LONG-TERM PRESERVATION OF THE PHYSICAL REMAINS OF THE DESTROYED BUDDHA FIGURES IN BAMIYAN (AFGHANISTAN) USING VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGIES FOR PREPARATION AND EVALUATION OF RESTORATION MEASURES
In March 2001, the world’s largest depictions of standing Buddha figures located in Bamiyan (Afghanistan) were destroyed during a campaign of the Taliban leadership against all non-Muslim heritage in the country. Bamiyan and its archaeological remains have been nominated a World Heritage also to commemorate the events of destruction the site has experienced over the centuries. More than fifteen years after the Giant Buddha figures turned into dust, the UNESCO Safeguarding campaign for the preservation of the Bamiyan World Heritage property has made considerable progress. Upon continued request by the local population and the national government, the international community is asked to contribute proposals for the future presentation of the physical remains including the options of reassembling the original fragments. The achievements and backlashes of the UNESCO campaign are discussed and a proposal is given, how virtual technology can contribute to the ongoing discussion regarding the future of the site. At a time when deliberate raids during military conflicts against heritage places have become commonplace, the Bamiyan case has become emblematic and is considered now a key turning point in the heritage community on the question, which roles reconstruction can have especially in the aftermath of conflict situations. It is argued that immersive virtual reality technologies offer the chance to investigate how values attributed to cultural heritage are produced and experienced among different stakeholder groups.