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Afghans unearth ancient 'sleeping Buddha'

Latest update : 2008-09-08

Afghan archaeologist Zameryalai Tarzi and his team have discovered the remains of an ancient 19-metre-long (62-foot) "sleeping Buddha" in central Afghanistan's Bamiyan a government official said Monday.

KABUL - 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 Islamist Taliban seven years
ago.
 

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
metres 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
Islamic 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 and Afghan forces toppled the
Taliban government, and work has 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 has suffered decades of foreign interventions
and civil war, and many of its historical relics, belonging to
various civilisations, 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 AD, 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.

Date created : 2008-09-08

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