I hope you’ll agree this is a pretty evocative photo:
Thanks to Dilek Taş for finding it (and three other photos of Bamiyan) among the papers of Aurel Stein, the great archaeologist of Central Asia (in a box of photos sent to him in letters); and when she found it, bless her, for thinking of me.
Of course, the moment I clapped eyes on it I wanted to identify the car-owner and the date. The place was clear enough: Bamiyan, Afghanistan: in the background the larger, 55-metre Buddha, carved out of the sandstone cliff face, somehow set off so effectively by the stylish motor in the foreground.
I had a hunch the best evidence would be found inside that box of photos, but over the weekend I tried to get what I could from the photograph itself. First the car: from Bozi Mohacek, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of classic cars, I learned that this was a British make (he could tell from the position of the headlights), a Wolseley tourer of about 1926 (“Earlier possible, later by a tiny bit but unlikely. No tiebar on the lights”). Two of the other photos offered a little help, as well. One was a view from the top of the 55-metre Buddha, with the silhouettes of local people sitting on the Buddha’s head…… See the rest of this great story click here to read it on the Llewelyn Morgan website.
With many thanks to @llewelyn_morgan
Dr Llewelyn Morgan is University Lecturer in Classical Languages and Literature, and Tutorial Fellow in Classics at Brasenose College, Oxford. You can find his book The Buddhas of Bamiyan here.
The Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, carved in the sixth century AD, represented two aspects of the Buddha, universal and historical. In March 2001 the Taleban destroyed them. They were massive, 55m and 38m tall, hewn out of the solid rock face and it took weeks to bring them down. The Buddhas have a remarkable story to tell, from their creation at a time when Greek culture left behind by conquest influenced Buddhism to their role in the lead up to the destruction of two other colossi from a different era in New York in that same year. This title about the Buddhas is also a book about Bamiyan, a place that occupies one of the most strategic positions on earth and is also stunningly beautiful. And about the remarkable Hazara people who live in that valley and have played a central historical role in the history of the whole region. It is rare that a historical account of an extraordinary monument can also be of urgent contemporary relevance.