A brightly colored mural unearthed in Uzbekistan could be dated to the second to third centuries, researchers say, and shed light on the spread of Buddhist art along the Road Silk.
It was discovered in 2016 during excavations at Kara Tepe, an archaeological site on the outskirts of Termez, in southern Uzbekistan, by local researchers and partners from Tokyo’s Rissho University.
The mural is about 1 meter by 1 meter and features several people with red and blue tones.
Images of the mural were published with the approval of the Institute of Fine Arts of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, with which Rissho University cooperates.
“The mural may be part of a larger work depicting the life of Buddha,” said Haruki Yasuda, a professor of art history at the university’s Department of Buddhist Studies. “It is a precious discovery that provides an insight into how Buddhism has changed (under the influence of different cultures).”
The archaeological site, located near the border with Afghanistan, not far from Bamiyan, was home to massive Buddhist statues until the Taliban raided them in 2001. The mural was found in a two-meter stone chamber. underground next to a temple.
Part of a mural unearthed at the Kara Tepe archaeological site [Source: Rissho . University
Uzbek Academic Research Group]
Kara Tepe is located at the “crossroads of civilizations” on the Silk Road. Greek and Roman figures have been unearthed there, as has a head statue of a large mythical Indian bird known as the Garuda. Those finds may also date from the second to third centuries. This is the first time a large mural has appeared at Kara Tepe.
Akira Miyaji, professor emeritus of Nagoya University and expert on Buddhist art in Central Asia, calls the find extremely important for studies of early Buddhist paintings. He noted that the mural combines both Eastern and Western style painting techniques.
“Drawing the face at an angle, along with shading and highlighting to give the impression of depth and solidity, are artistic techniques from Greece and Rome,” says Miyaji. “Flexible brushing and coloring styles are a feature of art older than Bamiyan Buddhist murals.
“There were also strong influences from the Greek painting tradition, along with elements from India and Persia.”