Monks at the monasteries lived as hermits in small caves carved into the side of the Bamyan cliffs.Many of these monks embellished their caves with religious statuary and elaborate, brightly-colored frescoes.
It was a Buddhist religious site from the second century up to the time of the Islamic invasion in the ninth century.
They were intentionally dynamited and destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were "idols" (which are forbidden under Sharia law).
Japan and Switzerland, among others, have pledged support for the rebuilding of the statues., Bamyan was part of the Indian kingdom of Gandhara.
The murals show scenes of Buddhas in vermilion robes sitting cross-legged amid palm leaves and mythical creatures.
"This is the earliest clear example of oil paintings in the world, although drying oils were already used by ancient Romans and Egyptians, but only as medicines and cosmetics," says team leader Yoko Taniguchi.
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan—Wedged between the Hindu Kush and Koh-i-Baba mountain ranges in the central highlands of Afghanistan, Bamiyan is a sleepy, unimposing town.