Use of oil painting at bamyan in afghanistan predating european
Scholars long believed they were first added to paints much later in medieval Europe.
"There was no clear material evidence of drying oils being used in paintings before the 12th century A. anywhere in the world, until now," says Yoko Taniguchi, a Japanese conservation scientist on the team.
The paintings, showing robed Buddhas and mythical creatures, were also defaced but not obliterated.
The Bamiyan caves are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
The results are detailed in the peer-reviewed Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry.
“This is the earliest clear example of oil paintings in the world, although drying oils were already used by ancient Romans and Egyptians, but only as medicines and cosmetics," said researcher Yoko Taniguchi.
"On one hand, the paintings are arranged as superposition of multiple layers, which can be very thin," said Marine Cotte, a research scientist at CNRS and an ESRF scientific collaborator.
In many European history and art textbooks, oil painting is said to have started in the 15th century in Europe.
However, scientists from the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo (Japan), the Centre of Research and Restoration of the French Museums-CNRS (France), the Getty Conservation Institute (United States) and the ESRF have recently identified drying oils in some samples studied from the Bamiyan caves.
But Jaap Boon, a specialist in the chemical analysis of art at the Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, cautions that this conclusion must be seen as tentative until more detailed studies have been done.
The Bamiyan caves sit behind the gigantic statues of Buddha that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.