Kevin Rudd should be complimented for Australia's apology to aborigines.
This trend of recognizing human rights violations should continue.
I suggest that in addition to an apology to all Indians and erstwhile colonies of imperial British Empire, concrete steps should be announced by the legatee of the British colonial regime, namely the British Government.
Some concrete, minimum steps are:
1. Acknowledgint the colonial loot from India (and other Indian Ocean nations including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Srilanka, Burma).
2. Working out and paying up the reparations to compensate for the loot.
3. Payment of compensation for desiccating the social fabric by introducing divisive policies such as the induction of an alien, disgusting phenomenon called the 'caste' which is derived from a Portuguese word, 'casta'.
4. Accounting for and acknowledging the part played by the colonial regime for the Bengal famine which resulted in a genocide of millions of people.
I will end with a quote from Will Durant’s ‘The Case for India’:
“As for America,…let them ferret out the facts and pour them forth among their people, until not an American will be left to stand by in ignorant comfort while one-fifth of mankind is on Golgotha…Lajpat Rai, Columbia University student, founder of the Arya-Somaj, inscribed to America in the following words the great book, Unhappy India, which he left unfinished when he was struck down as he marched unarmed in a peaceful parage: [quote] DEDICATED With love and gratitude to those numberless American men and women who stand for the freedom of the world; who know no distinctions of color, race, or creed; and who prefer a religion of lve, humanity, and justice. To them the oppressed people of the earth look for sympathy in their struggle for emancipation, and in them is centred the hope of world-peace. [unquote] What more could be said? How could we read these words without offering to India some sign of understanding and gratitude.”
Yes, indeed, the world owes India some understanding, gratitude and also recompense. In the global economy, compensation has to go beyond mere words of sympathy. India should rise again to its rightful place in the world polity by spearheading the constitution of Indian Ocean Community.
Text of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to Aborigines
February 13, 2008
I move: That today we honour the indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
We reflect on their past mistreatment.
We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.
The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A future where this parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, indigenous and non-indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility. A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
There comes a time in the history of nations when their peoples must become fully reconciled to their past if they are to go forward with confidence to embrace their future.
Our nation, Australia, has reached such a time.
That is why the Parliament is today here assembled: to deal with this unfinished business of the nation, to remove a great stain from the nations soul and, in a true spirit of reconciliation, to open a new chapter in the history of this great land, Australia.
Last year I made a commitment to the Australian people that if we formed the next government of the Commonwealth we would in Parliament say sorry to the stolen generations.
Today I honour that commitment.
I said we would do so early in the life of the new Parliament. Again, today I honour that commitment by doing so at the commencement of this the 42nd parliament of the Commonwealth.
Because the time has come, well and truly come, for all peoples of our great country, for all citizens of our great commonwealth, for all Australians - those who are indigenous and those who are not - to come together to reconcile and together build a new future for our nation.
Some have asked, Why apologise?
Let me begin to answer by telling the Parliament just a little of one person's story - an elegant, eloquent and wonderful woman in her 80s, full of life, full of funny stories, despite what has happened in her life's journey, a woman who has travelled a long way to be with us today, a member of the stolen generation who shared some of her story with me when I called around to see her just a few days ago.
Nanna Nungala Fejo, as she prefers to be called, was born in the late 1920s.
She remembers her earliest childhood days living with her family and her community in a bush camp just outside Tennant Creek.
She remembers the love and the warmth and the kinship of those days long ago, including traditional dancing around the camp fire at night.
She loved the dancing. She remembers once getting into strife when, as a four-year-old girl, she insisted on dancing with the male tribal elders rather than just sitting and watching the men, as the girls were supposed to do.
But then, sometime around 1932, when she was about four, she remembers the coming of the welfare men.
Her family had feared that day and had dug holes in the creek bank where the children could run and hide.
What they had not expected was that the white welfare men did not come alone. They brought a truck, two white men and an Aboriginal stockman on horseback cracking his stockwhip.
The kids were found; they ran for their mothers, screaming, but they could not get away. They were herded and piled onto the back of the truck.
Tears flowing, her mum tried clinging to the sides of the truck as her children were taken away to the Bungalow in Alice, all in the name of protection.
A few years later, government policy changed. Now the children would be handed over to the missions to be cared for by the churches. But which church would care for them?
The kids were simply told to line up in three lines. Nanna Fejo and her sister stood in the middle line, her older brother and cousin on her left. Those on the left were told that they had become Catholics, those in the middle Methodists and those on the right Church of England.
That is how the complex questions of post-reformation theology were resolved in the Australian outback in the 1930s. It was as crude as that.
She and her sister were sent to a Methodist mission on Goulburn Island and then Croker Island. Her Catholic brother was sent to work at a cattle station and her cousin to a Catholic mission.
Nanna Fejo's family had been broken up for a second time. She stayed at the mission until after the war, when she was allowed to leave for a prearranged job as a domestic in Darwin. She was 16. Nanna Fejo never saw her mum again.
After she left the mission, her brother let her know that her mum had died years before, a broken woman fretting for the children that had literally been ripped away from her.
I asked Nanna Fejo what she would have me say today about her story. She thought for a few moments then said that what I should say today was that ''all mothers are important''.
And she added: ''Families - keeping them together is very important. It's a good thing that you are surrounded by love and that love is passed down the generations. That's what gives you happiness.''
As I left, later on, Nanna Fejo took one of my staff aside, wanting to make sure that I was not too hard on the Aboriginal stockman who had hunted those kids down all those years ago.
The stockman had found her again decades later, this time himself to say, sorry. And remarkably, extraordinarily, she had forgiven him.
Nanna Fejo's is just one story. There are thousands, tens of thousands of them: stories of forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their mums and dads over the better part of a century.
Some of these stories are graphically told in Bringing Them Home, the report commissioned in 1995 by Prime Minister Keating and received in 1997 by Prime Minister Howard.
There is something terribly primal about these firsthand accounts. The pain is searing; it screams from the pages. The hurt, the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental humanity.
These stories cry out to be heard; they cry out for an apology.
Instead, from the nation's Parliament there has been a stony, stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade; a view that somehow we, the Parliament, should suspend our most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong; a view that, instead, we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side, to leave it languishing with the historians, the academics and the cultural warriors, as if the stolen generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon.
But the stolen generations are not intellectual curiosities. They are human beings, human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments. But, as of today, the time for denial, the time for delay, has at last come to an end.
The nation is demanding of its political leadership to take us forward. Decency, human decency, universal human decency, demands that the nation now step forward to right an historical wrong. That is what we are doing in this place today.
But should there still be doubts as to why we must now act, let the Parliament reflect for a moment on the following facts: that, between 1910 and 1970, between 10 and 30% of indigenous children were forcibly taken from their mothers and fathers; that, as a result, up to 50,000 children were forcibly taken from their families; that this was the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state as reflected in the explicit powers given to them under statute; that this policy was taken to such extremes by some in administrative authority that the forced extractions of children of so-called mixed lineage were seen as part of a broader policy of dealing with the problem of the Aboriginal population.
One of the most notorious examples of this approach was from the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, who stated: ''Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes'' - to quote the protector - ''will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white''.
The Western Australian Protector of Natives expressed not dissimilar views, expounding them at length in Canberra in 1937 at the first national conference on indigenous affairs that brought together the Commonwealth and state protectors of natives.
These are uncomfortable things to be brought out into the light. They are not pleasant. They are profoundly disturbing.
But we must acknowledge these facts if we are to deal once and for all with the argument that the policy of generic forced separation was somehow well motivated, justified by its historical context and, as a result, unworthy of any apology today.
Then we come to the argument of intergenerational responsibility, also used by some to argue against giving an apology today.
But let us remember the fact that the forced removal of Aboriginal children was happening as late as the early 1970s.
The 1970s is not exactly a point in remote antiquity. There are still serving members of this Parliament who were first elected to this place in the early 1970s.
It is well within the adult memory span of many of us.
The uncomfortable truth for us all is that the parliaments of the nation, individually and collectively, enacted statutes and delegated authority under those statutes that made the forced removal of children on racial grounds fully lawful.
There is a further reason for an apology as well: it is that reconciliation is in fact an expression of a core value of our nation - and that value is a fair go for all.
There is a deep and abiding belief in the Australian community that, for the stolen generations, there was no fair go at all.
There is a pretty basic Aussie belief that says that it is time to put right this most outrageous of wrongs.
It is for these reasons, quite apart from concerns of fundamental human decency, that the governments and parliaments of this nation must make this apology - because, put simply, the laws that our parliaments enacted made the stolen generations possible.
We, the parliaments of the nation, are ultimately responsible, not those who gave effect to our laws. And the problem lay with the laws themselves.
As has been said of settler societies elsewhere, we are the bearers of many blessings from our ancestors; therefore we must also be the bearer of their burdens as well.
Therefore, for our nation, the course of action is clear: that is, to deal now with what has become one of the darkest chapters in Australia's history.
In doing so, we are doing more than contending with the facts, the evidence and the often rancorous public debate.
In doing so, we are also wrestling with our own soul.
This is not, as some would argue, a black-armband view of history; it is just the truth: the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth - facing it, dealing with it, moving on from it.
Until we fully confront that truth, there will always be a shadow hanging over us and our future as a fully united and fully reconciled people.
It is time to reconcile. It is time to recognise the injustices of the past. It is time to say sorry. It is time to move forward together.
To the stolen generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.
On behalf of the Government of Australia, I am sorry.
On behalf of the Parliament of Australia, I am sorry.
I offer you this apology without qualification.
We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering that we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted.
We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied.
We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments.
In making this apology, I would also like to speak personally to the members of the stolen generations and their families: to those here today, so many of you; to those listening across the nation - from Yuendumu, in the central west of the Northern Territory, to Yabara, in North Queensland, and to Pitjantjatjara in South Australia.
I know that, in offering this apology on behalf of the Government and the Parliament, there is nothing I can say today that can take away the pain you have suffered personally.
Whatever words I speak today, I cannot undo that.
Words alone are not that powerful; grief is a very personal thing. I ask those non-indigenous Australians listening today who may not fully understand why what we are doing is so important to imagine for a moment that this had happened to you.
I say to honourable members here present: imagine if this had happened to us. Imagine the crippling effect. Imagine how hard it would be to forgive.
My proposal is this: if the apology we extend today is accepted in the spirit of reconciliation, in which it is offered, we can today resolve together that there be a new beginning for Australia.
And it is to such a new beginning that I believe the nation is now calling us. Australians are a passionate lot. We are also a very practical lot.
For us, symbolism is important but, unless the great symbolism of reconciliation is accompanied by an even greater substance, it is little more than a clanging gong.
It is not sentiment that makes history; it is our actions that make history. Today's apology, however inadequate, is aimed at righting past wrongs. It is also aimed at building a bridge between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians - a bridge based on a real respect rather than a thinly veiled contempt.
Our challenge for the future is to cross that bridge and, in so doing, to embrace a new partnership between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians - to embrace, as part of that partnership, expanded Link-up and other critical services to help the stolen generations to trace their families if at all possible and to provide dignity to their lives.
But the core of this partnership for the future is to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities.
This new partnership on closing the gap will set concrete targets for the future: within a decade to halve the widening gap in literacy, numeracy and employment outcomes and opportunities for indigenous Australians, within a decade to halve the appalling gap in infant mortality rates between indigenous and non-indigenous children and, within a generation, to close the equally appalling 17-year life gap between indigenous and non-indigenous in overall life expectancy.
The truth is: a business as usual approach towards indigenous Australians is not working.
Most old approaches are not working.
We need a new beginning, a new beginning which contains real measures of policy success or policy failure; a new beginning, a new partnership, on closing the gap with sufficient flexibility not to insist on a one-size-fits-all approach for each of the hundreds of remote and regional indigenous communities across the country but instead allowing flexible, tailored, local approaches to achieve commonly-agreed national objectives that lie at the core of our proposed new partnership; a new beginning that draws intelligently on the experiences of new policy settings across the nation.
However, unless we as a Parliament set a destination for the nation, we have no clear point to guide our policy, our programs or our purpose; we have no centralised organising principle.
Let us resolve today to begin with the little children, a fitting place to start on this day of apology for the stolen generations.
Let us resolve over the next five years to have every indigenous four-year-old in a remote Aboriginal community enrolled in and attending a proper early childhood education centre or opportunity and engaged in proper pre-literacy and pre-numeracy programs.
Let us resolve to build new educational opportunities for these little ones, year by year, step by step, following the completion of their crucial pre-school year.
Let us resolve to use this systematic approach to build future educational opportunities for indigenous children to provide proper primary and preventive health care for the same children, to begin the task of rolling back the obscenity that we find today in infant mortality rates in remote indigenous communities up to four times higher than in other communities.
None of this will be easy. Most of it will be hard, very hard. But none of it is impossible, and all of it is achievable with clear goals, clear thinking, and by placing an absolute premium on respect, cooperation and mutual responsibility as the guiding principles of this new partnership on closing the gap.
The mood of the nation is for reconciliation now, between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The mood of the nation on indigenous policy and politics is now very simple.
The nation is calling on us, the politicians, to move beyond our infantile bickering, our point-scoring and our mindlessly partisan politics and to elevate this one core area of national responsibility to a rare position beyond the partisan divide.
Surely this is the unfulfilled spirit of the 1967 referendum. Surely, at least from this day forward, we should give it a go.
Let me take this one step further and take what some may see as a piece of political posturing and make a practical proposal to the opposition on this day, the first full sitting day of the new Parliament.
I said before the election that the nation needed a kind of war cabinet on parts of indigenous policy, because the challenges are too great and the consequences are too great to allow it all to become a political football, as it has been so often in the past.
I therefore propose a joint policy commission, to be led by the Leader of the Opposition and me, with a mandate to develop and implement, to begin with, an effective housing strategy for remote communities over the next five years.
It will be consistent with the Government's policy framework, a new partnership for closing the gap. If this commission operates well, I then propose that it work on the further task of constitutional recognition of the first Australians, consistent with the longstanding platform commitments of my party and the pre-election position of the opposition.
This would probably be desirable in any event because, unless such a proposition were absolutely bipartisan, it would fail at a referendum. As I have said before, the time has come for new approaches to enduring problems.
Working constructively together on such defined projects would, I believe, meet with the support of the nation. It is time for fresh ideas to fashion the nation's future.
Mr Speaker, today the Parliament has come together to right a great wrong. We have come together to deal with the past so that we might fully embrace the future. We have had sufficient audacity of faith to advance a pathway to that future, with arms extended rather than with fists still clenched.
So let us seize the day. Let it not become a moment of mere sentimental reflection.
Let us take it with both hands and allow this day, this day of national reconciliation, to become one of those rare moments in which we might just be able to transform the way in which the nation thinks about itself, whereby the injustice administered to the stolen generations in the name of these, our parliaments, causes all of us to reappraise, at the deepest level of our beliefs, the real possibility of reconciliation writ large: reconciliation across all indigenous Australia; reconciliation across the entire history of the often bloody encounter between those who emerged from the Dreamtime a thousand generations ago and those who, like me, came across the seas only yesterday; reconciliation which opens up whole new possibilities for the future.
It is for the nation to bring the first two centuries of our settled history to a close, as we begin a new chapter. We embrace with pride, admiration and awe these great and ancient cultures we are truly blessed to have among us cultures that provide a unique, uninterrupted human thread linking our Australian continent to the most ancient prehistory of our planet.
Growing from this new respect, we see our indigenous brothers and sisters with fresh eyes, with new eyes, and we have our minds wide open as to how we might tackle, together, the great practical challenges that indigenous Australia faces in the future.
Let us turn this page together: indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, government and opposition, Commonwealth and state, and write this new chapter in our nation's story together.
First Australians, First Fleeters, and those who first took the oath of allegiance just a few weeks ago. Let's grasp this opportunity to craft a new future for this great land: Australia. I commend the motion to the House.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
May 7, 2007—In the remote highlands of Nepal, a local shepherd has made some unusual "additions" to his flock—an international team of archaeologists.
The sheepherder recently led researchers to an isolated complex of caves containing a massive treasure trove of Buddhist art, including a 55-panel mural of Buddha's life, one panel of which is seen above.
The shepherd had made the discovery by chance while seeking shelter from a rainstorm decades ago. But he had missed the significance until making a passing mention to scientists.
A full expedition of scientists, art experts, and climbers from the U.S., Italy, and Nepal then climbed high into Nepal's mountainous Mustang area, some 250 kilometers (160 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, locating the caves in March (map of Nepal).
It took ice axes and skillful mountaineering to clear a path to the caverns—set in a sheer 14,000-foot (4,300-meter) rock face in the Himalaya. But the results were more than worth it, experts say.
"What we found is fantastically rich in culture and heritage and goes to the 12th century or earlier," U.S. writer and conservationist Broughton Coburn told the Associated Press.
Included among the sprawling complex are manuscripts written in Tibetan, pre-Christian artifacts, pottery shards, and a number of smaller paintings.
The team plans to conduct limited excavations and search for additional archaeological sites nearby. But for now they have kept the site's exact location secret to prevent disturbances to the fragile artwork.
In the meantime there's still a lot of work to be done on the artifacts collected so far.
"Who lived in those caves? When were they there, when were [the caves] first excavated, and how did the residents access them, perched as they are on vertical cliffs?" Coburn said to BBC News.
"It's a compelling, marvelous mystery."
February 6, 2008—A newly discovered mural is one of many in 12 of Afghanistan's famed Bamian caves that show evidence of an oil-based binder. The binder was used to dry paint and help it adhere to rocky surfaces.
The murals—and the remains of two giant, destroyed Buddhas—include the world's oldest known oil-based paint, predating European uses of the substance by at least a hundred years, scientists announced late last month.
Researchers made the discovery while conducting a chemical analysis as part of preservation and restoration efforts at Bamian, which lies about 145 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Seen in a 2005 photo, a towering alcove in Afghanistan's Bamian Valley cliffs shows the former home of a giant Buddha statue. Dating to between the fifth and ninth centuries A.D., the statue was one of a pair destroyed by Taliban officials in 2001 for allegedly insulting Islam.
The region also has as many as a thousand caves. About 50 contain the depictions of ornate swirling patterns, Buddhist imagery, and mythological animals that led UNESCO to name the area a World Heritage site.
Since 2003 Japanese, European, and U.S. researchers have been working to preserve the damaged murals. As part of that venture, the scientists conducted the first scientific analysis of the paintings since the 1920s.
Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry revealed that some of the murals contained oil- and resin-based paints—likely the earliest known use of either substance for painting.
Afghanistan's Bamian cliffs are probably best known for once holding two enormous Buddha statues, as seen in this February 2001 image.
Just one month after this photo was taken, Taliban officials began to destroy the mighty carvings as part of a hard-line crackdown on anything they considered anti-Islamic and idolatrous.
Scientists from around the world have since embarked on a painstaking process to collect the remnants of the dynamited statues and reconstruct them.
In the meantime, researchers have found that the paint used on the Buddhas, along with murals in 12 of 50 painted Bamian caves, contained oil-based binders—the world's oldest known examples of oil paintings.
A Buddhist mural dated to around the seventh century A.D. is one of many in Afghanistan's Bamian Valley that were recently found to contain oil- and resin-based paints.
The use of the substances at such an early date is a surprise, since they require sophisticated knowledge of chemical properties, scientists say.
Oil is used in paints to help fix dyes and help them adhere to surfaces. It also changes a paint's drying time and viscosity.
Europeans began using oil in their pictures by about 800 A.D., but the new research on the Central Asian pushes back the onset of oil-based painting by at least a hundred years.
Researchers hope to find even earlier examples by studying other Central Asian sites.
A mural from the Bamian cave Foladi 6 has been dated to the eighth century A.D. Its artists used an oil-based paint, scientists say, in an early example of mixing organic binding agents with pigments.
The murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods, according to researcher Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation in Tokyo.
The painters first applied a white base layer of a lead compound. Then an upper layer—natural or artificial pigments mixed with either resins or walnut or poppy seed drying oils—was added.
"The discovery of the use of oil [in Afghanistan] is important, because it shows that these undervalued paintings are far more important and far more sophisticated than anyone might have thought," said Sharon Cather, a wall-painting expert from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
Earliest Oil Paintings Found in Famed Afghan Caves
for National Geographic News
February 6, 2008
Buddhist murals from Afghanistan's famed Bamian caves are the world's earliest known oil paintings, according to a new chemical analysis. (See photos of the paintings and the cliffs that housed them.)
The finds, dated to around the 7th century A.D., predate the origins of similar sophisticated painting techniques in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean by more than a hundred years.
The discovery may also provide insights into cultural exchange along the Silk Road connecting east and west Asia during that time period.
The UN World Heritage-listed Bamian Valley, which lies 145 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, is best known as the home of two giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
But murals depicting ornate swirling patterns, Buddhist imagery, and mythological animals also adorn 50 of up to a thousand caves in the region. The decorations date to between the 5th and 9th centuries A.D.
Since 2003 Japanese, European, and U.S. researchers have been working to preserve the damaged murals in a project partly funded by UNESCO. As part of that venture, the scientists tested the composition of the paint to aid restoration efforts—the first scientific analysis of the caves since the 1920s.
Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, scientists found that samples from 12 caves and the two destroyed giant Buddhas contained oil- and resin-based paints—likely the earliest known use of either substance for painting.
Yoko Taniguchi of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation in Tokyo presented the findings at a recent international symposium held there.
The analysis showed the murals were painted using a structured, multilayered technique reminiscent of early European methods.
The murals typically have a white base layer of a lead compound, followed by an upper layer of natural or artificial pigments mixed with either resins or walnut or poppy seed drying oils, Taniguchi said.
Oil is used in paint to help fix the dye and help it adhere to a surface. Oil also changes a paint's drying time and viscosity.
More complex than the standard mineral pigments and animal glue previously favored, the technique hints of Indian, West Chinese, and Mediterranean influences, Taniguchi said.
The murals were likely completed by teams of artisans, as was common in Asia until recent times.
The mixed layers of organic material such as oil and resins blended with pigments is quite a "sophisticated manner" of painting, she noted.
The Bamian murals might also be the first confirmed use of resins in paintings, Taniguchi added.
Drying oils have been identified in a number of medieval European and Byzantine paintings. Such substances, for instance, were being used throughout Europe by around A.D. 800.
But the Afghan research shows that the chemical properties of oils were known long before then.
"The use of drying oils in painting clearly shows an understanding of the properties of this material," said Ioanna Kakoulli, a materials archaeologist at the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program in Los Angeles, California, who was not involved in the analysis project.
Kakoulli and fellow researchers will soon announce the discovery of oil-based paint in a Byzantine mural in Cyprus dating to the 12th century A.D.
"... To date, the [Afghan] murals are among the earliest examples where drying oils have been identified as binding media in painting," Kakoulli said.
Sharon Cather is a wall-painting expert from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
"The discovery of the use of oil [in Afghanistan] is important, because it shows that these undervalued paintings are far more important and far more sophisticated than anyone might have thought," Cather said.
The method also "very probably reflects [the] prevailing painting practice in the region," she added.
Other paintings of similar technical complexity and age can be found along the Silk Road, which was "the avenue for the diffusion of Buddhist religion and Buddhist art," Cather said.
(Related photo: "'Stunning' Buddha Art Found in Nepal Cliff" [May 7, 2007].)
Not all of the cave murals contained oil-based paints, though, or used them in the same way.
"Some paintings from other caves were depicted with different materials and techniques," Japanese researcher Taniguchi said.
"This shows how different painting techniques were introduced in Bamian from different regions in different periods of time."
Further analysis of Central Asian sites might provide even older examples of oil-based paintings, Taniguchi said.