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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 20:06 GMT
'Nothing remains' of Bamiyan Buddhas
One of the original Bamiyan Buddhas shortly before it was blown up by the Taleban
The statues were destroyed despite international fury
Absolutely nothing remains of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, according to archaeologist Paul Bucherer, who has returned from Afghanistan after a detailed study of the site.

Unesco (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation) is to convene an international meeting to discuss the reconstruction project.

The destruction was done in a highly professional way

Paul Bucherer, Bibliotheca Afghanica
And the reconstruction of the ancient Buddhas - once the world's largest - has been supported in principle by the country's interim government.

The two Buddhas, the largest of which was 53m high, were demolished by Taleban explosives experts in February 2001.

A report in The Art said that Paul Bucherer, director of the Bibliotheca Afghanica museum-in-exile at Bubendorf in Switzerland, had made a detailed study of the site.

'Long search'

"I had hoped that some of the feet of the Buddhas might still survive under rubble, but the destruction was done in a highly professional way," said Mr Bucherer.

"Absolutely nothing remained of the Buddhas, other than a few boulders from the inner core.

The statues had stood for nearly 2000 years
"I made a long search, and found only one small piece of the outer plaster, the size of my hand."

The explosions also damaged the cliff in which the giant statues were set, which will make any rebuilding more difficult.

Rebuilding work would take up to four years and cost an estimated $30 to $50m (21m to 35m), but has the support of Afghan minister of information and culture Raheen Makhdoom.

Mr Bucherer also visited the remains of the Kabul Museum, where the collections were largely destroyed by Taliban militants.

"Virtually the entire collection was reduced to a mound of six cubic-metres of debris," he said.

He reported that, according to curators, every box of artefacts was emptied onto the ground, and objects depicting human or animal forms were then individually smashed with a hammer - a task that took 10 people three weeks to complete.

In a few instances curators were able to hide small objects in boxes which had already been searched, and may have saved up to a hundred artefacts.

See also:

30 Jan 02 | South Asia
Plans to rebuild Bamiyan Buddhas
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bamiyan destroyed by Taleban
12 Mar 01 | South Asia
Outcry as Buddhas are destroyed
02 Mar 01 | South Asia
UN warns Taleban over Buddha statues
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