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Conservation work continues on ancient tomb site in Mongolia

Mongolian conservators working on the Archaeological Tomb site of Shoroon Bumbagar in Bayannuur, Bulgan Province, Mongolia recently undertook another phase of training exercises as they continue to restore the Royal Mausoleum dating back as early as the 7th Century.

Mongolian conservators work on consolidating the plaster inside Shoroon Bumbagar Tomb © Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia

Under the guidance of experts Rodolfo Luján Lunford a paintings conservator and restorer and Maurizio Guerra a hydro-geologist, nine local conservators developed techniques to further stabilize the site through water permeation testing and also received preparation to manage the deterioration of the mural paintings within the tomb through grouting and plastering methods.

 

The Second Workshop on the Preservation of the Archaeological Tomb of Shoroon Bumbagar and Conservation of Ancient Mural Paintings took place from 5 to 17 September 2016, Bayannuur, Mongolia. It was organized by UNESCO Beijing Office in collaboration with the Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO and the Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia in response to the challenges being faced for further restoration work and returning some of the artwork within the tomb back to its original splendour. 

Nine local conservators and two international experts took part in the 14-day workshop in Bulgan Province, Mongolia © Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia

 

Water remains one of the biggest challenges to the external and internal structures of the tomb (a slope of 42 meters in length leading down to the underground mausoleum at a depth of 7 m below the ground). Field tests were conducted to test the permeability of the soil in order to minimize water infiltration nearby the tomb from sources such as runoff rain water.

In order to protect the tomb a series of actions were proposed by Dr Guerra “Building mechanisms like a guard ditch, a roof shelter with a gutter …and insulation of the internal environment in tomb could reduce chances of the tomb and the paintings inside to deteriorate.”

Priority was also put in carrying out emergency first aid works on the mural paintings which depict life of the people at the time, many of who appear on horseback reminiscent of Mongolia’s own heritage. The mural decoration suffers threat of separation of the paint layers which had to be re-adhered back to the support as well as deterioration by the proliferation of micro-organisms due to excessive moisture. A careful disinfection of the walls including the existing wooden propping was carried out by participants of the training under the experienced guidance of the international conservation expert. Tests were also carried out for fixing the rocky supports and plasters, filling lacunae and dry cleaning the painted surfaces.

Cleaning procedure of mural paintings inside the Tomb depicting 7th Century scene © Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia

 

Shoroon Bumbagar and its mural paintings are envisioned to become a tourist site that can benefit the lives and preserve the heritage of the communities surrounding it, once it is fully restored, which still remains the top priority for UNESCO and the national authorities. Nonetheless the site continues to raise curiosity among the community before its complete restoration.

 “We had a couple of visits from the local population that were interested in seeing the interior of the Tomb. It would have been good to explain the iconography but our colleagues are not experts” said Luján. To this end, UNESCO is planning to organize awareness-raising sessions for local communities involving archaeologists and historians to explain the importance of this site and of cultural heritage protection at large, which is often underestimated by locals.

A series of tests were conducted to identify best conservation materials and techniques © Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia

 

Since excavation of the site in 2011, the endeavours of UNESCO and its partners have included training and exposing local conservators in Mongolia to international standards and techniques for conservation of archaeological heritage thanks to the generous support from the Government of the Principality of Monaco that is financing the project entitled “Capacity-Building and Awareness-Raising for the Preservation, Conservation, Visibility and Sustainable Management of the Archaeological Site of Shoroon Bumbagar of Mount Maikhan” until 2018. This is particularly important for the country – and this area in particular – where a number of archaeological sites continue to be discovered.

Conservators wear protective gear during the use of chemical solutions to rescind deterioration effects in the Tomb © Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia



01.11.2016