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Wed Apr 18, 2012, 03:44 PM

Pictures: 3,000 Ancient Buddhas Unearthed in China


The head of a Buddha statue peeks above the dirt in Handan (map), China, where archaeologists have reportedly unearthed nearly 3,000 Buddha statues, which could be up to 1,500 years old. Photograph by Sun Zifa, Imaginechina/AP
—Ker Than
Published April 17, 2012

The discovery is believed to be the largest of its kind since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, an archaeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told reporters in late March, according to the Associated Press.

The Buddha statues—most of which are made of white marble and limestone and many of which are broken—could date back to the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi dynasties (A.D. 534 to 577), experts say.

The statues—discovered during a dig outside of Ye, the ancient capital of the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi dynasties—may have been rounded up and buried after the fall of the Northern Qi dynasty by later emperors in an attempt to purge the country of Buddhism.

"It may have been that some of the ruins and broken sculptures from the past were gathered from old temple sites and buried in a pit," said Katherine Tsiang, director of the Center for the Art of East Asia at the University of Chicago.

More: National Geographic Story

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