Sanctuary of Bamiyan, Afghanistan View larger

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Sanctuary of Bamiyan, Afghanistan
Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND

Art photography by Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND of the Buddhist sanctuary of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. On March 21, 2001, the Taliban, intent on eradicating any record of a faith other than Islam, dynamited the two famous sandstone statues of Buddha sculpted into the cliff overlooking the city of Bamiyan more than 1,500 years earlier.

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Orientation Landscape
Color Brown

Sanctuary of Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND

Art photography by Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND of the Buddhist sanctuary of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. On March 21, 2001, the Taliban, intent on eradicating any record of a faith other than Islam, dynamited the two famous sandstone statues of Buddha sculpted into the cliff overlooking the city of Bamiyan more than 1,500 years earlier.

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On March 21, 2001, the Taliban, intent on eradicating any record of a faith other than Islam, dynamited the two famous sandstone statues of Buddha sculpted into the cliff overlooking the city of Bamiyan more than 1,500 years earlier. Standing 125 and 180 ft (38 and 55 m) respectively, the statues were sheltered from erosion in cliff-side niches. Five staircases led the faithful to the Buddhas’ heads, which they could explore through troglodytic tunnels decorated with frescoes. These led to caves arranged as prayer and ceremonial rooms, whose ceilings were enhanced with stucco and paintings. In the sixth century, 1,000 monks had settled in the Valley of Bamiyan. Buddhism and Islam coexisted until the thirteenth century. The Buddhas of Bamiyan survived through another millennium, but could not resist the Taliban. Simultaneously added to the UNESCO World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in danger in 2003, the site is in a fragile state. Soon after their destruction, fragments of the two sculptures were found on the art market. Today the challenge is to consolidate the cliffs, preserve the remaining fragments of the statues and the wall paintings in the caves, while protecting the site from pillaging and illicit digs.

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