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Mongolia -- Hidden Gobi Desert relics found

August 6, 2009

August 1, 2009

Rare Buddhist treasures, not seen for more than
70 years, have been unearthed in the Gobi Desert.

The historic artefacts were buried in the 1930s
during Mongolia's Communist purge, when hundreds
of monasteries were looted and destroyed.

The relics include statues, art work, manuscripts
and personal belongings of a famous 19th Century Buddhist master.

The leader of the search team, Michael
Eisenriegler, described it as an "adventure of a lifetime".

A total of 64 crates of treasures were buried in
the desert by a monk named Tudev, in an attempt
to save them from the ransacking of the Mongolian and Soviet armies.

They belonged to Buddhist master Danzan Ravjaa
and only Tudev knew where they were hidden. He
passed on the secret to his grandson who dug up
some of the boxes in the 1990s and opened a museum.

The current Austrian-Mongolian treasure hunt team
found two more boxes. Mr Eisenriegler told the
BBC World Service they were filled with "the most
amazing Buddhist art objects".

"It is of tremendous value for Mongolian culture
because Buddhism was almost extinct in the
Communist times, especially in the 1930s.

"I'm totally exhausted right now but I'm also
totally impressed with what I've seen."

The latest finds will be put on show at the
Danzan Ravjaa Museum in Sainshand, 400km (250
miles) south of the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator.

About 20 boxes remain hidden in the desert.
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