Bamiyan, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of Kabul, was once a thriving center of commerce and Buddhism.
The paintings, scientists say, were probably the work of artists who traveled along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China, across Central Asia's desert to the West.
Its findings on the age of the oil paintings were published this week in The Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry.
"This is the earliest clear example of oil paintings in the world," said Yoko Taniguchi, leader of the team of scientists.
An X-ray identification technique, carried out at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, was able to determine that about a dozen of the 50 or so caves were painted in pigments suspended in drying oil, possibly walnut oil or poppy seed oil, mediums still in use today.
In 12 of 50 caves, the murals were painted using drying oils -- perhaps from walnuts and poppy seeds -- the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility said.
Until now, art historians believed that oil painting started in Europe in the 15th century.
Scientists found the murals in a network of caves where monks lived and prayed in the Afghan region of Bamiyan, according to a statement on the Web site of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, where the ancient paintings were analyzed.
Yes, I know that Europe and Asia are actually one land mass, but the Earth’s supercontinent is so vast and diverse that it still makes sense to think of it as two separate continents, particularly culturally.
I do think of the “mid-East” or “near-East” as being part of Asia, though (which, interestingly, makes Christianity an “Eastern” religion, not a Western one, but I digress).
This kind of violent intolerance fits in with the mindless, hind-brain driven actions common to religious fanatics everywhere, but developed to a particularly extreme degree by the contemptible thugs of the Taliban, members of which have set out on a campaign to destroy treasured artifacts of other cultures that don’t fit into their pin-headed view of what’s “correct”.