Ancient artefacts including Buddha heads looted from Unesco site amid Afghan turmoil

According to a local man, there was a phone call asking him to buy items such as Buddha heads, coins and scriptures that seemed to have been stolen. An image of a Buddha head sent to the smartphone had the reference number of the French team.

This man had cooperated with foreign experts and was involved in the restoration of the ruins.

On the phone, a young woman’s voice proposed to sell a total of 25 relics for US$100,000 and said that if the offer was declined, they would be taken to neighbouring Pakistan.

According to Yoko Taniguchi, an associate professor at the University of Tsukuba who has worked on the restoration of archaeological sites, the Japanese team had stored coloured mural pieces and tools necessary for restoration.

A member of the French team contacted him earlier this month, explaining that the warehouse’s lock had been broken and boxes containing mural pieces had been overturned. There were also precious pieces of oil-painted murals.

The extent of damage and losses could not be confirmed.

According to the Japanese university, data from chemical analysis of the pigments from the 7th to 10th-century paintings indicates that these murals can be considered the world’s oldest oil paintings.

In 2003, the cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley were inscribed simultaneously on Unesco’s World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger.


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