French-based scientists have been investigating paintings at the cave complex at Bamiyan, site, until 2001 when the Taleban government destroyed them for being un-Islamic, of two vast 6th-Century Buddhas.
A team from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble has painstakingly analysed the ancient paintings in those caves. They say that in 12 caves 7th-Century wall-paintings were created using oil paint, derived possibly from walnuts or the poppies which grew in the area. It is believed oil painting in Europe began only some six centuries after this. The findings suggest these may be the oldest known examples anywhere of painting with oil.
The wall-paintings were devotional art showing the Buddha, often in colourful robes. Probably the work was carried out by itinerant artists travelling the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the West.
There are plans to reconstitute the Bamiyan Buddhas but this will be a difficult undertaking – and a low priority undertaking given the state of Afghanistan. It will be a no priority if the Taleban are victorious again