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


Japan-Indo Cooperative Research Project for Painting Techniques, Constituent Materials and Conservation of the Mural Paintings of the Ajanta Caves in the framework of the “Networking Core Centres for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage” (funded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs)

Indian conservation specialist explains the blackened mural paintings due to darkened shellac varnish.
Members of the preliminary mission of the Institute and ASI Ajanta Field Office.

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo plans to start a cooperative project with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) aiming to share and exchange knowledge, expertise and experience on materials and techniques of conservation at Ajanta site. Prior to the project, a preliminary mission was sent to India between 25 September and 3 October 2007 in order to establish a project working plan at Ajanta and to create a common basis with ASI as a counterpart.
 The Ajanta Caves are located in a great arc cut by the curving course of the Waghora River. Approximately 30 caves were cut in the basalt cliff as Buddhist monasteries and decorated with exclusive paintings and sculptures. Most of the paintings show yellowish tint colour due to past restoration works, thick shellac varnish coatings, by Italian and Indian conservators. Various severe biological causes such as bat excrements and microbiological growth make the paintings invisible.
 This cooperative project aims to provide information concerning the manufacturing techniques and technologies as well as to challenge the establishment of suitable conservation methods and materials to these particular conservation problems at the Ajanta site.


Conservation training program for Iraqi experts

Invited Iraqi experts

 Since 2004, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been conducting a training program for Iraqi experts to rehabilitate the conservation laboratories of the Iraq National Museum (INM). This program is a part of the Cooperation Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia and the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust project, Restoration of the Laboratories of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad.
 In 2007, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has invited four experts between 19 September and 12 December 2007: Ms Faeza M. Jumaah (INM), Ms Taghreed H. Khudhair (INM), Mr Sinan A. Yunis (Nineveh Museum), and Mr Jamal A. A. Ismael (Nasiriyah Museum). The program focuses on the conservation of wooden objects and is conducted at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, the Institute in Nara and Shizuoka Research Institute for Buried Cultural Heritage.


Research for the “Expert Meeting on Cultural Heritage” in Central Asia

Interview on the public system for the protection of cultural heritage in Tashkent

 As a part of the study on the public system for the protection of cultural heritage, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation is conducting research on the Central Asia region this year. From 9th to 16th September, a mission was dispatched to Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and Almaty (Kazakhstan) to conduct survey of the current situation of the public system purposing for the protection of cultural heritages in Central Asia and to prepare for the expert meeting on cultural heritage which is planned to be held in Central Asia next March. During the mission, meetings with representatives from local authorities and UNESCO were held in order to collect relevant information and conduct needs assessment.
 After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, independent Central Asian countries have been facing a wide range of issues, from public system to field work, on conservation of cultural heritage. Through this research, common concerns on cultural heritage preservation within the area have been disclosed, such as conservation and management of archaeological sites, conservation environment of artifacts and human capacity development. Moreover, it was agreed that, under cooperation with those countries, an international workshop with experts from Japan and Central Asian countries would be held in order to share information and to transfer technology.


On-site investigation in Thailand and Cambodia

Assessment on the effect of conservation treatment of a brick structure (Ayutthaya site, Thailand)

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducted joint research in Thailand and Cambodia with the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture of Thailand and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) respectively.
 In Thailand, on-site investigations were conducted at Sukhothai and Ayutthaya sites. At Sukhothai site, measures against moss and algae growing on the great Buddha of Wat Sri Chum were studied and experimented; at Ayutthaya, investigation was made to assess conservation treatment executed three years ago on a brick structure.
 In Cambodia, investigation of vegetation growing on the surface of stone cultural heritage was conducted at Ta Nei site. Sandstone in the vicinity of Mt. Kulen, the quarry from where the stones of Angkor site were obtained, is also being investigated.


Completion of the four-month dispatch of trainees to Dunhuang

The trainees speaking about their training, at Dunhuang Academy

 In the 5th phase of the joint research and project between the Dunhuang Academy and the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, the dispatch of Japanese personnel to Dunhuang to receive training was realized for the first time. The aim of this program is to provide training at the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes in order to develop personnel who will actively participate in the conservation of mural paintings overseas in response to increasing demands for international cooperation in this field. In the program, which officially started this fiscal year, three graduate students spent 4 months from May 13 receiving training at Dunhuang: Sato Yuki, a doctoral student at the Graduate School of the Tokyo University of the Arts (painting conservation); Fujisawa Akira, also a doctorate student at the same university (conservation science); and Suemori Kaoru, a doctorate student at the Graduate School of the University of Tsukuba (cultural heritage management, art history). For four long months, they stayed at a housing facility at Dunhuang and received comprehensive training related to the conservation of mural paintings including such matters as analytical studies, investigation of the conditions of deterioration, practical work in conservation treatment, reproduction of mural structures and paintings, while making the most of each one’s knowledge in his/her field and filling in where others lacked. The valuable experience at the site is a sign of the success of the training program itself, but at the same time it is hoped that for each of the three trainees the experience will bring great influence on their future studies and work. The three trainees were also able to nurture deep friendship with many of their peer researchers and specialists at the Dunhuang Academy. This training program is scheduled to be held for three more years.

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Preservation of the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa, Tajikisitan

UNESCO International Steering Committee Meeting in Tajikistan

 The 3rd International Steering Committee Meeting of the “Preservation of the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa, Tajikisitan” funded by UNESCO/Japanese Funds -in-Trust was held on 28 August. The project aims at preserving the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa, a building complex of earthen structures constructed with pisé or bricks. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has participated in this project since 2005 and conducted archaeological investigation, such as sounding for identification of the extent of the site, and cleaning of debris at the site.
 In several expert meetings and the International Steering Committee Meeting the future direction of the project was discussed, based on the working activities conducted so far and the present state of the site. Several points for improvement regarding the preservation of the earthen wall were pointed out and will be examined further. Installation of a shelter for the protection of a stupa was abandoned and covering the stupa with mud plaster was debated instead. Tajikistan authorities expressed their appreciation for activities conducted by Japanese experts and requested the continuation of the work. In response to this request, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation hopes to cooperate in the archaeological work that should be carried out prior to the preservation of the site.


Condition survey of mural paintings in Tajikistan

Conditions of mural pieces which were detached during the USSR period; storage room of the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan.
In situ condition survey of murals from Penjikent at the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan.

 Preliminary condition survey of mural painting pieces which are currently stored at the National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan took place between 23rd and 30th August in a framework of the “Cooperation Project for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia.” In Tajikistan, most of the conservation activities were initiated by Russian conservators until 1991. However, since the dissolution of USSR, major issues of Tajikistan’s conservation have been related to lack of human and monetary resources for research and conservation. Furthermore, since most of the conservation methods and techniques are based on those of the Russians, which are not up to the current methods in conservation, urgent technical support from foreign countries such as Japan and Europe is required.
 The National Museum of Antiquities, Tajikistan owns outstanding mural paintings from Penjikent, Shafristan and other sites depicted by Sogdians who are known as active merchants of the 6-8th centuries AD. In its storages, some hundreds of detached paintings from archaeological sites have been piled and left for over 40 years without any proper treatment. Especially after USSR’s dissolution, all excavated/detached pieces have been left untreated within Tajikistan. These detached paintings reflect an ethical issue, above all, against such thoughtless measure of ‘detachment’ from their original locations as well as technical issues such as the darkening of synthetic polymers that were used as consolidants in the past.
 In order to protect and preserve such important murals, urgent support is required in the training of local conservators with expertises in the field of conservation.


Progress report on the joint research of Cave 285 of the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes

Analysis using portable x-ray fluorescence

 A great number of mural paintings remain at the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes. However, those that can be observed today with the naked eye have deteriorated significantly due to the passage of time. Compared with their condition at the time of their creation more than one thousand years ago, these paintings have changed greatly – colors have changed or faded and pigments have become detached and lost. Conservation of these paintings involves the elucidation of the mechanism of their deterioration and the treatment of the paintings to prevent further deterioration. Determining the original methods and materials as well as the factors that led to their present condition is essential in considering the method of their conservation. At the same time, it is also quite important in reviving the value of the paintings. Only when both are fulfilled can it be said that cultural property is truly protected. In the Japan-China joint research project, comprehensive study of these paintings is conducted. This includes observation by normal light, raking light, infrared ray and ultraviolet fluorescence photography; detailed non-destructive analysis using digital microscope, portable x-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscope; detailed analysis of the techniques and materials as well as the condition of deterioration by micro-sampling; and detailed observation of the condition of deterioration by conservation specialists. Through such a study, the use of a great amount of organic coloring materials and the special condition of the deterioration of the mural paintings of Cave 285 (first half of the 6th century), which were not known until now, are beginning to be clarified. Moreover, radioactive carbon (14C) dating of the stone chamber and provenance study of the lead-based pigment by lead isotope ratio analysis are conducted in an attempt to do research with a large area of the Silk Road in view.

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The 16th Technical Committee of the International Co-ordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC)

Banteai Srey site visited by many tourists

 The 16th Technical Committee of the ICC was held at Siem Reap, Cambodia on July 5 and 6. This meeting serves as an opportunity for various organizations involved in the protection of the Angkor monuments to present reports on their work. The Institute presented the results of studies to identify the microorganisms growing on the stones of Ta Nei site and to discuss the difference in the percentage of the uncovered sky (crown density) and the amount of microorganisms on the walls.
 One of the themes discussed at this meeting was “sustainable development.” As the number of tourists from outside Cambodia exceeded 670,000 in 2005, appropriate procurement of tour routes and facilities is an issue to be considered not only for the protection of the sites but also for the safety of the tourists. Pollution of the Siem Reap River due to the lack of a proper sewage system and disposal of garbage has been reported. These are problems that arise when too much attention is given only to tourism, and the indispensability of international cooperation from nations that have much experience in this field was felt.


The 8th mission of the “Safeguarding of the Bamiyan Site” project

Conservation work at Cave I

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been conducting the “Safeguarding of the Bamiyan Site” project with the Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan since 2003. This year, the 8th mission of this project was dispatched from June 9 to July 15. In this mission, joint researches with other organizations were conducted in addition to the conservation of mural paintings and archaeological investigation.
 For the conservation of mural paintings, previously executed work was continued at Caves I and N(a). At Cave I, mural paintings at risk of becoming detached were reinforced with grouting and edging. Conservation intervention on the mural paintings at Cave I was successfully completed with this mission. At Cave N(a), the mural paintings were reinforced in preparation for the removal of the soot-like black deposits on the surface of the mural paintings that is scheduled to be executed in the next mission.
 For archaeological investigation, soundings and survey were conducted in order to determine the extent of the sites requiring protection. Archaeological soundings were carried out at several places of the Bamiyan Valley and a wall possibly dating back to the Buddhist period was found at one of soundings. Surrounding valleys of Bamiyan were surveyed in an attempt to locate unknown sites, and several tombs and castles were revealed These archaeological surveys are important in understanding the Bamiyan sites, of which the Buddhist period tends to attract most attention, in the light of history that continues to the present.
 Joint researches were conducted with Kanazawa University, Oyo Corporation and Pasco Corporation on the study of Islamic ceramics, geological investigation and measurement of the caves, respectively. These collaborative researches will be continued and are expected to provide necessary and indispensable information and viewpoints for the protection of the Bamiyan Sites.


Expert meeting for the rehabilitation of the Prambanan Temple Compounds in Indonesia

Candi Garuda, Prambanan Temple

 The investigation team that was dispatched last year conducted basic investigation of the Prambanan Temple Compounds, a World Heritage, which was destroyed by the earthquake that shook the Island of Java on May 27, 2006. The investigation included a survey of the condition of damage, history of restoration, ground property, vibration character of the structures and other issues. At a meeting of experts that was held at the site on June 29 and 30, 2007 the results of investigation, including that of the foundation and structures conducted by the Indonesian side, were discussed comprehensively. Based on this, fundamental ideas regarding the policy of restoration, including a partial dismantlement, and work procedures were decided. In addition, investigation items necessary to actually carry out restoration were discussed.
 Japan’s technical cooperation will consist of providing necessary support for drawing restoration plans, within this fiscal year, for the Prambanan Temple, which holds a central position within the entire compound and whose early re-opening to the public is desired. In concrete terms, a seismograph will be installed to elucidate the vibration character of the structure and thereby propose necessary methods for structural reinforcement. In addition, orthographic images will be made and the condition of damage of each stone, method of restoration and areas of dismantlement will be indicated on them in order to prepare a detailed plan for restoration that will make an estimation of the cost possible. For this purpose, another on-site investigation is scheduled to be made after September.


Joint research on the mural paintings of Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes and the dispatch of trainees

Photographing in Cave 285 of the Mogao Caves

 The fifth phase of the Joint Research on the Conservation of the Mural Paintings of the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes is in its second year. Staff of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo was sent to Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes for three weeks from May 8 to conduct the first half of this year’s joint investigation. Investigation that was begun last year was continued at Cave 285, which is considered very important because of the inscriptions of the years 538 and 539 found there and of its traditional Chinese subjects in addition to its Buddhist art. Photographs were taken and analysis using digital microscopes and visible spectroscopy were conducted. Moreover, additional sampling was done not only from the walls of Cave 285 but also from those of Caves 268, 272 and 275, which are considered the earliest extant examples, to determine the period of the caves by radio-carbon dating in a joint study with Nagoya University. Various preparations were also made for the latter half of the joint investigation, which is scheduled for this summer, and for the joint research that will be conducted with the staff of the Dunhuang Academy who will be visiting Japan after autumn. Furthermore, three graduate students went to the Mogao Grottoes from Japan with this investigation team. They were selected from different fields of discipline – namely conservation science, restoration of paintings and management of cultural heritage – as “trainees dispatched to Dunhuang” by public announcement. They will stay in Dunhuang until mid-September and receive guidance from specialists at The Conservation Institute of Dunhuang Academy concerning diverse matters related to the protection of mural paintings. This training is expected to continue for three more years and will open the way for young Japanese specialists, who have little chance to directly study the conservation of mural paintings. We expect them to contribute to conservation in the future both in Japan and overseas.

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Investigation of damage caused by the Noto Hanto Earthquake in 2007 to cultural properties

Kadomi-ke residence and storehouse damaged by the Earthquake (Tangible Cultural Property Designated by Ishikawa Prefecture)

 An earthquake of magnitude 6.9 occurred on the Noto Peninsula at 9:42 am on March 25, 2007. As a result, large-scale damages occurred near the epicenter, including complete or partial destruction of houses and severing of lifelines. Cultural properties were also no exception to this disaster, and a total of 21 cases of damage to cultural properties have been reported within Ishikawa prefecture (as of April 4, 2007; Ishikawa Prefectural Board of Education).
 The Center for Conservation Science and Restoration conducted on-site investigation concerning damage caused to cultural properties by the Earthquake so that it may obtain immediate understanding of the condition and factors of damage and provide advice for emergency measures and plans for future restoration. Investigation was held from April 16 (Monday) to 18 (Wednesday). Museum objects and architecture within the city of Wajima were investigated.
 At a certain facility for exhibiting cultural properties, urushi lacquer panels that had been hung for display had fallen because the metals used for hanging them had been broken. Many of the buildings and storehouses in the Kuroshima district of Monzenmachi near the epicenter had been completely destroyed, as was the storehouse of a museum.
 Although many investigations, research and measures have been conducted with regard to preventing disaster to cultural properties since the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, information obtained through these attempts have not been made known throughout the nation, as became evident in this investigation. The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo will continue to conduct research concerning disaster prevention and to make more people aware of measures to prevent disaster to cultural properties by actively notifying them of the results of our studies.


Program for capacity development along the Silk Road

On-site training

 China, Japan and South Korea Cooperation Training Program for Cultural Heritage Preservation along the Silk Road held jointly with the National Research Institute of Cultural Properties of China and sponsored by Samsung Japan and Samsung China is now in its second year. For three months from the spring of 2007, two courses have been held: one for the group on the conservation of earthen structures (in its second year of a 3-year program) and the other for the group on the conservation of excavated archaeological sites and objects. In autumn a 3-month course will be held on “paper cultural properties” for the group on the conservation of museum collections. Vice Director General Zhang Bai of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and others responsible for each discipline attended the opening ceremony for the spring course that was held on April 16 at Liangdaicun village, Hancheng city, Shaanxi province, the site for the course. Hancheng city is a historic district where buildings of the Sung, Yuan and Ming dynasties are buried. The area surrounding the city is a treasure house of cultural heritage with the Great Wall of China of the Qin dynasty and the tomb of Si Maqian located nearby. In autumn 2004 numerous tombs estimated to be those from the late West Zhou to the early East Zhou dynasties were discovered in the neighboring Liangdaicun village. Most of theses tombs had not been plundered and since much cinnabar have been found in the remains, they are assumed to have belonged to the nobles who were buried there. Particularly since many gold vessels, lacquered drums and stone gongs were excavated from tomb No. M27, it is said that four of the tombs including this one belonged to leaders of the area. The training course is conducted with full support from the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau and held at the site of a large-scale tomb in Liangdaicun village that is currently being excavated. During the 3 months 12 Japanese experts will participate and work with their Chinese counterparts.

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Project for the Preservation of the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa in Tajikistan

A part of the north wall made of mud brick
North wall where plaster that had changed color due to burning was found

 From April 12 to May 18, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation sent the second mission team for the Project for the Preservation of the Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa which is funded by the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust.
 Ajina Tepa is a Buddhist temple of the 7th to 8th centuries where a large stupa and a huge statue of Parinirvana Buddha (12.8m in length when reproduced) have been excavated. The purpose of this project is to conserve a Buddhist temple that has been constructed using mud bricks or pakhsa (pisé). In cooperation with young Tajik archaeologists, the Center is engaged in the archaeological cleaning of the site, including removal of spoil and grasses that have accumulated after past excavations, in order to elucidate the location and structure of the walls and floor of the original Buddhist temple.
 As a result of this investigation, it was found that the walls of the temple were constructed with mud bricks and pakhsa blocks although some walls had been built only with mud bricks. Moreover, what are believed to be fragments of mural paintings and polychrome statues were excavated in the process of finding out about the floor of the temple.
 Joint work with young local archaeologists is a very stimulating experience to us and we hope to be able to contribute to the training of local experts.


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