Sunday, October 29, 2006

Team helps save Egypt tomb mural

Source: The Japan Times Online

OSAKA (Kyodo) A Japanese research team has successfully removed a mural in an ancient Egyptian tomb at the World Heritage site of Saqqara, using a technique used on Japanese murals, so that preservation work can be done on it, team members said Friday.

News photo
A Japanese researcher prepares to remove part of a mural from the underground tomb of Princess Idut at the World Heritage site of Saqqara, Egypt. KYODO PHOTO

The Kansai University team removed the plaster mural from the underground tomb of Princess Idut, which dates back to around 2360 B.C. The mural depicts birds, food and beer in color and has hieroglyphs engraved in it.

In the rare removal of a fragile plaster mural, the team glued rayon paper with resin over parts of the mural to be removed, using a type of seaweed paste to protect them, and carefully separated the plaster from the rock wall with knives.

The technique was used in removing a mural at the Kitora tomb in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, which dates from the late seventh century to the early eighth century, but the Idut mural is the first case of such removal abroad, according to experts.

"There are many murals waiting to be restored, and we want to apply (the technique) to others," said Hiroshi Suita, professor of Egyptology at the university in Osaka Prefecture.

The team will report its accomplishments at a conference of the Society for Near Eastern Studies in Japan at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Mural preservation in Egypt is usually done by applying synthetic resin to strengthen them, but the Saqqara mural has suffered great damage, requiring different steps for restoration.

Restoration teams had tried to use techniques used in Europe, but as the procedure required the use of an organic solvent that produces hazardous gas, it was unsuited for underground use. Egyptian authorities then chose to use the Japanese restoration technique for the first time.

There are still some parts of the mural that cannot be removed as they are solidly stuck on the clay layer of the wall, but the team said they will remove them, possibly this winter, by softening the wall with water.

All the pieces of the mural will be cleaned and the back of the pieces strengthened with mortar.

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