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were created there in the 4th and 5th centuries; the larger was 175 feet (53 metres) high, and the smaller was 120 feet (about 40 metres).
The statues were carved from the living rock and were once finished with fine plaster and painted.
(Related: "World Heritage Status a Mixed Boon" [February 3, 2003].) But murals depicting ornate swirling patterns, Buddhist imagery, and mythological animals also adorn 50 of up to a thousand caves in the region. As part of that venture, the scientists tested the composition of the paint to aid restoration efforts—the first scientific analysis of the caves since the 1920s.
The decorations date to between the 5th and 9th centuries A. Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, scientists found that samples from 12 caves and the two destroyed giant Buddhas contained oil- and resin-based paints—likely the earliest known use of either substance for painting.
They told me how they had got tired of the local commanders, all of whom were from Hezb-e Wahdat, but retained jihad-era rivalries; some were from the Wahdat faction led by Ustad Muhammad Akbari (now an MP), while others were allied to Muhammad Mohaqqeq (also now an MP) and (now second vice president) Karim Khalili.
"Sophisticated" Find Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation in Tokyo presented the findings at a recent international symposium held there.
The analysis showed the murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods.
The Silk Route was an ancient series of linked trade routes that connected the East to the West and carried both material wealth and ideas.
Bamiyan’s central location along the Silk Route, along with its fertile plains amid harsh terrain, made it an ideal location for merchants and missionaries to stop during their travels.
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Buddhism spread, in part, because it was not location specific.