In March 2001 the world watched in disbelief as explosives of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban reduced the gigantic Buddha statues at Bamiyan to stone powder. Yet few realise that such religious zeal to 'free' the world from 'pagan' art follows an old tradition. What role did it play in transforming the colourful world of Roman paganism into medieval Christianity? All over the ancient world images have been found which bear deep scar marks from iconoclastic attacks. Beheaded statues and mutilated fragments of images, once the objects of veneration and awe, speak a language as clear as words.
As Ebehard Sauer shows in this important new work, the sad material remains of what survived the onslaught of the image-haters form a powerful complement to eyewitness accounts. Archaeology helps us to understand one of the most radical changes in world history. Why was it that Christianity achieved sole domination in the West but remained a minority religion in much of Asia? Can the past help us to put the outrages of the present into context?