"We needed different techniques to get the full picture".The results showed a high diversity of pigments as well as binders and the scientists identified original ingredients and alteration compounds.
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The findings suggest these may be the oldest known examples anywhere of painting with oil.
Lessons from Bamiyan The wall-paintings were devotional art showing the Buddha, often in colourful robes.
Until 2001 two vast 6th-Century Buddhas stood at Bamiyan.
Then they were blown up by Afghanistan's then-Taleban government as un-Islamic.
Built in 507, the larger in 554 The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco.
This coating, practically all of which was worn away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors.
In many European history and art books, oil painting is said to have started in the 15th century in Europe.
But the team that used the ESRF, an intense source of X rays, found the Bamiyan paintings date back to the mid-7th century AD The murals show scenes with Buddhas in vermilion robes sitting cross-legged amid palm leaves and mythical creatures.
The paintings are probably the work of artists who travelled on the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China, across Central Asia's desert to the West.
Other early civilisations including those in current-day Iran, China, Turkey, Pakistan and India may have used similar techniques as well but their ruins have not been subject to the same battery of studies.
Although caves decorated with precious murals from 5th to 9th century A. also suffered from Taliban attacks on this World Heritage Site, they have since become the focus of a major discovery, revealing Buddhist oil paintings that predate those in Renaissance Europe by hundreds of years.