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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


19-metre Sleeping Buddha Statue and Relics Discovered in Central Afghanistan


12 September 2008



LONDON, (CAIS) -- Archaeologists have discovered a 19-metre (62-foot) Buddha statue along with scores of other historical relics in central Afghanistan near the ruins of giant statues destroyed by the Saudi backed Islamic fundamentalist Taliban in March 2001.

The team was searching for a giant sleeping Buddha believed to have been seen by a Chinese pilgrim centuries ago when it came upon the relics in the central province of Bamiyan, an official said on Monday.

"In total, 89 relics such as coins, ceramics and a 19 meters statue have been unearthed," Mohammad Zia Afshar, adviser in the information and culture ministry, told Reuters.

He said the idol, in sleeping posture, was badly damaged. The other relics dated back to the Bacterian era and from post-Sasanian and Buddhist civilisations.

Lying on the old Silk Road and linking West with the East, Bamiyan was once a thriving Buddhist centre where monks lived in caves. In 2001 the Taliban blew up two giant standing Buddha statues carved into a cliff face saying they were offensive to Islam, despite appeals worldwide.

Later that year U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban regime, and international archaeologists have begun to restore the biggest of the two destroyed statues, once the tallest standing Buddha in the world. The mammoth task is expected to take a decade.

The latest discovery has raised hopes of finding a 300-metre-long Buddha statue that according to an ancient Chinese pilgrim is lying in Bamiyan, Afshar said.

Afghanistan since its separation from mainland Iran in the late 19th century has suffered decades of foreign interventions and civil war, and many of its historical relics, belonging to various civilisations and periods of Iranian history, have been destroyed or looted.

Scientists said in April that they had found conclusive evidence the world's first ever oil paintings were in caves near the two destroyed giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, hundreds of years before oil paint was used in Europe.

Samples from paintings dated to the 7th century CE, they said. Paintings found in 12 of the 50 caves were created using oil paints, possibly from walnut or poppy, according to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF).

It was not until the 13th century that oil was added to paints in Europe and oil paint was not widely used in Europe till the early 15th century.




Extracted From/Source: Reuters [*]




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