Oil is used in paints to help fix dyes and help them adhere to surfaces.
Europeans began using oil in their pictures by about 800 A.
D., but the new research on the Central Asian pushes back the onset of oil-based painting by at least a hundred years.
It took ice axes and skillful mountaineering to clear a path to the caverns—set in a sheer 14,000-foot (4,300-meter) rock face in the Himalaya.
But the results were more than worth it, experts say.
Scientists from around the world have since embarked on a painstaking process to collect the remnants of the dynamited statues and reconstruct them.
In the meantime, researchers have found that the paint used on the Buddhas, along with murals in 12 of 50 painted Bamian caves, contained oil-based binders—the world's oldest known examples of oil paintings.The murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods, according to researcher Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation in Tokyo.The painters first applied a white base layer of a lead compound.The shepherd had made the discovery by chance while seeking shelter from a rainstorm decades ago.But he had missed the significance until making a passing mention to scientists.The UN World Heritage-listed Bamian Valley, which lies 145 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, is best known as the home of two giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. researchers have been working to preserve the damaged murals in a project partly funded by UNESCO.