In the news: Star chart in ancient Nara’s Kitora tomb to be restored

Star Chart in Ancient Nara Tomb To Under Go Restoration

Mainichi ^ | 7-12-2004
Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs released a photograph of an ancient astronomical chart discovered on the wall of the Kitora tomb in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, on Monday as agency researchers decided to remove the chart and restore it.
Courtesy of the Cultural Affairs Agency The chart is pictured on the roof of the tomb with four circles depicting the ecliptic and other celestial paths.
Since the chart is peeling from the roof of the tomb, researchers had been discussing how to restore it and other murals.
Some had expressed opposition to removing the murals because of failed attempts overseas, but they later decided there was no other way to preserve them.
A survey conducted by the Cultural Affairs Agency from mid-May found that the plaster on which the astronomical chart and other pictures were painted was deteriorating badly and that there was a possibility large parts of them could suddenly fall down.
Researchers said some 350 stars were depicted on the astronomical chart using gold foil circles. These stars were connected with lines to form 68 constellations. Included were Vega and Altair.
Four stars, including Sirius and Canopus were bigger than the others. Researchers said the difference in size of stars was a theory expounded in the Korean peninsula.
Researchers say uncovering the roots of the murals may be a key in determining who was buried in the tomb. Bones found in the tomb possibly belonged to someone aged over 40, researchers said.
“There is a high possibility that the Kitora astronomical chart was not directly passed down from China, but was arranged in Koguryo (one of Korea’s ancient three kingdoms in the north of the peninsula),” said Kazuhiko Miyajima, a professor in East Asian astronomical history at Doshisha University. (Compiled from Mainichi and wire reports, Japan, July 12, 2004)
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