Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage


11th Expert Working Group Meeting for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley World Heritage Property

A Meeting at the RWTH Aachen University

 In conjunction with UNESCO and research institutions from at home and abroad, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties have long labored to conserve cultural heritage in Afghanistan. Research institutions in different countries and Afghanistan have cooperated specifically to safeguard the Bamiyan Valley site, primarily via UNESCO/Japanese Funds-In-Trust projects for Safeguarding of the Bamiyan Site. Safeguarding of the site is a key component of the Cooperative Projects for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia made possible by an Institute fund to cover operating expenses.
 An expert working group meeting is held annually to discuss guidelines for the preservation and use of the site. This year, the meeting was held in Aachen, Germany from December 10 to 11 under the joint auspices of UNESCO and the RWTH Aachen University. The meeting was attended by experts from Afghanistan, Germany, France, and Italy and from international bodies such as UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICCROM, and UNOPS. Japanese experts from the Institute, the Nara Institute, and Mukogawa Women’s University were also in attendance. In addition to the ongoing topics of conservation of wall paintings and preserving fragments of the Buddha statues, the meeting featured reports on the current state of ruins located throughout the valley and road and airport improvement plans. In addition, blueprints for an envisioned museum, facilitated by a research agreement between the Institute and Mukogawa Women’s University, were presented at the meeting. The meeting led to a practical discussion of both tourism development and long-term preservation of the site.


10th Expert Working Group Meeting to Preserve the Bamiyan Site

Expert Working Group Meeting to Preserve the Bamiyan Site

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo has long encouraged projects to safeguard cultural heritage in Afghanistan in concert with UNESCO and research facilities both at home and abroad. Efforts to safeguard the Bamiyan site in particular center on the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust Project to Preserve the Bamiyan Site and these efforts have been made with the cooperation of the Afghani government and research facilities in various countries. An expert working group meeting on efforts to safeguard the Bamiyan site is held annually so that experts from various countries can share their results and discuss conservation and usage policies. This year’s expert working group meeting was held by the Institute and UNESCO; the meeting was held at the Institute from December 6th to 8th.
 The meeting was attended by experts from countries of Japan, Afghanistan, Germany, France, and Italy and from the international organizations UNESCO, ICOMOS, and ICCROM. In addition to the ongoing issue of preserving murals and safeguarding fragments of the Buddha statues, attendees broadened their perspective to include the Bamiyan valley as a whole. Attendees discussed surveys of widely dispersed archeological ruins, protection of landscapes, and infrastructure-related issues such as museums and tourism.


International Symposium 10 Years after the Destruction of the Buddhas: The Present Situation and Future Vision for the World Heritage Site of Bamiyan.

Discussion in the symposium
Discussion in the symposium

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo held an international symposium covering the Asian region in order to consider forms of Japanese cooperation to safeguard cultural heritage and the point of that cooperation. This year marks the 10th year since the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, so an international symposium was held to summarize the results of the project to preserve the Bamiyan Site, which Japan was involved in, and to further publicize such efforts. The symposium met twice, once on December 9th in Tokyo and then on December 11th in Kyoto. The Tokyo event was sponsored jointly by the Institute and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties while the Kyoto event was sponsored jointly by the Institute, the Nara National Research Institute, Ryukoku University’s Research Center for Buddhist Cultures in Asia, and Ryukoku Museum.
 Previous discussion had focused on the issue of reconstructing the destroyed Buddha statues and caves carved out of the Bamiyan cliffs where the statues stood, but the issues of safeguarding ruins throughout the valley and protecting landscapes in response to recent development were raised. The symposium provided a significant opportunity for everyone to consider issues with safeguarding the Bamiyan site and Japan’s future international cooperation.


As part of its Project to Invite Foreign Artists and Experts in Cultural Properties, the Agency for Cultural Affairs invites the Minister of Information and Culture of Afghanistan to Japan

Tour of efforts by the Tokyo University of the Arts to preserve fragments of Buddhist wall paintings from Bamiyan

 In line with the Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Project to Invite Foreign Artists and Experts in Cultural Properties, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo invited H.E. Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, Minister of Information and Culture, from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan December 4th–8th.
 Minister Raheen made a courtesy call to Masaharu Nakagawa, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, on December 5th. Minister Raheen expressed gratitude for Japan’s cooperation in preserving cultural heritage and asked for Japan’s continued assistance. On the 6th, he attended an Expert Working Group Meeting on Projects to Preserve the Bamiyan site, he discussed the results of the latest efforts to safeguard cultural heritage in Afghanistan by Japan and other countries, and he also observed efforts by the Tokyo University of the Arts to preserve fragments of Buddhist wall paintings from Bamiyan. In addition, the minister toured a restoration site at the Nikko Toshogu, one of Japan’s foremost pieces of wooden architectural heritage, with the cooperation of the Nikko Cultural Assets Association for the Preservation of Shrines and Temples.
 Through these activities, Minister Raheen expressed his admiration and gratitude for Japan’s cooperation to conserve cultural heritage in his country. Afghanistan is still in the midst of a civil war, but the invitation of its minister provided an opportunity for close cooperation with Japan on the country’s road to cultural recovery.


Conservation of Wall Paintings of the Ajanta Caves Research Project – Fifth Mission Report

Condition Assesment of wall paintings (right shrine of Ajanta Cave 2)
Cleaning trial of black accretion (right wall of right shrine of Ajanta Cave 2)

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conduct joint research on the conservation of the wall paintings of the Ajanta Caves, under the framework of the Exchange Program of International Cooperation of Cultural Heritage commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the government subsidized budget for the Cooperative Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia. We aim to share knowledge on conservation and exchange conservation techniques that are necessary for this project.
 The wall paintings of the Ajanta Caves have many problems – the leaking of water from cracks in the base rocks, biological damage, artificial damage, and discoloration caused by past treatments and the deterioration of colored layers. Noticeable things among these problems are the blackened and whitened bat excrement and the yellowed and darkened varnish (shellac, PVAC) coated on the surfaces of wall paintings. We have currently not yet discovered any effective methods that would lead to assured conservation. To overcome these problems, we conducted cleaning treat of the wall paintings of Cave 2 during this fifth mission (from November 14th to December 4th, 2010). Utilizing the scientific analyses and documented data accumulated up until last year, we examined appropriate conservation methods together with the Indian conservation specialists.


Conservation of Mural Paintings of the Ajanta Caves Research Project– Fourth Mission Report

High-definition photographing in the Ajanta 2nd Cave
High-definition photographing in the Ajanta 9th Cave

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conduct joint research on the conservation of the mural paintings of the Ajanta Caves, under the framework of “the Exchange Program of International Cooperation of Cultural Heritage” commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the government subsidized budget for “the Cooperative Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia”, and aim to share the knowledge on conservation and exchange conservation techniques.
 The mural paintings of the Ajanta Caves have many problems – the leaking of water from cracks in the base rocks, biological damage, artificial damage, and discoloration caused by the past repair and the deterioration of colored layers. To solve these problems, it is necessary to understand the status of numerous mural paintings in detail and analyze them; however effective documentation techniques have not yet been established.
 Therefore, we have begun recording the status of mural paintings on high-definition photos using high-resolution digital cameras as the first attempt in the Ajanta Caves. In this fourth mission (from September 8 to October 2, 2010), we made high-definition photo recordings and color measurements of the mural paintings in the 2nd and 9th Caves jointly with the Indian specialists. The obtained data will be utilized as basic data in order to establish an appropriate mural painting conservation/restoration method, in cooperation with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).


Basic Survey on Conservation and Restoration of Mural Paintings of Cave Churches in Cappadocia, Turkey

Entire view of Goreme National Park
Restored El Nazar Church

 In the framework of the Cooperative Project for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage in West Asia, from June 19 to 29, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted a basic survey on the mural paintings of cave churches scattered around Cappadocia, Turkey, for which international conservation and restoration support is planned.
 We investigated the conservation status of approximately 20 sites, such as cave churches with mural paintings done from the 9th to the 13th centuries, around the Goreme National Park, Cavusin, Zelve Valley, and Ortahisar area. Together with the local conservation specialists and the international conservation experts invited by UNESCO, we investigated not only the mural paintings but also the rocks and geological conditions of the caves where they were painted, discussed the future monitoring methods, and gave some advice on future conservation and restoration.


Research Project for the Conservation of Mural Paintings of the Ajanta Caves – Third Mission Report

Three-dimensional measurement in the second cave
Cleaning attachment originating from bat excrement

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are conducting joint research on the conservation of the mural paintings of the Ajanta Caves under the framework of “the Exchange Program of International Cooperation of Cultural Heritage” commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the government subsidized budget for “the Cooperative Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia”.
 In the third mission, undertaken from November to December 2009, we tried to solve various issues, including bat excrement, discoloration due to the yellowing of the previously-used varnish, and cracks and floating in the colored layers, and performed tentative cleaning of the mural paintings with ASI specialists.
 We established a joint research contract with Doshisha University on digital documentation for mural painting conservation and jointly performed three-dimensional measurement to create drawings of the current status of the Cave No. 2 and No. 9. We executed these conservation and measurement procedures together with Indian specialists and shared knowledge on conservation of cultural heritage and performed technical exchange aiming at capacity development and transfer of techniques.


Research Project for the Conservation of Mural Paintings of the Ajanta Caves – Second Mission Report

High-definition photographing in Cave No. 2 of Ajanta
High-definition photographing in Cave No. 2 of Ajanta

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are conducting joint research on the conservation of Mural Paintings of the Ajanta Caves under the framework of ”Networking Core Centres for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage” funded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. The mural paintings of the Ajanta Caves have been damaged by rainwater entering the caves through cracks in the basalt, bat excrement, (whitening and blackening), artificial factors, and have discoloration issues due to the yellowing of the shellac (varnish coatings) used for previous restoration work and cracks and floating in the colored layers. In the second mission undertaken in September, 2009, all of the mural paintings in the second cave were subject to high-definition digital photograph recording and colorimetry to record in detail the conservation status of the mural paintings. We photographed and measured the murals together with the Indian specialists, aiming at sharing knowledge and technical exchange on digital documentation for conserving cultural heritage.


Meeting of Experts on the Conservation and Restoration of the Ajanta Caves

Guidance of Meeting of experts for conserving and restoring Ajanta Caves”

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are engaged in joint research on conservation of the Ajanta Caves in India in the framework of the exchange program commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs starting in 2008. We invited experts in the conservation of the Ajanta Caves and their mural paintings and held this meeting to discuss the common issue of conserving Buddhist stone caves and mural paintings in the area along the Silk Road, along with the international contributions of Japan through conservation and restoration.
 From the Archaeological Survey of India, we invited Mr. Kushal Singh Rana, the Director of Science (in the project of the Agency for Cultural Affairs to invite overseas artists/experts in conserving cultural heritage) and Mr. V.S. Raghavendra Rao, the controlling officer for the Ajanta Caves. They presented lectures on the conservation of cultural heritage in India and the current issues for the conservation of the Ajanta Caves. We reported the first mission dispatched by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo from February, 2008 to March, and exchanged opinions on future conservation and restoration.


Project for the Conservation of the Mural Paintings at Ajanta Caves: Report on the First Mission

Nondestructive analysis of pigments using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer
Sampling color specimens

 From February 12 to March 15, 2009, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, dispatched the first mission for the “Networking Core Project Concerning the Conservation of Mural Paintings between the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, and Archaeological Survey of India,” a part of the Networking Core Centres for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage.
 There are many valuable Buddhist mural paintings remaining at Ajanta Caves dating up to the first century C.E. in the earlier period and to the fifth to approximately the eighth centuries C.E. in the later period. However, when trying to conserve these paintings, various problems that are found with the mural paintings of Bamiyan are shared at Ajanta: the strength of the bedrock where the caves were cut, the infiltration of rainwater, bat excrement and blackened attachments likely caused by smoke. To deal with these problems, the first mission conducted investigation together with Indian conservation experts and shared knowledge and experience of conservation materials and techniques, aiming to develop human resources and transfer technology.
 Specific details of the investigation included the following: recording the condition of conservation of the mural paintings (photographing, rough measurement of caves and condition survey), installing thermohygrometers (data logger) to survey the environment; studying the chronology, techniques, and materials of the mural paintings (sampling specimens, infrared/ultraviolet photography and nondestructive analysis using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer); and examining bat excrement.


Conclusion of the agreement on the Indo-Japanese Project for Conservation of the Mural Paitnings at Ajanta Caves

General view of the Ajanta Caves
Agreement Signing Ceremony (ASI, New Delhi)

 On November 21, 2008, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) concluded an agreement on a research project for the conservation of the mural paintings at Ajanta Caves.
 There are many valuable Buddhist mural paintings at Ajanta Caves dating to both the earlier period (1st century BC to 2nd century AD) and the later period (5th century to 6th century AD). However, these mural paintings have deteriorated severely due to structural problems of the bedrock itself, damage from floods in rainy seasons, bat excrement, and blackened markings likely caused by smoke.
 To deal with these problems, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo will survey Caves no. 2 and no. 9 of Ajanta from 2008 to 2010 as part of an exchange program commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Indian and Japanese specialists will exchange and share knowledge of conservation techniques and materials, expertise, and experience, aiming at improving the techniques and abilities of both groups of experts.


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