Researchers Say They Can Restore 1 of Destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas

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Researchers Say They Can Restore 1 of Destroyed

Bamiyan Buddhas

Mar 1, 2011
Researchers in Germany said today they believe it may be possible to reconstruct the smaller of the two 1,500-year-old Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban before the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Rebuilding the statue, however, would be an enormous task that might require transporting some 1,400 pieces to Germany or constructing a factory in Bamiyan, where the monuments were located.

The once-colorful statues, which faded over the centuries, were built into the sandstone side of a mountain on the Silk Road in what is now central Afghanistan back in the sixth century. They survived centuries of war and neglect until 2001, when Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar ordered the ancient figures destroyed.

Omar declared the statues idolatrous and un-Islamic because they depicted Buddha. However, scholars at the time pointed out that the Taliban’s decision to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas had less to do with religion and more to do with punishing political opposition and striking back at the international community.

Despite worldwide condemnation of the plan, the Taliban used dynamite to dismantle the statues.

A decade after the destruction, Erwin Emmerling of Technical University Munich says he believes he can restore the smaller of the two statues using an organic silicon compound.

Time, however, may be running short. Smaller pieces of the statues are being stored in warehouses in Afghanistan, but larger chunks are being preserved in place. “[T]hat will only last for a few years, because the sandstone is very porous,” Emmerling said.

The researchers said they have also established dates for when the original statutes were constructed using information collected from mass spectrometer tests: the larger Buddha, which was 55 meters, or about 180 feet, tall, was built between 591 and 644, while the smaller one, which was 38 meters, or 124 feet, tall, was built between 544 and 595.

It’s unclear, however, how much the conservation and reconstruction would cost or how long the process would take. Emmerling has already visited the site 15 times over the past several years, according to The Associated Press.

A conference is set for next week in Paris to discuss what to do about the statues.

That the statues have survived as well as they have for as long as they have is a testament to their original construction.

“These have survived not only nearly 1,500 years of history, but even the explosion in some parts,” Emmerling said.

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