From among the various factions arose the Taliban ("students of religion"), a militant Islamic movement.The Taliban seized Kabul in 1996 and imposed Islamic punishments, including amputation and stoning, and banned women from working.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.Seen in a 2005 photo, a towering alcove in Afghanistan's Bamian Valley cliffs shows the former home of a giant Buddha statue. D., the statue was one of a pair destroyed by Taliban officials in 2001 for allegedly insulting Islam. About 50 contain the depictions of ornate swirling patterns, Buddhist imagery, and mythological animals that led UNESCO to name the area a World Heritage site. As part of that venture, the scientists conducted the first scientific analysis of the paintings since the 1920s.Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry revealed that some of the murals contained oil- and resin-based paints—likely the earliest known use of either substance for painting.In 2001 the Taliban destroyed giant Buddha statues at Bamian in defiance of international efforts to save them. and Britain bombed terrorist camps in Afghanistan; by November 2001 Kabul fell to anti-Taliban forces.
The use of the substances at such an early date is a surprise, since they require sophisticated knowledge of chemical properties, scientists say.The northern plains and valleys are home to Tajiks and Uzbeks. Kabul, south of the Hindu Kush, is linked by narrow passes to the northern plains.Pashtuns inhabit the desert-dominated southern plateaus. In 1989 the nine-year Soviet occupation ended, and Muslim rebels toppled the communist regime in 1992, after which rival groups vied for power.The murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods, according to researcher Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation in Tokyo.The painters first applied a white base layer of a lead compound.