TOKYO - Buddhist images on the walls of central Afghanistan's Bamiyan caves are the world's first oil paintings, Japanese researcher Yoko Taniguchi says. Taniguchi, an expert at Japan's National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, and a group of Japanese, European, and American scientists are collaborating to restore the damaged murals, the Daily Star reports. The Los Angeles-based Getty Conservation Institute analyzed 53 samples from the murals that date back to about 650 A.D., concluding that they had oil in the paint.
"My European colleagues were shocked because they always believed oil paintings were invented in Europe," Taniguchi said. "They couldn't believe such techniques could exist in some Buddhist cave deep in the countryside." The Bamiyan Valley is known for two huge 1,500-year-old statues of the Buddha that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. The researchers are restoring the murals, which depict thousands of Buddhas in red robes, as part of international efforts to salvage what is left of the region's cultural relics.
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