Kabul’s ancient Buddha statue restored
KABUL: Having withstood time, the elements, looters and war, a spectacular Buddha restored and removed from one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions is to make its public debut in the national museum.
The statue, which depicted the sage in a purple shroud offering his hands to the heavens, had been hidden beneath layers of soil and silt since some time between the third and fifth centuries, said the archeologists who discovered it.
The well-preserved piece, with its colours still vibrant, was found in 2012 at the Mes Aynak site, near here, in the now Talibaninfested Logar province.
“The statue was almost whole when it was discovered, with its head present, which is rare,” said Ermano Carbonara, an Italian restoration expert.
“It was placed in the centre of a niche, which itself had been decorated with painted flowers, in the heart of a great centre of (an area used for) prayer. It was better to remove it to protect it.”
The clay used in the sculpture was taken from the Mes Aynak river and is sensitive to moisture.
“A night of rain could destroy it,” said Carbonara, adding that the details of the face, the black curls of the Buddha’s bun, its pink cheeks and deep blue eyes pointed to a “truly sophisticated technique” of craftmanship.
A lust for looting in a country wracked by anarchy for the past four decades left Carbonara with little choice: the Buddha’s head, its most valued part on the black market, had already rolled to the ground.
“We find plenty of headless statues. If we’d left it be, its head wouldn’t have lasted a long time,” said Julio Bendezu, director of the French government archaeological mission in Afghanistan (DAFA).
Once inthe capital,, a team of Italian, French and local workers reattached the head and placed the Buddha back in the recess.
The restoration allowed experts to study the statue’s inner structure of straw and wood, revealing a Greek influence brought by Alexander the Great, when his armies swept through the region around 330BC.
The Buddha left DAFA’s workshops earlier this week under military escort and was brought to the National Museum of Afghanistan in preparation for its public unveiling. AFP
Italian restoration expert Ermano Carbonara with the restored statue of Buddha at the French Archaeological Delegation to Afghanistan office in Kabul.