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A part of this study was also funded by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists from the Ministry of Education and Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.

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monumental statues of standing buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, situated 230 km (143 miles) northwest of Kabul at an altitude of 2500 meters (8,202 ft).

It was a Buddhist religious site from the 2nd century up to the time of the Islamic invasion in the 9th century.

Monks at the monasteries lived as hermits in small caves carved into the side of the Bamyan cliffs.

The lower parts of the statues’ arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix while supported on wooden armatures.

It is believed that the upper parts of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts.

The researchers relied on a combination of synchrotron techniques, including infrared micro-spectroscopy, micro X-ray fluorescence, micro X-ray absorption spectroscopy and micro X-ray diffraction.

"On one hand, the paintings are arranged as superposition of multiple layers, which can be very thin," said Marine Cotte, a research scientist at CNRS and an ESRF scientific collaborator.

Painted in the mid-seventh century, the murals show scenes with Buddhas in vermilion robes sitting cross-legged amid palm leaves and mythical creatures.

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