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(Wikimedia Commons/Podzemnik)

We were pleased to include the identification of oil-based paintings at Bamiyan, Afghanistan, among this year's top ten discoveries, but on November 22, Agence France-Presse sent out a report about another amazing find at the site. Readers of our magazine will recall that we profiled Afghan archaeologist Zemaryalai Tarzai back in 2005 at the start of his excavation at Bamiyan (see "Waking the Buddha"). One goal of the project was to determine if a 7th-century Chinese monk's description of a 300-meter (980-foot) reclining Buddha at the site was true. Tarzai's team, says the AFP story, did not find the larger reclining Buddha, but did find parts of one not mentioned in ancient accounts that measured 19-meters (62-feet) long. Frustratingly, we were unable to reach Tarzai for comment or to confirm the AFP report, despite trying multiple channels. Out of editorial caution, we therefore decided not to include the find in our official list. Perhaps in the coming year the exact nature of the discovery will be made clear. If true, it would be a very important development given that it was at Bamiyan that the Taliban destroyed two giant standing Buddha sculptures (the taller was 180 feet) in 2001 (see our Afghanistan page for full coverage).

More Top Discoveries of 2008

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