History of studies and research on Kitora Tumulus

206First, new methods must be devised.

The work of removing, without loss, mural paintings so soft and fragile they could not be taken out unless carefully scooped up was without precedent. Accordingly repeated experiments were carried out beforehand by making an imitation plaster resembling the murals’ condition, and investigating tools and machines used in various fields, in repeated tests by trial and error.

For the imitation plaster, various ingredients such as dairy cream, nata de coco, agar, jelly, and starch were mixed in several hundred combinations and ratios, to make something close to the condition of the murals. For tools as well, every conceivable implement from activities completely separate from archaeology, such as pastry-making paraphernalia, were tried out and improved, in preparation for the actual task of removing the murals.

The murals were detached with a spatula, after being reinforced and protected by applying two to three layers of rayon paper to their surface, plus sterile gauze and other materials. For portions too strongly attached to the wall to remove with a spatula, a diamond wire saw for making electronic components was used. These measures were to allow the plaster to be cut away from the stones, and the murals detached safely and without damage.

The life of cultural properties cannot be prolonged without regular repair. For this reason, and so that adaptations can be made with future technological advances, it was sought to return the murals to their original state in as simple a manner as possible, without loss of their original feel. It was extremely meticulous work, involving complex procedures and the appropriate use of materials and chemical agents in the right places. The work was carried out by technicians possessing traditional skills.