Ajina Tepa conservation works close to end

19 December 2008

The International Steering Committee for Ajina Tepa expressed satisfaction with the final results of the conservation works of the seventh century Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa in Tajikistan. This Japanese funded UNESCO project started back in 2005 and is now completed.

The Steering Committee, which met recently in Dushanbe in order to sum up the activities and to state recommendations for long-term site preservation, is composed of conservation and preservation experts from Japan and Tajikistan, representatives of the Tajik authorities and UNESCO, as well as representatives of Japanese Embassy in Tajikistan and UNDP.

The Buddhist Monastery of Ajina Tepa (“Devil Mount”) played an important role in spreading Buddhism in Central Asia in the seventh and eighth centuries. During the excavations of the 1960s and '70s by Soviet archaeologists, a 12-metres long reclining Buddha was found at Ajina Tepa and is now displayed at the Dushanbe Museum of Antiquities.

“The excavation process, conservation and removal of the Buddha in Nirvana was very difficult especially as all the sculptures in Ajina Tepa were made of clay”, Director of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography professor Rakhim Masov says. “It is now one of the largest surviving clay statues of Buddha in the world”.

Renown Japanese conservation expert professor Kunio Watanabe of Saitama University concluded that the implementation of the project allowed to stabilize and to conserve the most endangered walls of the monastery and the Stupa itself.

The team of international and national experts including students from the Tajik University of Technology, led by professor Watanabe and Mr Kazuya Yamauchi from Japan made real progress to achieve the various goals of the project, such as:
  • A Scientific Documentation Center was established at the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of Tajikistan, where all the related documents, drawings and scientific materials are stored.
  • A full three-dimensional documentation of the Ajina Tepa site was conducted; a topographic plan was made for the whole site including 3-dimensional photographic materials.
  • Archeological cleaning was implemented by Tajik and Japanese experts. During the cleaning, the team reached unexcavated zones which call for more scientific research in the future.
  • The fragments of mural paintings, coins and pots became the subject of attention for scientists.
  • The laboratory for the testing of building and conservation materials was an important step to the achievement of satisfactory results in conservation and preservation.
  • Conservation efforts concentrated on the most endangered walls which were suffering from erosion, salt and underground water. Initially the walls were carefully examined and an individual approach was designed for each of them. Using the testing laboratory, the experts managed to select an identical material, having similar elements and minerals to the original one. A shelter construction over the stupa was originally designed by using earthen material like mud bricks and mud plastering. The drainage system was constructed as in the monastery area as well as partly around the stupa.
  • The management and landscape planning is under development by Tajik and Japanese specialists to ensure the long-term protection of the site.
  • The project also developed the skills and expertise of Tajik professionals who have been involved in the safeguarding and conservation of their own cultural heritage.
“The implementation of the UNESCO/Japanese Fund-in-Trust project is seen as a first step for continuing future research and preservation of the important Buddhist Monastery Ajina Tepa after a long break”, says Mr. Yuri Peshkov, culture specialist of UNESCO Office in Almaty. “Being one of the most representative Buddhist complexes in Central Asia, it is on the priority list of potential sites to be nominated to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List from the Republic of Tajikistan in the future”, he states.

The steering committee meeting was followed with the presentation of the Ajina Tepa project goals and results to the Diplomatic Corps in Tajikistan and to the mass-media.

Permanent link: http://en.unesco.kz/ajina-tepa-conservation-works-close-to-end