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Analysis of Ancient Civilizations using the Most Advanced Modern Science Technologies

2014.06.15

Unit Name:
Conservation, Utilization, and Physical and Chemical Analyses of Cultural Heritage
Unit representative:
Associate Professor Yoko Taniguchi, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Unit members:
9 (4 faculty members, 0 postdoctoral fellows, 4 from other organizations)

Key words:
cultural heritage, conservation, utilization, physical/chemical analysis

 

Ancient cultural heritage around the world is being destroyed due to natural disasters, including the Great East Japan Earthquake, civil wars, and international conflicts. Such sites are also at risk of erosion caused by weathering (Figure 1).

The research unit led by Professor Yoko Taniguchi is involved in the conservation of the remains – archaeological research activities. The research unit aims to identify and examine materials used to create ancient wall paintings , as well as tools and ornaments excavated from the remains, and techniques used at that time.

図1右.劣化の進むトルコ・カッパドキア遺跡の岩窟教会(右)と壁画(左)

Figure 1: Rock-hewn church (top) and wall paintings (bottom) of Cappadocia, Turkey, that are deteriorating

Figure 1: Rock-hewn church (top) and wall paintings (bottom) of Cappadocia, Turkey, that are deteriorating

A color created in Ancient West Asia that has not yet been reproduced even by modern science

A multidisciplinary team consisting of specialists in archaeology, conservation science, science and engineering, and information science conducts research using a complex approach to clarify ancient techniques. For example, the research unit focuses on the techniques for creating blue pigments. Whereas Afghans created blue pigments from lapis lazuli – a type of stone, people in some countries, including Egypt, Syria, and Maya, developed techniques for synthesizing pigments to create blue colors artificially (Figure 2). A synthesized pigment was also used in blue apatite beads excavated from a site in Syria that dates back approximately 8,000 years (Figure 3), and the chromogenic constituent was determined to be manganese by analysis using XAFS*1 and other advanced technologies. However, the color of manganese is usually black or purple. No studies have identified the techniques used to replace phosphorus with manganese and create such a consistent blue. We conduct research to provide knowledge on human wisdom and technologies nurtured by ancient civilizations.

Figure 2: Blue pigments used in many different areas

Figure 2: Blue pigments used in many different areas

Figure 3: Blue beads excavated from Tell el-Kerkh remains in Syria

Figure 3: Blue beads excavated from Tell el-Kerkh remains in Syria

Various research activities implemented in West Asia and Japan

As analysis and restoration are the two principal axes for our research activities, data acquired from surveys of techniques and materials, such as an analysis of the above-mentioned colored cultural heritage, are used for actual conservation activities. The research unit is particularly involved in research on ancient remains in Cappadocia, Turkey. In addition to research on the coloring techniques, we implement the conservation and restoration of wall paintings, and basic scientific studies to prevent the remains, which are fragile, from being eroded. The research unit also aims to share and utilize databases of the remains, data such as multi-layered metadata, and know-how. One of the databases of the remains (Figure 4) provides data on ancient tombs and shell mounds in Ibaraki Prefecture for the public.

Figure 4: Repository of documents related to the remains in Ibaraki Prefecture

Figure 4: Repository of documents related to the remains in Ibaraki Prefecture (http://rar.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/Repository/



*1: X-ray absorption fine structure: Provides information on the electronic state of the atoms involved in X-ray absorption and their surrounding structures

Social contributions and achievements
● Conservation and restoration of ancient remains in West Asia often damaged by civil wars and international conflicts
● Surveys of cultural heritage in Japan, and the conservation and restoration of materials and documents damaged by earthquakes and other disasters
● Multidisciplinary research conducted by researchers from different specialized fields, collaboration among research institutions led by the University of Tsukuba, the sharing of human resources and analysis equipment, as well as competitive research achievements, which are expected through the collaboration

(Interviewed on June 19, 2013)


Research Administration/Management Office at U Tsukuba TEL 029-853-4434