A full expedition of scientists, art experts, and climbers from the U.S., Italy, and Nepal then climbed high into Nepal's mountainous Mustang area, some 250 kilometers (160 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, locating the caves in March (map of Nepal).Researchers hope to find even earlier examples by studying other Central Asian sites.
Scientists from around the world have since embarked on a painstaking process to collect the remnants of the dynamited statues and reconstruct them.
In the meantime, researchers have found that the paint used on the Buddhas, along with murals in 12 of 50 painted Bamian caves, contained oil-based binders—the world's oldest known examples of oil paintings.
The murals—and the remains of two giant, destroyed Buddhas—include the world's oldest known oil-based paint, predating European uses of the substance by at least a hundred years, scientists announced late last month.
Researchers made the discovery while conducting a chemical analysis as part of preservation and restoration efforts at Bamian, which lies about 145 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of the Afghan capital, Kabul. researchers have been working to preserve the damaged murals.
"What we found is fantastically rich in culture and heritage and goes to the 12th century or earlier," U. writer and conservationist Broughton Coburn told the Associated Press.
Included among the sprawling complex are manuscripts written in Tibetan, pre-Christian artifacts, pottery shards, and a number of smaller paintings.
Oil is used in paints to help fix dyes and help them adhere to surfaces.
It also changes a paint's drying time and viscosity.
May 7, 2007—In the remote highlands of Nepal, a local shepherd has made some unusual "additions" to his flock—an international team of archaeologists.