Qorqor Maryam Projet : A technical and historical study of the rock-hewn church paintings of Qorqor Maryam (13th century) and an investigative stud...
This project was carried by INP until january 2019.
A technical and historical study of rupestrian paintings at Qorqor Maryam, Tigray, Ethiopia (13th century) with an investigative study on alterations.
This study examines rupestrian paintings from the rock-hewn church of Qorqor Maryam, situated in the Tigray region, in Northern Ethiopia.
Possibly dating from the 12th century, they are among the most ancient murals preserved in Ethiopia to the best of our knowledge today. Painted directly on the sandstone in which the church was carved (Adigrat sandstone), they are unique in Enthiopia.
Launched in 2009, this project has already led to the charaterization of the materials used for the paintings. The results were presented during the international Pan African archaeological congress in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2013. They have revealed the presence of minerals (red and yellow iron oxides, green earth) and organic carbon black, used with a very fluid medium that has faded away.
A preliminary study of the deterioration and alteration phenomena was carried out but requires further research.
The state of conservation of the paintings is cause for concern. Indeed, the sandstone on which they were applied is in such a state of degradation that it is necessary to accurately inspect and characterize the materials in order to better determine the speed of delamination. The sandstone hewn wall is retreating a few millimetres thick causing the paint to crumble. The presence of salt on the surface and sub-surface can be an indicator of this deterioration along with the intrinsic moisture contents of the rock.
A climatic study carried out over several months must be envisaged especially during the transition period between the dry and wet season.
A first assessment mission of the state of the rock and its paintings including a photogrammetric mapping of the church took place in January 2016.
A second assessment mission to complete a 3D modelization of the interior of the church including a preservation and stratigraphy study is planned for April 2018.
Once completed, this geological and pictorial study should allow for the implementaton of a detailed restoration protocol adapted to the unique structure of this architectural and pictorial ensemble.