gold Medal Recipients" (PDF). Medals and Awards. Royal Geographical
Society. Archived from the original (pdf) on 27 September 2011.
Retrieved 26 November 2014.
^ a b c Strong, Sarah; Wang, Helen. "Sir Aurel Stein's Medals at the
Royal Geographical Society" (pdf). British Museum. Retrieved 26
^ "No. 28388".
The London Gazette
The London Gazette (Supplement to the London Gazette
Extraordinary). 23 June 1910. p. 4478.
^ "No. 28617".
The London Gazette
The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 June 1910.
^ "STEIN, Sir Aurel". Who Was Who. A & C Black. April 2014.
Retrieved 26 November 2014.
^ "M.A. Stein (1862 - 1943)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and
Sciences. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
^ a b c d M. A. Stein – Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books at
References and further reading
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,
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 978-963-508-545-3.
Hansen, Valerie. 2012. The Silk Road: A New History, Oxford University
Press ISBN 978-0195159318.
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:
Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. Counterpoint.
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,
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, fully
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.
Wang, Helen (ed.). 2012. Sir Aurel Stein, Colleagues and Collections,
British Museum Research Publication 184, ISBN 978-086159-1848.
(This an online publication only) fully available online
Wang, Helen and Perkins, John (eds). 2008. Handbook to the Collections
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.
Wang Jiqing, Photographs in the
British Library of Documents and
Manuscripts from Sir Aurel Stein's Fourth Central Asian Expedition.
Whitfield, Susan. 2004.
Aurel Stein On The Silk Road. Serindia
Publications. ISBN 1-932476-11-3; also:
The British Museum
The British Museum Press,
London. ISBN 0-7141-2416-8.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aurel Stein.
Central Asian Antiquities at the National Museum of India, New Delhi.
Aurel Stein in Kashmir, Kashmir Bhawan Center, Luton, United Kingdom.
Dunhuang Project Website of the project to conserve,
catalogue, digitise and research the artifacts found in the Dunhuang
Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books Digital versions of books by
Marc Aurel Stein.
A page about Marc
Aurel Stein in Hungarian
Aurel Stein and the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. An exhibition of
his archive photos in the Library of the Hungarian Academy of
Life of Aurel Stein. Web catalog in four languages. A Hong Kong
exhibition of his archive photos and documents conserved in the
Oriental Collection of the LHAS, 2008. Preliminary articles on the web
publication: 1 and 2
British Museum – Sir
Aurel Stein at www.britishmuseum.org Sir Aurel
Stein, proceedings of the
British Museum study day, 23 March 2002
"The Stein Collection". Asia. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 14
Works by or about
Aurel Stein at Internet Archive
"Stein, Mark Aurel". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
"Stein, Mark Aurel". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
Aurel Stein in Encyclopaedia Iranica
ISNI: 0000 0001 1030 732X
BNF: cb12130251p (data)