When the Taliban blew up two colossal Buddha statues in Bamiyan in 2001, nobody was more aggrieved than Tarzi, who had protected them with steel reinforcements in the 1970s.
Now, he is determined to bring Bamiyan’s other ancient riches to light. He returned to begin new excavations in 2002, after 23 years in exile.
Tarzi is searching for a third giant Buddha - one that’s reclining and is believed to stretch 1,000 feet (300 meters) long underground.
Tarzi and his team of students, archaeologists, and museum restorers have cleaned and restored numerous other Buddhist clay sculptures found in Bamiyan.
Tarzi hopes someday these will fill exhibit cases in Afghan museums, which have suffered from damage and looting.
Ancient Bamiyan was an influential hub of Buddhist learning and practice. Monks and pilgrims traveled there from as far away as China.
Tarzi and his team have unearthed various Buddha heads dating back more than 1,500 years.
“These objects from the past, and the story of the sites they originate from, will become a source of inspiration and help the people of Afghanistan to reconnect with their roots,” Tarzi said.
Tarzi is now searching for a third giant Buddha, believed to be buried underground and to extend 1,000 feet (300 meters) reclining.
The feet are all that’s left of half a dozen standing Buddhist statues in Bamiyan’s Eastern Monastery, excavated by Tarzi.
In 2008, Tarzi and his team uncovered a 62-foot (19-meter) reclining Buddha, which was much smaller than the 1,000-foot (300-meter) Sleeping Buddha he’s determined to find, but still a tantalizing hint of what may await if his quest succeeds.
He’s basing his search on a detailed account by a seventh-century Chinese pilgrim who visited the region.