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.

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