News & AnalysisArchaeology

Ten Years After Buddhas Destroyed, Afghans Work to Save Monastery

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Science  04 Mar 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6021, pp. 1124-1125
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6021.1124

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A decade ago this week, the Taliban began its destruction of the world's two largest Buddha statues, which had stood watch over central Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley for some 1500 years. This week, cultural heritage officials met in Paris to review years of work to stabilize the fragile niches that had held the statues and to prepare for the spring opening of an open-air museum at the site. Afghan archaeologists are also focusing on another Buddhist complex 200 kilometers south of Bamiyan, called Mes Aynak, that stands in peril of destruction because it sits atop the world's second largest deposit of copper. The government and a Chinese mining company have agreed to delay operations. But to preserve Mes Aynak's treasures will require a huge international rescue effort—perhaps the largest archaeological endeavor ever undertaken in Afghanistan. Plans for the project face time, money, and security constraints in the war-torn country.