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World's oldest oil paintings in Afghanistan


Steve's Destiny
World's oldest oil paintings in Afghanistan
ScienceDaily, Apr 22, 2008

Ancient Buddhist Paintings From Bamiyan Were Made Of Oil, Hundreds Of Years Before Technique Was 'Invented' In Europe

Bamiyan, Afghanistan -- The world was in shock when in 2001 the Talibans destroyed two ancient colossal Buddha statues in the Afghan region of Bamiyan.

Behind those statues, there are caves decorated with precious paintings from 5th to 9th century A.D. The caves also suffered from Taliban destruction, as well as from a severe natural environment, but today they have become the source of a major discovery.

Scientists have proved, thanks to experiments performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), that the paintings were made of oil, hundreds of years before the technique was "invented" in Europe.

In many European history and art books, oil painting is said to have started in the 15th century in Europe. But scientists from the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo (Japan), the Centre of Research and Restoration of the French Museums-CNRS (France), the Getty Conservation Institute (United States) and the ESRF have recently identified drying oils in some of the samples they studied from the Bamiyan caves.

Painted in the mid-7th century A.D., the murals show scenes with Buddhas in vermilion robes sitting cross-legged amid palm leaves and mythical creatures. The scientists discovered that 12 out of the 50 caves were painted with oil painting technique, using perhaps walnut and poppy seed drying oils.

A combination of synchrotron techniques such as infrared micro-spectroscopy, micro X-ray fluorescence, micro X-ray absorption spectroscopy or micro X-ray diffraction was crucial for the outcome of the work. "On one hand, the paintings are arranged as superposition of multiple layers, which can be very thin. The micrometric beam provided by synchrotron sources was hence essential to analyze separately each of these layers. On the other hand, these paintings are made with inorganic pigments mixed in organic binders, so we needed different techniques to get the full picture" Marine Cotte, a research scientist at CNRS and an ESRF scientific collaborator explains.

The results showed a high diversity of pigments as well as binders and the scientists identified original ingredients and alteration compounds. Apart from oil-based paint layers, some of the layers were made of natural resins, proteins, gums, and, in some cases, a resinous, varnish-like layer. Protein-based material can indicate the use of hide glue or egg. Within the various pigments, the scientists found a high use of lead whites. These lead carbonates were often used, since Antiquity up to modern times, not only in paintings but also in cosmetics as face whiteners.

"This is the earliest clear example of oil paintings in the world, although drying oils were already used by ancient Romans and Egyptians, but only as medicines and cosmetics", explains Yoko Taniguchi, leader of the team.

The paintings are probably the work of artists who traveled on the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China, across Central Asia's desert to the West. However, there are very few studies about this region. "Due to political reasons research on paintings in Central Asia is scarce. We were fortunate to get the opportunity from UNESCO, as a part of conservation project for the World Heritage site Bamiyan, to study these samples and we hope that future research may provide deeper understanding of the painting techniques along the Silk Road and the Eurasian area", says Taniguchi.

The results were presented in a scientific conference in Japan last January and published April 22 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry.

Adapted from materials provided by European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
Thank you so much Jalu for that article.
it is such a blessing that the caves behind the destroyed statues of Buddha were never found by the Taliban.
That is such a sacred site.
Hopefully the whole country can be wrenched from the darkness of ignorance and belligerance.
We must all pray and see Afghanistan in the light of the Holy Spirit overflowing and overtaking the dark cloud it has been under for so long.


Steve's Destiny
You are Welcome, Halkush.:)

I find news like this one interesting...good to find out the (true) origin of "things". I think we should pray not only for them (or any country enduring any kind of hardships), but also for ourselves. That we don't become too comfortable in our particular view(s) and become narrow minded and arrogant.
Hi Jalu! WOW!

Thank you so much for sharing this information with us. I have been so busy this past month, that I haven't read anything from my current issues of Scientific American and Discover Magazine. If I look, I'm quite sure I will find an article on this same subject. If not, it will probably be in next months issues.... I love reading about things like this.

I use to also subscribe to Archeaology Today and Archaeology Odssey magazines, but have recently let my subscriptions run out, on those 2; Reason is because my Science and Wildlife Conservation ones, are the most important to me, right now...Priority, especially since doctors are finding more and more wrong with my son; Just found out in a letter I received today-(tech. yesterday-Monday), from his doctor at Children's Hospital....Things the doctor explained, in the letter, that I am totally unfamilar with.

My sons next appoint will be July 16, when the doctor will explain everything to me and tell me what the Pediatric Endocrinologist said, that he is consulting on my sons case.... It's not as scarey when you know something about an illness your child has, but when you know absolutely nothing on something the doctor says is wrong with your child, that is a bit overwhelming...

Again, Thanks! This was so fascinating to read.

Love Your Sister, Eagle/Stacey :yin:
Great thoughts and wisdom expressed by Jalu that we should pray for ourselves too.
Everytime we point the finger at something or someone, there are three fingers pointing back at us.

I am leaving Hong Kong CountryEagle on 16th July for Shanghai but will return on 6th August. I hope to catch your post on the site or in private message about your son's diagnosis by the doctors.
Here's praying and hoping with faith all can be handled with sensitivity , care and ongoing healing.
Love to you all.
I wish that everyone could get CCTV-9 The Chinese international television station. The program New Frontiers reveals on a weekly basis new and old findings by archeologists of treasures that were buried in the old times past, that reflect the culture, religion and politics of the past. fascinating!

HI Halkush!

Hope you have a safe & blessed trip! I look forward to hearing form you when You get back! We will all miss you! Wish I had that CCTV-9! That sounds like an awesome channel! I would definately watch it Every Day!!!

Love Your Sister, Eagle/Stacet :yin: