History of studies and research on Kitora Tumulus

204The challenge is how to protect murals that would disintegrate if left as they are.

The murals, painted on plaster, were so extremely fragile they would collapse before long if left as they were. It would not even be possible to reattach the plaster layer where it had separated from the stone, so perilous was their condition. To protect the murals by whatever means, it was decided to conduct the first full-fledged project of its kind in Japan to remove the murals from the chamber.

When researchers first laid eyes on the inside of the stone chamber, the plaster was as soft as whipped cream. The images of the Blue Dragon and White Tiger had mostly separated from the stone surface, and those portions appeared ready to crumble. The ceiling and other locations had spots where the plaster had dissolved and was left extremely thin. It seemed hardly possible to detach the murals in this condition without considerable technological development.

Because of the need for prompt detachment and preservation treatment, a detailed photographic map was made. High-resolution photos were taken in sections with a digital camera, which were pieced together using computer technology, to preserve a documentary image. A part of this image is the photo covering the rear wall.