Archaeologists in Kyrgyzstan have unearthed a massive statue of Buddha in the hills outside the capital Bishkek.
A team of archaeologists working in an excavation site at Krasnaya Rechka, 35km outside the capital, discovered a 1.5 metre high Buddha.
Archaeologists from the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, working with colleagues from the Russian Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, were digging in a series of fields which they believe cover the remains of a Buddhist monastery complex.
"This sculpture is as high as two humans. If we could straighten it out and put it vertically, its height would be about four metres. As it is sitting, it's about one and a half to two metres (high)," said Valery Kolchenko, an archaeologist from the Kyrgyz National Academy of Sciences.
Archaeologists believe the statue dates back to a time between the 8th to 10th centuries, though further tests are needed to pinpoint its exact age.
"The excavation of this sculpture is a very laborious task, that is why we cannot date this artefact to any particular time. First of all we need to excavate it and then we can say how old it is," said Asan Torgoyev from the Oriental Studies Department of the Hermitage.
Finding Buddhist remains of this kind is rare in the mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan. Pre-Islamic Buddhist culture is well documented further south in Tajikistan, but very unusual in its northern neighbour, Kyrgyzstan.
Locals are accustomed to the excavations, knowing very well that their farm land is in a rich archaeological area.
In earlier excavations at the same site near the village of Krasnaya Rechka, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Buddhist temple, a fortress, a Karakhanid palace complex and Buddhist as well as early Christian cemeteries.
2011. "Kyrgyz archaeologists unearth Buddha statue". 3 News. Posted: July 18, 2011. Available online: http://www.3news.co.nz/Kyrgyz-archaeologists-unearth-Buddha-statue/tabid/1160/articleID/219180/Default.aspx