文化遺産国際協力コンソーシアム Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage JCIC-Heritage logo JCIC-Heritage

Restoration of Wall Paintings in a Tomb in the Republic of Lebanon

Restoration of Wall Paintings in a Tomb in the Republic of Lebanon

Nara University

Lebanon

The underground tomb in Ramali TJ04 /The Bruj al Shamali T.01

2002-2013 Human Resource Development,Conservation and Restoration,Fundamental Research
01/12/2011
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BACKGROUND

Background of project for restoration and preservation of tomb wall paintings

Beirut, the capital of the Republic of Lebanon, and financial center of the region, has been referred to as the “Paris of the Middle East.” The city, however, was devastated in the 15-year Lebanese Civil War, and in the ensuing Israeli invasion and occupation of the area south of the Litani River, which lasted until 2000. After years of war, Lebanon started to rebuild its infrastructure, including a highway that runs north-to-south through the country. Prior to construction, the Government of Lebanon asked the Japanese government for assistance in carrying out a preliminary archaeological survey on the planned site. The Japanese Society for West Asian Archaeology agreed to dispatch three archaeologists to Tyre, a city in the southern part of the country. The three archaeologists, Ken Matsumoto and Sumiyo Tsujimura from Kokushikan University, and Takura Izumi from Nara University (currently Kyoto University), carried out a field survey in Tyre, and discovered a number of tomb remains in the Ramali district, a suburb of Tyre, where the highway interchange was to be built. Consequently, the government revised the plan in order to avoid this area.
The preliminary survey served as a starting point for further academic research by Prof. Izumi and Prof. Tsujimura in the Ramali district beginning in 2002. Yoichi Nishiyama, a specialist in conservation science, also joined the project to deal with issues related to preservation of the underground tomb with wall paintings coded TJ04. As research progressed, it became clear that paintings on the walls and ceilings in underground tomb TJ04 were preserved in good condition in spite of severe damage in the chamber. We therefore, planned a four–year project entitled “A Study of Restoration of Tomb Wall Paintings in the Suburb of Tyre, Republic of Lebanon” which focused on preservation and restoration of site TJ04. In 2008, we held a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the project with a number of guests in attendance, including thehead of the Directorate-General of Antiquities , the Executive Director of the Beirut National Museum, and the Japanese Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon.
In 2009, we began another four-year project for restoration of underground tomb wall paintings in T.01, an archaeological site in the Bruj al Shamali district in the suburbs of Tyre.

Completion of restoration of the underground tomb in Ramali TJ04 (2008)

ACTIVITIES

Interdisciplinary research on the underground tomb wall painting gets underway

A team was put together composed of scholars from both the humanities and natural sciences, including representatives from conservation science, restoration techniques, archaeology, art history, anthropology, microbiology, and metrology. We carried out field research for five weeks each year from August to October. However, we were compelled to change our schedule to the winter season in 2006 due to the Israeli ground attack and invasion in the south of the country.
While restoration and conservation was the primary objective of this research, the project was in fact a comprehensive interdisciplinary survey of the underground tomb wall paintings in TJ04 of Ramali and T.01. T of Bruj al Shamali.
The multi-faceted investigation of the tombs included composition analyses of the pigmentation of the wall paintings and plaster, analyses of painting techniques using infrared photography, environmental measurements in the interior of the chamber (temperature, humidity, illuminance, ultraviolet levels, air pollution, fungus, and microorganisms), scientific analyses on excavated artifacts such as glass bottles, lead coffins, coins, mosaics, and bedrock, and application of scientific preservation treatments for artifacts made of steel, copper, and linen. In addition, the team cleaned the wall paintings, reinforced fragile parts of the walls, wall paintings, mosaics and bedrock, and carried out archaeological research on the artifacts and structures of the tomb. In Ramali TJ04 the team managed to reconstruct the collapsed stone repository, and in Bruj al Shamali T.01, we carried out carbon-14 dating on the human bones, deciphered the inscriptions on the mosaic, and took three-dimensional measurements of the artifacts and structures.
Based on the data gained from the research, we will continue our efforts to determine the year of production of the wall paintings in the tombs, and the identity, social background, and historical significance of the person buried. Restoration and preservation work on the wall paintings and tomb is ongoing, in order to ensure that this heritage is passed on to future generations.

Mask unearthed from the Bruj al Shamali T.01 rock cut grave H2 (23 cm in height)

Inscription in the mosaic of the underground tomb Bruj al Shamali T.01

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RESULTS

Determining the owner of the tomb, and the year of burial, and securing a stable environment for preservation

The underground tomb of Ramali measures three square meters in area, and three meters in height, within which twenty-two repositories are located on the walls to the left and right, at the back, and on the floor. Before our research started, the stone structure of the repository had collapsed, filling the chamber with rubble. Nevertheless, the wave pattern on the side walls, paintings on the stone pillar, sconce, and floral pattered paintings on the ceiling preserved their bright colors. Stones were returned to their original position, the interior of the chamber was cleaned, and restoration was completed in 2008. We managed to control the temperature and humidity inside the chamber based on the survey data. According to our analyses, the red, brown and yellow pigmentation on the wall surfaces was iron oxide, the green was terra verte, the glass was Roman, and the statue of Medusa formed part of the lead coffin. Through a series of investigations including archaeological research on the earthenware, the team determined that TJ04 had been constructed in the first or second century.
The underground tomb of Bruj al Shamali T.01 has six stone coffins buried in the underground of the rectangular chamber, which measures 4.85 meters in width, 3.25 meters in depth and 2 meters in height. On the walls of the chamber are colorful paintings of peacocks, fish and urns. On the wall facing south is an inscription in Greek which reads ΧΑΙΡΕ ΛΥCΙC ΠΑΝΤΕC ΘΝΗΤΟΙ, meaning “farewell LYCIC, we all die,” together with a portrait of LYCIC. On the mosaic floor was an inscription also in Greek which reads ΘΑ(ΡCΙ ΟΥΔ)ΙC  ΑΘΑΝΑΤΟC ΒΚΤ, meaning “be merry, all must die 322,” signifying the year 322 in the Tyre calendar, equivalent to 196 or 197 AD. These inscriptions are valuable in terms of identifying the owner of the tomb and the year of its construction. From the neighboring rock cut grave H2, which remained undisturbed by thieves, an earthen mask of Pan was discovered together with a number of glass marbles and coins in their original condition. We intend to explore further the unique characteristics of this region, such as underground tombs that are built in a unique rectangular shape, as well as stone tombs both below and above ground, and the city of Tyre as it was under the ancient Roman Empire.

Measuring the microenvironment of the Bruj al Shamali T.01

Bird’s-eye view of the Bruj al Shamali T.01 (October 2010)

MAP