Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley

Bamiyan Province, Bamiyan District
N34 50 48.984 E67 49 30.9
Date of Inscription: 2003
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)
Property : 158.9265 ha
Buffer zone: 341.95 ha
Ref: 208rev
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The cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley represent the artistic and religious developments which from the 1st to the 13th centuries characterized ancient Bakhtria, integrating various cultural influences into the Gandhara school of Buddhist art. The area contains numerous Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries, as well as fortified edifices from the Islamic period. The site is also testimony to the tragic destruction by the Taliban of the two standing Buddha statues, which shook the world in March 2001.

Enclosed between the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in the central highlands of Afghanistan, the Bamiyan Valley opens out into a large basin bordered to the north by a long, high stretch of rocky cliffs. The Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley comprise a serial property consisting of eight separate sites within the Valley and its tributaries. Carved into the Bamiyan Cliffs are the two niches of the giant Buddha statues (55m and 38m high) destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, and numerous caves forming a large ensemble of Buddhist monasteries, chapels and sanctuaries along the foothills of the valley dating from the 3rd to the 5th century C.E. In several of the caves and niches, often linked by galleries, there are remains of wall paintings and seated Buddha figures. In the valleys of the Bamiyan’s tributaries are further groups of caves including the Kakrak Valley Caves, some 3km south-east of the Bamiyan Cliffs where among the more than one hundred caves dating from the 6th to 13th centuries are fragments of a 10m tall standing Buddha figure and a sanctuary with painted decorations from the Sasanian period. Along the Fuladi valley around 2km southwest of the Bamiyan Cliffs are the caves of Qoul-i Akram and Lalai Ghami, also containing decorative features.

Punctuating the centre of the valley basin to the south of the great cliff are the remains of the fortress of Shahr-i Ghulghulah. Dating from the 6th to 10th centuries CE, this marks the original settlement of Bamiyan as stopping place on the branch of the Silk Route, which linked China and India via ancient Bactria. Further to the east along the Bamiyan Valley are the remains of fortification walls and settlements, dating from the 6th to 8th centuries at Qallai Kaphari A and B and further east still (around 15km east of the Bamiyan Cliffs) at Shahr-i Zuhak, where the earlier remains are overlaid by developments of the 10th to 13th centuries under the rule of the Islamic Ghaznavid and Ghorid dynasties.

The Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley represent the artistic and religious developments which from the 1st to the 13th centuries characterised ancient Bactria, integrating various cultural influences into the Gandharan school of Buddhist art. The numerous Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries, as well as fortified structures from the Islamic period, testify to the interchange of Indian, Hellenistic, Roman, Sasanian and Islamic influences. The site is also testimony to recurring reactions to iconic art, the most recent being the internationally condemned deliberate destruction of the two standing Buddha statues in March 2001.

Criterion (i): The Buddha statues and the cave art in Bamiyan Valley are an outstanding representation of the Gandharan school in Buddhist art in the Central Asian region.

Criterion (ii):The artistic and architectural remains of Bamiyan Valley, an important Buddhist centre on the Silk Road, are an exceptional testimony to the interchange of Indian, Hellenistic, Roman and Sasanian influences as the basis for the development of a particular artistic expression in the Gandharan school. To this can be added the Islamic influence in a later period.

Criterion (iii):The Bamiyan Valley bears an exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition in the Central Asian region, which has disappeared.

Criterion (iv): The Bamiyan Valley is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape which illustrates a significant period in Buddhism.

Criterion (vi): The Bamiyan Valley is the most monumental expression of the western Buddhism. It was an important centre of pilgrimage over many centuries. Due to their symbolic values, the monuments have suffered at different times of their existence, including the deliberate destruction in 2001, which shook the whole world.

Suggested Bases:

Bamiyan is the main town in Bamiyan Province. Bamiyan is one of the main tourist attractions in Afghanistan, largely due to the giant destroyed Buddha statues. It’s also one of the most picturesque regions in the country. The “Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley” is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It lies at an altitude of around 2 500 m and in the summer its comfortable climate provides a relief from the heat of the lower areas of the country. Almost everything revolves around one main road running east/west. The buddhas are on the cliff face to the north. Bamiyan town is small and walking is the best option. Around the region you can hire Toyota minivans for day trips from the stand in front of Mama Najaf’s Restaurant. Also, along the road in front of the large Buddha is the tourist office (in a pink building on the south side of the road) and you can hire a guide [read more].

Maidan Shar, also Maidan Shahr or simply Maidan, is the capital of Maidan Wardak Province in central Afghanistan. Its population was estimated to be 35,008 in 2003, of which 85% are Pashtuns, and a smaller number of Hazaras and Tajiks forming the rest. The city of Maidan Shar has a population of 14,265. It has 4 districts and a total land area of 3,347 hectares. The total number of dwellings in Maidan Shar is 1,585. Zarifa Ghafari became the mayor in 2019, she is one of the few Afghanistani female mayors, and the youngest to be appointed at the age of 26. She has won awards for her efforts in empowering women’s rights in Afghanistan. Maidan Shar features a warm-summer humid continental climate (Dsb) under the Köppen climate classification. It has warm, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. The average temperature in Maidan Shar is 8.8 °C, while the annual precipitation averages 373 mm [read more].

Kabul has been the capital of Afghanistan since about 1776. The city was badly damaged during the various 1979–2001 wars, particularly its western parts. For a few years, Kabul has been going through a period of reconstruction and development, with some modern style tower blocks and a handful of glitzy shopping malls appearing. Many roads, particularly the main feeder routes, have been reconstructed and upgraded. However, in outlying areas roads and other infrastructure remain in poor condition. Electricity supplies in Kabul are now quite reliable. The city is believed to have been founded between 2000-1500 BCE. It is mentioned in Hinduism’s sacred Rigveda text (c1700-1100 BCE) as a vision of paradise set in the mountains. It was an important center of Zoroastrianism and later Buddhism. The city remained of little importance for much of the first three millennia of its existence. It was controlled variously by: the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire, the Mauryan Empire, the Bactrians, various Hellenistic kingdoms, the Sassanid Empire, and by the 5th century CE was its own kingdom known as Kabul-Shahan [read more].

1 reply »

  1. Situated in 41,000 hectares land and contains six natural lakes, Band-e-Amir with its serene ambiance, variety of birds and clean air, is an amazing site which Afghanistan can offer to the world


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