The caves contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art in the world. And now with the aid of the latest technology, archaeologists are creating a digital archive of these priceless treasures.
The Mogao Grottoes in North West China are a treasure trove of cultural wonders. The caves contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art in the world. And now with the aid of the latest technology, archaeologists are creating a digital archive of these priceless treasures.
The Mogao Grottoes have been used as a natural canvas for artists for more than 1,600 years. The frescos are now extremely fragile, so archaeologists have been digitally archiving them since the 1990s. But now the project has gone beyond mere preservation.
"Our initial aim was to make a record of them, but now we are inviting people to check out our digital archive online so they can see the beauty of the Mogao Grottoes for themselves," said Wang Xiudong, deputy director of Dunhuang Academy China.
The frescos and painted sculptures have been hard to archive digitally because of the cramped space in the caves and the irregular surfaces of the works.
And the processing of the images is complex- taking up to 3 months to create the digital archive for an average-sized 100-square-meter cave.
"People can get a lot of information online and at our information center near the grottoes. So we can therefore reduce the amount of time they spend in the cave, to minimize the negative impact on the artefacts," Wang said.
So it seems the archive promises a digital revolution in historical artefacts, bringing the Mogao grottoes to the world. But the project still has a long way to go as only 20 of the 735 caves have been fully archived.