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The World's Oldest Oil Paintings Restored After Taliban Dynamite (February 19, 2008)


"The oldest known oil painting, dating from 650 A.D., has been found in caves in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, according to a team of Japanese, European and U.S. scientists.

"The discovery reverses a common perception that the oil painting, considered a typically Western art, originated in Europe, where the earliest examples date to the early 12th century A.D.

"Famous for its 1,500-year-old massive Buddha statues, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, the Bamiyan Valley features several caves painted with Buddhist images.

"Damaged by the severe natural environment and Taliban dynamite, the cave murals have been restored and studied by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo, as a UNESCO/Japanese Fund-in-Trust project.

"Since most of the paintings have been lost, looted or deteriorated, we are trying to conserve the intact portions and also try to understand the constituent materials and painting techniques," Yoko Taniguchi, a researcher at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo, told Discovery News.

" 'It was during such analysis that we discovered oily and resinous components in a group of wall paintings.'

"Painted in the mid-7th century A.D., the murals have varying artistic influences and show scenes with knotty-haired Buddhas in vermilion robes sitting cross-legged amid palm leaves and mythical creatures.

"Most likely, the paintings are the work of artists who traveled on the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China, across Central Asia's desert to the West" (http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/02/19/oldest-oil-painting.html, accessed 07-11-2009).